High Speed Rail

Brightline & Virgin Group is Taking Over High-Speed Rail Between Victorville & Las Vegas

According to the Victorville Daily Press, September 18, 2018, Brightline, the nation’s only privately owned express intercity passenger rail system, announced it had agreed to acquire XpressWest. In doing so, the Florida-based company also reaffirmed an earlier provided timetable for high-speed rail service between Victorville and Las Vegas: 2022. As part of the agreement, Brightline will acquire 38 acres of land adjacent to the Las Vegas strip and build out a station and mixed-use development there, the company said in a statement. Construction is expected to begin in 2019. Victorville is anticipated to have the first Southern California station, while additional stations are expected to extend into the Los Angeles area and connect to California Metrolink and ultimately the California High-Speed Rail. The first phase pairing Las Vegas and Victorville is planned to be constructed on a right of way within and adjacent to Interstate 15, a 185-mile stretch, the company said. A study, led by transportation consultancy firm Steer Davies Gleave, noted that the rail line should generate more than $1 billion annually in operating revenue when fully phased by 2035 and grow ridership from 11 million in that year to 14 million by 2050. Brightline said it expects a trip between Las Vegas and Southern California, broadly, to take less than two hours. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, November 16, 2018, Brightline will partner with Richard Branson and the Virgin Group on the project. Brightline officials said the company would leverage the Virgin brand and marketing expertise for existing and future developments, establishing “Virgin Trains USA.” Brightline renamed itself Virgin Trains USA and will transition to Virgin Trains USA branding in 2019. As part of the strategic partnership, an affiliate of Virgin Group has agreed to make a minority investment in Brightline. Funds managed by an affiliate of Fortress Investment Group LLC will retain majority ownership of Brightline and the company’s current management team will oversee daily operations, engineering, business development and strategy. Virgin Group has experience operating in the United Kingdom rail sector, including an ongoing investment in Virgin Trains, a high-speed intercity passenger rail system that has run for 21 years. The partnership could help to provide access to millions of customers with the potential for increased ridership from other Virgin-branded travel and hospitality businesses, including Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Hotels and Virgin Voyages. The expected cost for the project is around $7 billion.

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