Virgin Group is the parent company of Virgin Atlantic Airways and Virgin Trains, a high-speed passenger railroad in the United Kingdom. They announced today that they are purchasing a minority stake in  Brightline, a South Florida high-speed rail operator that currently operates trains from Miami to West Palm Beach.

Effective immediately the train company will be known by Virgin Trains USA. Re-branding efforts are expected to begin next year, according to Brightline.

Image via Flick via BBT609

Founder of Virgin Group and notorious billionaire, Richard Branson said “We have had a lot of fun and success creating innovative transport businesses that shake up markets and establish loyal followings. Brightline is at the forefront of innovation in this market, and the ideal partner for Virgin to work with to alter perceptions and traveling habits across the United States.”

Brightline has plans to expand to Orlando International Airport. The 235 mile trip between Miami and Orlando would operate at speed up to 125 MPH with the trip expected to take just 3 hours compared to the 4+ it currently takes while driving. Brightline said that track improvement construction from Palm Beach to Orlando could begin by the end of this year. The railroad has said it will begin service between Miami and Orlando by 2021, with an eventual expansion to Tampa. The expansion has been contented by neighboring cities who only would allow the train to use existing tracks if they get a stop on the line rather than just allow the trains to pass through.

In September, Brightline announced plans to buy the rights to build a high-speed railroad between Southern California and Las Vegas. Service between Las Vegas and Victorville, California, is to launch in 2022, and eventually could expand into the Los Angeles area.

What make Brightline different?

While planes are a great way to get between large distance, Brightline is a great resource when traveling the small distances in the South Florida area. You can travel between major downtown’s of  West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami in just about 1 hour, a drive that normally would take 50% longer than that.

Brightline trains are known for their airline like amenities. With all fares you get a large 19″ wide leather seat, Wi-Fi, and power outlets. With their first class “Select” offering you get unlimited alcohol, snacks, lounge access, and parking included.  Trains start at $20 for a round trip Smart fare or $70 for a round trip Select fare.

This isn’t the first project that Virgin Group has taken in South Florida as they have started operations for Virgin Voyages, the Virgin branded cruise ship in Plantation, Florida. Virgin Voyages should begin sailing in 2020.

Do you plan on riding on the new Virgin Trains USA?