Privately Owned Rail Line Begins Key Test in Florida

Brightline launching high-speed service between Miami and Orlando
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 21, 2023 12:20 PM CDT
Privately Owned Rail Line Begins Key Test in Florida
A Brightline employee waves to passengers as the train departs the station on Sept. 8 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.   (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

The first big test of whether a privately owned high-speed passenger train service can prosper in the United States will launch Friday when Florida's Brightline begins running trains between Miami and Orlando that reach speeds of 125mph. It's a $5 billion bet that Brightline's owner, Fortress Investment Group, is making, believing that eventually 8 million people annually will take the 3.5-hour, 235-mile trip between the state's biggest tourist hubs, per the AP. The company is charging single riders $158 for a round-trip ticket for business class and $298 for first-class, with families and groups able to buy four round-trip tickets for $398. Thirty-two trains will run daily.

Brightline, which began running its neon-yellow trains the 70 miles between Miami and West Palm Beach in 2018, is the first private intercity passenger service to begin US operations in a century. It's also building a line connecting Southern California and Las Vegas that it hopes to open in 2027, with trains that will reach 190mph. The only other US high-speed line is Amtrak's Acela service between Boston and Washington, DC, which began in 2000. Amtrak is owned by the federal government.

The Florida trains, which run on biodiesel, will travel up to 79mph in urban areas, 110mph in less-populated regions, and 125mph through Central Florida's farmland. Brightline plans possible extensions to Tampa and Jacksonville. John Renne, director of Florida Atlantic University's Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions, said the Miami-Orlando corridor is a perfect spot for high-speed rail—about 40 million Floridians and visitors make the trip annually, with more than 90% of them driving. If Brightline succeeds, that could lead to more high-speed lines between major cities 200 to 300 miles apart, both by Brightline and competitors, he said.

story continues below

Brightline trains have the highest death rate in the US, fatally striking 98 people since Miami-West Palm operations began—about one death for every 32,000 miles its trains travel, according to an ongoing AP analysis of federal data that began in 2019. The next-worst major railroad has a fatality every 130,000 miles. None of the deaths have been found to be Brightline's fault—most have been suicides, drivers who go around crossing gates, or pedestrians running across tracks. The company hasn't had a fatality since June, its longest stretch except during the pandemic shutdown.

(More high-speed rail stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.