According to the Orlando Sentinel, privately owned, higher-speed train service is on track to expand from South Florida to Orlando and Tampa with construction on a spur from West Palm Beach to Orlando expected to start in March and last 30 to 36 months. Brightline has been operating in South Florida since early in 2018 and partnered with the Virgin Group in November of last year. “That Virgin name is instantly recognizable” and will connect with international tourists in Florida, said Bob O’Malley, Brightline’s vice president of government affairs.

Brightline and Virgin have announced efforts to establish intercity passenger service in other states, including between Southern California and Las Vegas. Also announced in 2018 is the rail service’s plan to extend operations from Orlando’s airport to Tampa at an undisclosed station location between its downtown and historic community of Ybor City.

Filed in late November, a preliminary prospectus for stock in Virgin Trains USA Inc. predicts that service between Miami and Tampa through Orlando has the potential to carry 9.5 million passengers annually. Brightline-Virgin service also could achieve what Central Florida leaders have been unable to solve: establish a link between SunRail commuter rail and Orlando’s airport.

To develop service between Orlando and Tampa, the privately owned and operated Brightline is now negotiating with Orlando Utilities Commission, Central Florida Expressway Authority, the Florida Department of Transportation and with private landowners to lease or buy land for rail and stations. A schedule for construction and completion would depend on the outcome of those negotiations. OUC and Central Florida Expressway Authority representatives have indicated that their agencies are receptive to Brightline plans.

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