• Virgin Rail née Brightline/AAF Orlando - Miami FL FEC

  • This is a forum for all operations, both current and planned, of Virgin Rail USA formerly known as Brightline, and Virgin Worldwide Rail operations, past and present.
    Websites: Current Brightline
    Virgin USA
    Virgin UK
This is a forum for all operations, both current and planned, of Virgin Rail USA formerly known as Brightline, and Virgin Worldwide Rail operations, past and present.
Websites: Current Brightline
Virgin USA
Virgin UK

Moderator: CRail

  by Gilbert B Norman
I think Gray Lady knew she had a "knothole in her paywall", and has now plugged it. Feedback on this will be appreciated.

Nevertheless, here is "very favorable" reportage appearing in the Travel section today:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/07/trav ... tline.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Fair Use:
..Entering the newest train station in Miami is a bit like walking into another world. With natural light streaming through floor-to-ceiling windows, the modern building is bright, sleek and full of thoughtful amenities. Outlets and USB ports are at every seat, free Wi-Fi is available at the entranceway, and the entire structure smells lovely, thanks to a signature scent wafting through the corridors (grapefruit, orange and lemongrass with a touch of vanilla).

The multibillion-dollar Brightline train that stops at this station offers the only private intercity passenger train service in the country. The diesel-electric system currently connects Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. In 2021, it will expand to Orlando, with groundbreaking scheduled for later this year. Brightline partnered with Virgin last November, and will soon be rebranded Virgin Trains USA..
  by Gilbert B Norman
The ante is now up to $2.7B:

https://floridapolitics.com/archives/29 ... prospectus" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I've also learned that there is consideration of a station in the Cocoa (Brevard County) area. Brightline has now learned that they must locate a station within each of the Treasure/Space Coast counties in order to quell "the natives". The Cocoa station would be a "stopgap" in the event they cannot get the financing needed to build the forty miles of new track along the Bee Line Highway, and must rely on a shuttle bus to McCoy.

Also of interest; come July, there should be "Financial Statements", if you can call 'em that, filed with FDFC showing June ridership. This will be the first month in which comparative "numbers" for Miami-West Palm service will be available. Also of note, the "intro" fares and the free parking were gone; the "take the kids for a joyride" are also gone.

The conclusion will surely result that they cannot "make it" as a Miami-West Palm service, but to "build it out" will be "moolah moolah".

But with a total of six rides on Brightline I have taken to date, they are setting a standard for both the on board and station experience.
  by Gilbert B Norman
If there is ever a camera and media in sight, Sir Richard has his way of being "front and center":

https://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/f ... story.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Fair Use:
One year after the Brightline commuter rail line unveiled its downtown MiamiCentral station amid music, politicians’ speeches and related fanfare, an Unveiling 2.0 is scheduled Thursday as the company formally rebrands itself as Virgin Trains USA.

This time, British billionaire and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson will be the focus of attention, and MiamiCentral will be rechristened “Virgin MiamiCentral.”

Branson, who last year launched an adults-only cruise line called Virgin Voyages based in Plantation, has vowed to “shake up the cruise industry” with trips that will start sailing out of PortMiami starting in 2020. And he appears intent on doing the same to the moribund passenger rail industry, which long ago was eclipsed by cars and commercial aviation.

His scheduled appearance in Miami on Thursday comes at a significant juncture for the rail line, which is seeking to raise $1.5 billion in bond funding to build an extension to Orlando
Let's see him come up with some loot to have it built out to MCO. Let's worry about all this expansion to JAX. WDW, and Tampa later.

As for Brightline, well I guess that will go join Railpax up with the Pearly Gates.
  by Gilbert B Norman
So it appears that the industry trade magazine, Bond Buyer reports the private placement by Morgan Stanley was successful.

Fair Use:
The Virgin Trains USA name made a hit with qualified investors who eagerly scooped up its high-yield bonds to finance Florida’s privately owned passenger train project.

In the largest municipal bond deal of the week, the $1.75 billion of unrated private activity bonds priced Monday with the Florida Development Finance Corp. as the conduit issuer on behalf Virgin Trains USA, formerly known as Brightline.

The deal, upsized from $1.5 billion initially proposed in bond documents, priced a day ahead of schedule because of strong demand.

Morgan Stanley, the sole underwriter, said 67 participants sought orders after “very successful” roadshows in Boston and New York. In-person site visits also allowed prospective investors to ride the train service on its current route between Miami and West Palm Beach, which offers passengers wireless internet service, electrical power and USB outlets at all seats, and food and drink service.
  by gokeefe
Classic ... Would you like to garnish your bond tranche with a "comp" vodka on the rocks?

Interesting that Sir Richard's involvement seems to have super charged things.
  by Gilbert B Norman
Well in my case, Mr. O'keefe, no thank you, as my only beverage is wine. :-D

It's undeniable that the "tempo" and success of getting things done has increased since Sir Richard has come on board. Seems like having a showman associated with anything enhances it's "cache".

Oh well, he now has a new market to sell "I slept on a Virgin" T-shirts.

Surprisingly, a showman affiliated with a railroad is not new. For years, Billy Rose held a seat on the New York Central's Board. (Central fans around here like Otto, did you know that?).

Finally, first here is a video I have not seen referenced here:

https://youtu.be/03gA1xrnXWs" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Also, here is Miami Herald reporting on the renaming of MCS to VM - Virgin Miamicentral:

Fair Use:
Although the downtown station has been renamed, the trains will continue to carry the Brightline yellow stripes until they are repainted with Virgin’s red logo. Virgin Trains USA, whose parent is Fortress Asset Management, will operate separately from Virgin Group.
  by bostontrainguy
Interestingly, the new info has a station called "Disney". The idea for a station on Disney property has been bantered around for a while and the last thing I remember is that WDW did not want a station on their property. Perhaps the new flashy image or Mr. Branson himself has changed their mind? But just imagine all the children asking their parents . . . what is a Virgin?

Of course what is locally called "The Attractions" includes several fantastic options such as Universal Studios ("Harry Potter Land" is incredibly well done) and a reworked Seaworld. Both are also extremely popular and a centrally located station with shuttles would be very well utilized. But the map says "Disney" not "Attractions", so maybe there is a behind-the-scenes deal here. Not really sure if this is the best solution.

Also the future addition of Tampa should be great news for Busch Gardens which is owned by Seaworld so combination packages would be possible (much cheaper than Disney maybe?). Tampa also has a busy cruiseport which can fit in here very nicely.

Although visitors think that once you are in Florida it's a simple hop, skip and jump between the hot spots (like Miami, Tampa and Orlando), Florida is huge and it takes hours of driving to get anywhere. Florida is one incredible vacation destination with lots of great options and Virgin Rail will tie it all together and make it all much more accessible. The possibilities will actually be endless in the near future. This is going to be an exciting ride.
  by Bonevalleyrailfan
At one time some years ago, Branson had one of his Virgin Record stores in the old Downtown Disney complex. That was also back when Disney had danceclubs and nightclubs there open until 2am located in an entertainment district built on an island (I wish I could remember the name of the island district). It was a very happening place back in the mid to late 90's!

But back to trains. I doubt that Branson had much personal involvement with Disney signing the letter of agreement to allow for a train station on Disney property. If you recall, several of the members of All ABoard Florida's first executive team had previously either worked for Disney or on Disney projects. I think AAF/Brightline/Virgin Trains USA has always had a good relationship with Disney over the past 7 years. The Disney station would have happened with or without Virgin's involvement, IMO.

There was a report in Trains Newswire today that Virgin is planning to operate DMU shuttle trains to the Disney station from the airport or Sunrail stations. That would make sense as it would allow for more separation between the mainline intercity Virgin trains and Disney. Perhaps knowing how Disney strictly controls their image in their parks, the shuttle trains might even be marketed or presented as Disney trains much like the current Disney Magical Express buses that Mears Transportation runs between MCO and WDW. That way Disney maintains control of what stops at their station and what it looks like. That is historically how Disney (and the other parks) have run their attractions here in Florida.
  by bostontrainguy
Pleasure Island. The same name as a long gone amusement park in Wakefield, Massachusetts that was going to rival Disneyland as the "Disneyland of the Northeast". Open 1959 - 1969. They operated some of Edaville's 2 foot gauge steam equipment around the park just like they did at Disneyland. They also had some full size rail equipment on site for exploration.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLNOAIaESfo" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ae_-YOWz48E" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; (a long but interesting video of how the park started and it's relationship to both EDAVILLE and STEAMTOWN)
  by gokeefe
Gilbert B Norman wrote:It's undeniable that the "tempo" and success of getting things done has increased since Sir Richard has come on board. Seems like having a showman associated with anything enhances it's "cache".
Branson reminds me of Flagler ... Henry sailed off to the Keys ... Sir Richard rode to the Kingdom. In both cases each one was the showman who got a huge expansion done on FEC.

Whether anyone will remember those who got Brightline going in the "dark ages" is another matter. Eugene Skoropowski specifically.
  by Bonevalleyrailfan
With regard to Branson. Where to start? The media reporting and fan boy commenting over the past week has deified Branson as the savior of Brightline. Branson is being idolized at this point. In my opinion, he is a showman who has a checkered past with his history of companies. Sure, he has name recognition and a reputation as an entrepreneur. He has already claimed that his involvement was crucial to getting $1.75B in bonds sold last week. Yet Brightline successfully sold bonds previously without his name. There are now claims that Disney agreed to the station due to Branson's recent involvement. Yet history shows that there has been a good relationship between AAF/Brightline and Disney for years.

Brightline would have sold the bonds and already had the agreement witn Disney in hand before Branson became involved.

I really don't understand why Branson is now being credited in the media as the founder or creator of what was All Aboard Florida back in 2012. The fact that the current Virgin Trains USA management and PR machine plays along with this narrative is telling. It is like nothing existed before November 2018 when Branson committed just $60M (or a reported 2% of the compamy) to obtain placing the Virgin name on an enterprise that he had nothing to do with up to that point. In fact, this agreement with Virgin could end up costing Brightline more than what Branson initially put into it. The whole Virgin renaming is a gamble on the part of Fortress. Let's hope that the caché of the Virgin name is worth it. As I have said before, from what I have read about Branson's UK train service, he could stand to learn a lot from the Brightline team and their very successful operations.
  by Gilbert B Norman
Thank you, Mr. Bone Valley for supporting my views about the "Branson Factor".

From having had six Brightline rides, and getting to "sleep on a Virgin" not too much interest at my age, the on-board experience is like nothing short of First on an airplane.

I appreciate your thought that Sir Richard's star power was not what got VT/BL the " big loot". It was simply "qualified" investors placing their bets that the "Tallytrough" will be open for feeding if the venture "heads South".

It will be interesting to see if my "junk bond" fund, Virtus SEIX High Yield, picks up any of the VT/BL issue. Suffice to say, I'm not about to "drink too much of that Kool-Aid" in my portfolio.
  by Bonevalleyrailfan
Well, I am not sure if I agree completely with your point of view specifically or if my thoughts happen to align with it.

I still want to believe that FECI/Fortress and the investors think that this project will be an ongoing profitable business not requiring a bail out by Tally in the future.

My thoughts on Branson are more driven by what I know about the people and the efforts that have been made by many individuals over the past 7 years to get this project to the point where it is at now. It seems to me that the comments and attitude of Branson so far minimize all of the efforts made to date in order to elevate his position. I am one of those who has been active over the last 7 years to make sure AAF/Brightline successfully navigated the politics of Florida. I have written hundreds of letters to various legislators and agencies in support of AAF. Where was Sir Branson? Nowhere in Florida it seems.

He wants to take credit for that which is not his.

Gokeefe mentioned the efforts of Gene Skoropowski in a previous comment. Mr. Skoropowski has done 10000 times more work toward the goal of intercity passenger rail here in Florida than Branson could ever dream of. Why the current leadership of Virgin Trains USA (I am talking to you Mr. Goddard) seems to stay silent and minimize the contributions of all who came before in order to elevate Sir Richard Branson is questionable. As with any industry or company, you must recognize your past to appreciate the possibilities of the future.
  by Jeff Smith
Just a reminder we do have a Virgin IPO topic, which I've now "rebranded" (much like Brightline) to include bonding. There was too much cross-topic discussion to move posts without collateral damage to on-topic posts. No harm no foul. But in the future, let's please keep this topic, the original, to the original line.
  by Alex M
I am reminded of a comment that James J. Hill made concerning his legacy as the empire builder. "I have made my mark on the world and they cannot take it off!" Mr. Skoropowski and others who were there in the beginning of this enterprise can now take justifiable pride in what they have done. If Sir Richard wants the limelight, so be it, as long as this business flourishes that will be the founders' legacy.
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