• 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

  • 1792 posts
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  by Jeff Smith
 
mtuandrew wrote:Frankly though, if The Mouse is on board with the FEC's plans, they can't fail at making money.
They'll make FECR an offer they can't refuse ;-) . If Disney chooses to back it, they'll want an ownership stake and a say in everything. And I don't think it will be stopping anywhere else theme-park related. If the state backs it, which I think is doubtful but could also show that public-private partnership guys like Scott and Mica support, then they'd visit all.

I still think the freight angle is huge. Haven't they invested a lot in their port?
  by SouthernRailway
 
Fortress, FEC's owner, is definitely a premier investment firm that carries a lot of weight. I can't imagine that FEC just did this move independently of Fortress involvement; there must be pretty good oversight by Fortress.
  by mtuandrew
 
Jeff Smith wrote:They'll make FECR an offer they can't refuse ;-) . If Disney chooses to back it, they'll want an ownership stake and a say in everything. And I don't think it will be stopping anywhere else theme-park related. If the state backs it, which I think is doubtful but could also show that public-private partnership guys like Scott and Mica support, then they'd visit all.

I still think the freight angle is huge. Haven't they invested a lot in their port?
Freight is definitely important, but from where? The FEC probably can't get more than a wayfreight daily from Orlando, and CSX won't short-haul itself or allow the FEC to get operating rights over the A-line.

Whether or not the state backs the project, Scott and Mica will make no bones about trumpeting this project as proof of Ayn Rand's theories. I don't see them doing more than recommending to the Turnpike Authority the use of their median, but as far as I know they don't have any real say.
  by David Benton
 
maybe theyre looking to the future , where short fast intermodal trains will be viable . i dont think it will be csx and NS looking for running rights on the FEC , i think it will be the other way round .
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Gents, even though I hold this ostensible passenger train initiative is simply a ploy (I'll withdraw my earlier thoughts regarding a HOAX) that is part of a much greater interest such as sale of the FEC Ry to another party, I recognize and respect that some here hold that this is a sincere initiative for the private sector to return to the intercity passenger train line of business in a market where there is ridership potential.

For myself, and primarily for benefit of those accessing this topic through the General Discussion Passenger Rail Forum, I'll leave it as a "we report, you decide" moment. Part of 'we report" is to direct readers to this related discussion at the Florida East Coast Forum:

http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopi ... 54&t=59258
  by SouthernRailway
 
I'm not sure how having a potential $1 billion liability for funds to start the passenger service, and a potential new line of business with, at best, untested financial returns, is a good thing for a potential sale. Conversely, wouldn't FEC be wanting to clean up its balance sheet and ensure financial viability for prospective investors? Also, there are tons of small railroads that are held by various private-sector entities; why in the world would FEC be wanting to sell itself to a government entity?
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
SouthernRailway wrote:I'm not sure how having a potential $1 billion liability for funds to start the passenger service, and a potential new line of business with, at best, untested financial returns, is a good thing for a potential sale.
Wholly agree, Mr. Southern; I'm certain that if there were anything on the table regarding the sale of the FEC to a private sector party, this passenger train initiative simply would "have never been".

But to reiterate, with the top heavy debt capitalization, I don't think a private sector party is too interested; therefore, with the committment being made to have the post-PANAMAX Port of Miami something beyond where the Love Tubs tie up, the State has a vested interest in the FEC remaining a viable, and independent, line. Even if either NS or CSX were "interested" (and again with the debt structure, I doubt if they are), the public sector party that is bankrolling the improvements to Miami, wants to be able to tout to the maritime industry "we have competitive rail routings" (never mind such is 350 miles away). If FEC ever got into CSX or NS hands, either would have no reason to provide good service as they collectively serve every major East Coast port as is. FEC would simply become a long branch line and maybe even abandoned.

This passenger train initiative simply makes for "good press' in an effort to sell the line to a public agency in a "(psgr) train hating' state. But once a sale is closed upon, I somehow think not too much further will be heard.

Just those two copper things in my pocket doing the talkin'.
  by mtuandrew
 
If nothing else, this passenger venture makes the line considerably less attractive to Norfolk Southern and CSX. :grin:

My earlier comments notwithstanding, I can't quite figure out why the FEC chose now to try to move forward. The FEC still has more hidden cards to play, and I feel that even the combination of the A-line sale and more-or-less freight embargo, the port expansion in Miami, the impending IPO of the FEC, and the various passenger initiatives throughout the state isn't the only thing pushing this mess along.

Personally, I don't think the FEC under its current management will complete the line on its own account, but I will say that if the FEC ever gets as far as grading the line, someone will finish it and operate passenger trains.
  by Champlain Division
 
Something else occurred to me. While I can't speak "Finance-ese", this may also be FEC's way of saying "Heck, yeah. We want Amtrak trains on our line! And we'll do anything to cajole or trick the powers that be into making the investment. We also want to be here awhile under the same owner, so Amtrak will help keep it that way AND we'll even say we're willing to run our own passenger trains just to keep hostile takeover suitors away."

Imagine "Regional Railroad, LLC" looking at FEC and saying to themselves "Hey, they're making money and we can get that. Oh....DAMN! They've got AMTRAK trains!!! Never mind."
  by Jeff Smith
 
National Review chimes in:

The Return of Private Passenger Rail Service?
Stephen Smith, easily one of the best reporters cover transportation and urban policy, has a detailed account. He observes that because the railroad focuses on time-sensitive intermodal freight, it is far more well-suited to passenger service than freight rail companies that focus on slow-moving bulk freight. Moreover, he anticipates potential resistance from organized labor; while large numbers of railroads were going out of business in the 1960s and 1970s, the FEC survived in part by resisting the demands of its unions and rolling back seniority rules and “featherbedding.” Given the strength of organized labor at Amtrak, this might make for an interesting contrast if the railroad is given a real opportunity to demonstrate the viability of private passenger rail.
This is interesting, as NR is a conservative/libertarian publication. I note no negativity about the plan in their article.

The NRO article also links another article by someone who is NOT a relation to me, as noted in the above quote. I'm not sure if it's been previously linked; apologies if so:

http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/321480/ ... r-rail.htm
...

The hiring of Eugene Skoropowski lends the enterprise further credibility. A respected transit veteran who's worked in both the private and public sectors, he recently led Amtrak California's Capitol Corridor service to record ridership, reliability, and efficiency. Skoropowski will presumably lead the project as senior vice president for passenger service development, a position created for him by Florida East Coast Industries earlier this month.

Of the 240 miles of track needed to bring Florida East Coast trains from Miami to Orlando, the company's main line already covers the 200 miles along state's eastern coast, from Miami to the Space Coast city of Cocoa. Florida East Coast will need to acquire land and build tracks along the last 40 miles to Orlando, with All Aboard Florida spokeswoman Christine Barney saying on Monday, "We expect that it'll be land that's already in public use." Some have speculated that the company could build new tracks in the median of the Bee Line Expressway.

No matter how the Florida East Coast gets passengers to Orlando, freight would surely follow. CSX currently has a monopoly on freight rail in Central Florida, but the FEC is no doubt eager to gain a foothold in Florida's third-largest metropolitan area. The railroad has made significant investments in South Florida ports in anticipation of the latest Panama canal expansion, which would be made more valuable by a higher capacity double-tracked main line and direct access to Orlando and Tampa.

...

Randal O'Toole, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, speculated that the company might look for a loan from the federal government, emulating the strategy of DesertXpress, a privately held company whose $4.9 billion federal loan application decision is due by mid-year. The firm, which envisions building high-speed rail from Las Vegas to Victorville, Calif., has sought a loan from the Federal Railroad Administration's Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Program, which finances public passenger proposals along with projects by non-Class I freight carriers. (The FEC was the smallest Class I railroad until 1992, when a change in the upper bound for annual revenue changed it to a Class II.)
  by electricron
 
Jeff Smith wrote:Randal O'Toole, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, speculated that the company might look for a loan from the federal government, emulating the strategy of DesertXpress, a privately held company whose $4.9 billion federal loan application decision is due by mid-year. The firm, which envisions building high-speed rail from Las Vegas to Victorville, Calif., has sought a loan from the Federal Railroad Administration's Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Program, which finances public passenger proposals along with projects by non-Class I freight carriers. (The FEC was the smallest Class I railroad until 1992, when a change in the upper bound for annual revenue changed it to a Class II.)
I'll admit that is a possibility, but there's no way FEC could get a FEIS completed and start service within two years. It took DesertXpress over half a decade to compete a FEIS, and they haven't even got their Federal loan yet. If they are seeking a Federal loan, they better start a FEIS quickly.
  by Arlington
 
electricron wrote:I'll admit that is a possibility, but there's no way FEC could get a FEIS completed and start service within two years. It took DesertXpress over half a decade to compete a FEIS, and they haven't even got their Federal loan yet. If they are seeking a Federal loan, they better start a FEIS quickly.
Ah! but Desert Xpress was new ROW, through a protected area, needing Fed dollars all along the line.

Contrast that to the way Pan Am is upgrading all kinds of stuff between Boston and Brunswick Maine. Because they stay within the private RR's ROW on an active line, you can basically take the Fed $ and do a total rebuild of everything from bedrock up without a FEIS.

So FEC could split the project in three
1) use Fed $ to upgrade their *existing* 200mi without a big FEIS,
2) Use their own private $ to do the new 40 mi with fewer fed hassles.
3) Run any FRA-compliant rollingstock assembled anywhere
  by Jeff Smith
 
The Airport is Puzzled!
For decades, OIA officials have planned for a train connection, but in a new terminal that would be built a mile south of the existing one.

Likely to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, that terminal first must be approved by the major airlines using OIA. Preliminary discussions could be started later this year, but no timetable is expected soon.

The biggest driver for a new terminal would be passenger counts, Brown said. OIA is at 35 million now and, experts say, the existing terminal starts to become too crowded at between 40 million and 50 million passengers. The upper end of that estimate might not occur until 2023.

OIA is the most logical destination for the train for two reasons:

•It provides a large, potential pool of train riders, especially those who might be willing to take it to Port Canaveral for cruises.

•Getting to densely developed downtown Orlando would be difficult and expensive. The ill-fated, high-speed train from Tampa went to OIA in part because the Interstate 4 corridor had no room downtown. Gov. Rick Scott killed that project, saying it would be a waste of money.
  by electricron
 
Arlington wrote:Ah! but Desert Xpress was new ROW, through a protected area, needing Fed dollars all along the line.

Contrast that to the way Pan Am is upgrading all kinds of stuff between Boston and Brunswick Maine. Because they stay within the private RR's ROW on an active line, you can basically take the Fed $ and do a total rebuild of everything from bedrock up without a FEIS.
Whereas Pan Am didn't do a FEIS, the State of Maine did perform a Final Environmental Assessment with a finding on no significant impact back in 2009. Check out Section C in the link below. http://www.maine.gov/mdot/recovery/docu ... rack1A.pdf

P.S. A review of the history behind the Downeaster trains implementation is also included in the link.

No doubt in my mind that the entire planning process for the Downeaster expansion took several years to become eligible for Federal funds.

And there's no doubt in my mind that running 40 miles of brand new tracks, in the Beeline Expressway right-of-way or not, through a watershed area (i.e. swamp) is going to need a full FEIS performed if any kind of Federal funds are involved.
  by Arlington
 
electricron wrote: And there's no doubt in my mind that running 40 miles of brand new tracks, in the Beeline Expressway right-of-way or not, through a watershed area (i.e. swamp) is going to need a full FEIS performed if any kind of Federal funds are involved.
What if no federal funds are involved?

Maybe the DE *extension* was a bad example. More like Pan Am and the MBTA double-tracking, signal upgrades and laying CWR in Massachusetts, and Perhaps more like CSX's Capital Corridor and NS's Crescent Corridor. A lot of that work seems to have been implemented pretty fast because while it was fed $, it was on the RR's ROW.
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