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Brightline Partners With Virgin Group For Tampa To Orlando Train Line

Caitie Switalski
In Jan. 2018, Brightline launched service between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. They've since extended the line to Miami.

A $1.7 billion high-speed rail system that would connect Tampa to Orlando is expected to begin operating in 2021.

That's according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing released last Friday.  

Although the Brightline rail system has not yet secured funding for the project and is currently more than $600 million in debt, it has submitted a bid to operate in the median of I-4.

Brightline was the sole bidder for the land rights and will find out from the State of Florida if they won on Nov. 28.

The private company is seeking to receive funding from a partnership with billionaire Englishman Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group.

Brightline will rebrand as Virgin Trains USA.

“I think it's a strategy of theirs to get a very big investment firm to back them up, especially when they are seeking financing as they look to expand their network into different routes and services,” said Veronica Brezina, a journalist with the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

The rail system will run between Tampa and the Orlando International Airport. From there, passengers can connect eith additional transportation options like Lyft and Uber.

In Tampa, it is still unknown whether the system will have a station downtown or in Ybor City.

“There's no estimate as to how much land they're going to require and how much that's going to cost them because they haven't publicly announced where the station is going to be for Tampa,” said Brezina.

Brightline already offers service from Miami to West Palm Beach. They're in the process of expanding the line to run from West Palm Beach to Orlando. 

Travel time between Tampa and Orlando is expected to be an hour with a top speed of 125 mph.

One-way tickets will cost $35 per person and $73 for round trip.

Eillin Delapaz is a WUSF radio intern for the fall 2018 semester.
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