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Virgin Trains begins construction in Orlando on higher speed rail


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Patrick Goddard, president of Virgin Trains USA talks about train travel and the re-branding of Virgin Trains Monday, June 24, 2019, in Orlando.
Eric Hasert, eric.hasert@tcpalm.com

ORLANDO – Construction of a 125 mph passenger railroad, connecting this city to Disney World and Miami, is underway — with service set to begin by 2022. And Virgin Trains USA executives hope similar train service between Las Vegas and Los Angeles won’t be far behind.

Wes Edens, CEO of Fortress Investment Group and chairman of Virgin Trains USA, said he hopes his passenger railroad can be duplicated in a dozen other locations around the country, with Dallas-to-Houston and Chicago-to-St. Louis next in his sights.

Atlanta-to-Charlotte also is on Virgin’s wish list.

“There’s not a lot of oceans and rivers out there to cross, so actually building it is quite a bit simpler,” Edens said about the Vegas-LA connection, following a ceremonial groundbreaking for Phase 2 of the project Monday at Orlando International Airport. 

More: Virgin Trains expansion to Orlando already underway

“Even though it’s starting behind,” Edens added, “it could finish at about the same time.” 

Edens is to meet Tuesday with Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, he said, to discuss logistics of the passenger service that would connect Southern California and the Las Vegas strip.

His goal, he said, to have that project fully financed by the end of this year. 

That route — acquired in September by Brightline before it was rebranded Virgin Trains in a 20-year partnership with Richard Branson — would connect LA to Vegas in 75 minutes for $60, Virgin President Patrick Goddard said.

Virgin Trains’ run between Orlando and Miami is expected to take three hours. 

The 235-mile Florida project is expected to cost $4.1 billion. Service between Miami and West Palm Beach began in early 2018. 

The final phase, between West Palm Beach and Orlando, is expected to cost $2.1 billion. Overall, Virgin Trains is expected to create 10,000 jobs and generate $650 million in federal, state and local tax revenue over an eight-year period, the company said.  

Virgin Trains executives believe railroad links in other parts of the world — such as  London-to-Paris and Madrid-to-Rome — are perfect examples of what passenger-rail service can be: connections between highly traveled routes that are too far to drive and too short to fly. 

It’s the type of project that Rep. Val Demings, D-Orlando, said she hopes to see in

When Virgin Trains launches Orlando service, flyers arriving in Orlando would be able to transfer directly to their train without leaving the airport, and travel to to Miami.

Virgin Trains USA will explore partnerships with airlines and begin marketing connections to Port Miami cruise ships, Goddard said. 

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