Posts Tagged ‘intercity rail service’

Brightline, Virgin Group Announce Partnership

November 20, 2018

Brightline and the Virgin Group have announced the formation of a partnership that will seek to provide the Brightline brand of intercity rail passenger service elsewhere in the United States.

In an announcement, the two companies said the partnership will involve a strategic partnership and trademark licensing agreement that will result in Bightline trains, stations and future developments being marketed under the brand Virgin Trains USA starting in 2019.

Brightline operates intercity rail service in Florida between Miami and West Palm Beach.

It has proposed extending gthat service to Orlando and Tampa, and is also seeking to acquire  XpressWest, which is seeking to establish a rail line between Las Vegas and Southern California.

Virgin Group has made a minority share investment in Brightline for an undisclosed amount.

Fortress Investment Group has retained majority ownership of Brightline.
Virgin Group operates intercity rail services in the United Kingdom, including Virgin Trains, a high-speed intercity passenger-rail system.

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Study Favors Chicago-Fort Wayne Service

October 28, 2018

A preliminary study has determined that intercity rail passenger service between Fort Wayne and Chicago is possible between 2026 and 2030.

The study estimated the trains on the route could carry between 387,000 and 765,000 passengers a year by 2035.

Ridership will hinge on the average train speed and number of trips offered. The study examined various scenarios ranging from a top speed of 79 mph to 101 mph.

Although the study looked only at the segment between Chicago and Fort Wayne, that corridor is part of a larger route between Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, via Valparaiso, Gary, Plymouth, and Warsaw in Indiana, and Lima in Ohio.

The route between Chicago and Lima would follow or run parallel to the former route of Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Broadway Limited, which was rerouted away from those cities in late 1990.

The study, conducted by consulting firm HNTB, determined that the estimated capital costs are about $898 million for 79-mph service and $1.2 billion for 101 mph.

Texas Central Taps Renfe

October 11, 2018

Spanish company Renfe has been chosen to help operate a Texas high-speed rail service under development.

Texas Central said it has established a partnership with Renfe to operate the proposed service between Dallas and Houston.

Renfe will provide technical advice on design and construction and help Texas Central with operation and maintenance plans.

Another Spanish company, Adif, will help Renfe maintain equipment and signals, and oversee ticketing.

Renfe operates 5,000 trains daily on 7,500 miles of track in Spain.

NH Coalition Wants Rail Service to Manchester

February 1, 2018

A New England business coalition is trying to drum up support for extending intercity rail passenger service to Manchester, New Hampshire, from Boston.

The group New Hampshire Business for Rail Expansion claims that more than 50 businesses, organizations and individuals support the service, including Northwestern Mutual and University of New Hampshire.

The group is seeking to prod New Hampshire legislators to include the rail service in the state’s 10-year transportation improvement plan, which includes $4 million for the proposed project’s development phase.

That funding would go toward engineering, environmental and geotechnical analysis, as well as a financial plan for funding the service.

“New Hampshire’s economy is strong, but a well-documented lack of in-migration and aging population is hurting businesses that need to fill jobs, which is detrimental to the state’s future,” said coalition spokesman E.J. Powers. “For companies to grow and prosper right here in New Hampshire, they need access to a younger, highly educated workforce.”

The coalition said the route could serve a minimum of 668,000 annual riders.

Brightline to Start Revenue Service Jan. 13

January 11, 2018

Brightline will begin revenue service on Jan. 13 between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach,  Florida.

Fares include a “Try Our Train” fare of $10 per segment for basic service and $15 for Select service with larger seats and snacks and beverages. A segment is one way between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale over tracks of the Florida East Coast.

Service will initially be 10 daily weekday roundtrips and nine on weekends. The end-to-end trip will take 35 minutes with trains leaving as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 11 p.m. Schedules will vary between weekday and weekend service.

In an announcement, Brightline said it expects to expand into downtown Miami in the coming months.

Brightline also said it has shaken up its management team, promoting Patrick Goddard to president in replacement of Chief Executive Dave Howard, who was hired in March 2017.

Trains will operate at a top speed of 79 mph operation on the 67-mile section between Miami and West Palm Beach. Trains are projected to operate at up to 110 mph in the next 133-mile phase of the project to Cocoa Beach.

Brightline May Start This Month

December 5, 2017

All Aboard Florida is now expected to launch Brightline intercity rail passenger service between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Florida, this month, the Fitch Ratings agency reported.

Service to Miami is expected to start in 2018. Brightline has thus far declined to comment on the report.

Fitch said it reached its conclusions as part of an analysis of a $600-million bond issue being set up to pay for the higher-speed passenger service.

The report said Brightline’s financial potential is good based on strong revenue generated by other passenger rail service elsewhere in the U.S.

Fitch expects Brightline to earn $147.6 million in revenue in 2021 and said service can break even with revenue of $90.6 million, ridership of 1.6 million, and average fares substantially lower than those offered on Amtrak’s Acela service between Washington and Boston.

Brightline had earlier indicated that it wanted to launch service five months ago.

The inauguration has been delayed by signal work at grade crossings in Palm Beach County.

The Florida East Coast is hosting the service, the first since FEC ended its own passengers trains in 1968 in the wake of a protracted union strike.

FRA OKs Atlanta Corridor Review

October 2, 2017

The Federal Railroad Administration has released an environmental impact statement of the Atlanta to Chattanooga, Tennessee, high-speed rail corridor.

FRA said in a news release that the completion of the Tier I combined Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision for the High-Speed Ground Transportation marks the completion of the environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act and documents FRA’s identification of a preferred corridor.

“This project will benefit both Atlanta and Chattanooga with more efficient transportation, while also providing rail access to the rural communities in the region,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in a statement.“This has been a long time in the making and represents a response to numerous transportation needs along the Interstate 75 corridor.”

The proposed corridor would parallel for 120 miles I-75 and feature eight stations, including Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport at the proposed airport-Southern Crescent station. Trains would make the journey in 88 minutes.

The Georgia Department of Transportation studied the corridor as part of Georgia’s 1997 Intercity Rail Plan, which recommended further study – specifically with an emphasis on high-speed rail service.

Georgia DOT and the Tennessee Department of Transportation have identified 15 potential corridors between Atlanta and Chattanooga, but have narrowed the list to three.

A decision on the exact alignment will be part of a Tier II environmental study, if additional funding is approved.

Columbus to Help Fund Passenger Rail Study

June 12, 2017

The city of Columbus has agreed to contribute $250,000 toward the planning efforts to establish intercity rail service between Ohio’s capital city and Chicago.

That amount will be added to the $350,000 already committed by other cities, businesses and others.

All Aboard Ohio, a rail passenger advocacy group, reported in its June newsletter that some central Ohio entities that it didn’t name might contribute another $100,000.

Work on the proposed Chicago-Columbus route is being conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration and the engineering firm HNTB.

Their planning efforts are currently focused on the former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline between Lima, Ohio, and Gary, Indiana, that was once used by Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Broadway Limited and Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited.

The preferred route from Columbus is the CSX Toledo Terminal and Scottslawn subdivisions, which cross the ex-PRR mainline at Dunkirk, Ohio.

In a related move, the FRA is reported to be well along in creating a Midwest Regional Rail Planning Study.

That document will create a 40-year vision that builds on the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative that was proposed more than a decade ago but has never been implemented.

The Midwest Midwest rail concept would cost an estimated $2.5 billion for new locomotives, passenger cars, upgraded tracks, modernized stations, increased train frequencies and faster travel times.

The Ohio Rail Development Commission is participating in the plan, which will establish the priorities, and studies and investments needed to implement projects in the coming decades.

Eau Claire Support Rail Service — Again

March 31, 2017

The Eau Claire city council this week voted to support a proposal to establish passenger-rail service between the Wisconsin city and St. Paul, Minnesota.

The vote came after a presentation by the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition, which is supporting a private section plan to start the service.

It is the third vote by the council in support of passenger rail, but other resolutions went nowhere due to lack of funding.

Eau Claire has never had intercity rail passenger service during the Amtrak era.

Pa. Lawmaker Optimistic About Added Service

August 30, 2016

A Pennsylvania lawmaker is predicting that additional Amtrak service could begin in western Pennsylvania within a year.

Amtrak logoUsing a football anology, Bryan Barbin, a Johnstown Democrat, said that additional trains are not at the first and goal position yet, but are five yards or less away from the goal line.

Barbin serves on the House Transportation Committee and spoke with Pennsylvania news media after a meeting of that committee.

He said Norfolk Southern will soon tell the state how much it would cost to increase passenger service.

Currently, the route between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg is served only by the daily New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian. The region has been lobbying for years for increased service.

Although expanded service has support on both sides of the political aisle, lawmakers say that the price and technical details must still be negotiated.

“This won’t come to a matter of if, but how much it costs,” Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. John Taylor, R-Philadelphia, said.

Lawmakers might gulp if NS demands costly new switches and track improvements.

“You’ve got to take one step at a time,” Barbin said. “But what do you need to make the western corridor more like the eastern corridor? You’d have to make improvements on both sides of the Allegheny Mountain.”

He said federal grants could help cover the costs for track improvements.

“Any time you have a tight budget like we have, it’s never small potatoes. But it’s possible to do it,” Barbin said.

Expanded rail passenger service to Pittsburgh has the support of Pittsburgh city government, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and the Blair County Chamber of Commerce.

Barbin said some in western Pennsylvania have been contrasting the paltry level of rail service in their end of the state with the scale of commuter rail operations in eastern Pennsylvania, particularly the Keystone Service trains from Harrisburg to Philadelphia and New York.