Brightline Trains Florida Rail Service

By James | Last updated May 29, 2024

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The privately funded Brightline company opened the first phase of their new higher-speed inter-city express passenger train service during the week of January 8, 2018. Initially the service ran the short distance from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale and then a few months later it was extended to the new downtown MiamiCentral station just north of the Miami-Dade County Courthouse.

In Miami the service runs on elevated tracks and connects with the existing Tri-Rail commuter service.

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Brightline Journey Times

Journey time from Miami to Fort Lauderdale is around 30 minutes and from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach another 30 minutes.

The 235 mile journey from Miami to MCO will be around three hours compared to a one hour flight time or around three and a half to four hours by road with no traffic. The existing Amtrak Silver Star and Silver Meteor services take around seven and a half hours and five and three quarter hours respectively to cover roughly the same distances.

The Brightline service offers reserved seating, power and USB outlets, free wireless internet, gourmet food and drinks. It is expected to attract both local commuters in the Miami area and long distance travellers between Central and South Florida.

Brightline Coaches

The five train sets built by Siemens USA in California feature bright yellow Siemens Charger engines pulling silver Siemens Venture coaches highlighted with five colours; red, orange, green, blue and pink.

Each train set has two types of coaches:

  • Smart coaches seating between 58 and 66 passengers in 19 inch wide seats
  • Premium coaches have extra wide 21 inch leather seats seating 49 passengers including single seats, access to Premium Guest Lounges, complimentary food, drinks and parking

All coaches have pair or quad seats with or without tables, drop-down task trays, large windows aligned with the seats, luggage towers for large carry-on bags, overhead luggage racks plus under-seat storage for smaller personal item and the last Smart coach has a checked baggage compartment.

There are also USB and charger plug connections as well as complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi.

Each train set typically consists of two engines (one at each end) plus four carriages holding around 250 passengers. Ultimately the number of coaches could be increased to ten.

A further five train sets may be ordered in readiness for the service to Tampa.

Miami to Fort Lauderdale

When the service started, introductory ticket prices were $10 between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in the “smart” carriages and $15 in the “premium” carriages.

Today tickets from West Palm Beach to Miami start at $15 for “smart” and $37 for “premium”. Children aged 12 and under are half price. Also on offer are monthly passes.

Ultimately Brightline plan to introduce additional ticket options including 10-packs, weekend, weekly, annual and corporate ticket packages.

Whilst prices are nearly twice the price of the Tri-Rail service, journey times are half and there are no intermediate stops.

To start with Brightline offered ten round trips on weekdays and nine at weekends between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. The aim is to reach 16 trips per day offering an hourly service.

Services were suspended on March 25, 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and most of the workforce were laid off. Services resumed on November 8, 2021.

Shortly after services restarted Brightline announced a fully integrated door-to-door “Brightline+” service in conjunction with Iomob.

Brightline branded private cars and ride-share shuttles will take customers from home/office to the station and return within a 5 mile radius of the stations.

There is even talk of golf carts, electric bikes and scooters for short journeys. This local transportation option will be rolled out to Orlando as well.

Fort Lauderdale to Orlando International Airport

The second phase will extend the service to the newly constructed South Intermodal Center railway station at Orlando International Airport (MCO) via Cocoa and the latest schedule puts the first services by the end of 2022, subsequently pushed out to 2023. There are also plans to bring Central Florida’s SunRail service to MCO.

The service between Miami and Cocoa will use upgraded Florida East Coast Railway tracks. The route from Cocoa to Orlando will run on a newly constructed rail system alongside the BeachLine Expressway roadway.

Between Miami and West Palm Beach top speed will be around 79 mph, 110 mph to Cocoa and then 125 mph between Cocoa and Orlando.

Brightline Future Plans

The initial plan was to connect Miami with the new Terminal C at Orlando International Airport with services now starting in 2023 but already the company are looking at extending the network even further.

Going south from Miami, Brightline is investigating the possibility of extending the service from downtown Miami to the cruise terminals at PortMiami using existing tracks and going north, two additional stations are being built at Aventura (between Miami and Fort Lauderdale) and Boca Raton (between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach).

Both the Boca Raton and Aventura stations opened on December 21, 2022.

They are also looking at another station serving Fort Lauderdale airport and there is talk about extending the service even further north up the Atlantic coast beyond Cocoa, as far as Jacksonville.

Orlando to Tampa

The latest phase is to continue the westbound leg of the tracks as far as Tampa with a station around Lakeland and another somewhere between downtown Tampa and Ybor City. There are also plans to connect with the SunRail service at the Meadow Woods Station in south Orange County.

Initially the idea of a Walt Disney World stop was muted with the possibility of a station in the Celebration area. Further collaboration with SunRail would allow SunRail trains to reach both Walt Disney World and Orlando International Airport which would probably extend SunRail’s operating schedules to including nights and weekends.

The original plan was to take a southerly route and build the tracks utilising the central median on State Road 417 and then Interstate I-4. However objections from the Hunter’s Creek community, and businesses on International Drive including Universal Studios have lobbied for a more northerly route to service their own locations including the Orange County Convention Center whilst avoiding Hunter’s Creek.

Brightline said that this could add another upwards of $1.3 billion to the $1 billion cost to reach Walt Disney World from the airport.

In October 2020 Brightline said their first priority would be the Disney station with construction starting in 2022 and completion to Tampa by 2025 (now 2026). The Orlando to Tampa journey time would be around one hour with a return ticket costing around $70.

On November 23, 2020 Brightline and Walt Disney World confirmed that they would build a station at Disney Springs connecting the Walt Disney World Resort with Orlando International Airport and Miami. The station at Disney Springs would have a lobby on the ground level and an upper-level train platform and was expected to open in the second half of 2023.

This would have allowed Disney guests to connect directly to the Walt Disney World Resort hotels using Walt Disney World’s own coach fleet.

No word was given at the time on whether this would impact on the existing Disney’s Magical Express Bus Service but Disney subsequently confirmed that the Magical Express Bus Service would cease at the end of 2021.

In its place Mears is offering their own shuttle bus services to Walt Disney World called Mears Connect and well as another service called the “Sunshine Flyer”.

Meanwhile Universal Studios continued to lobby for a more northerly “Sunshine Corridor” and offered 13 acres of land near to the upcoming Universal’s Epic Universe theme park.

On June 28, 2022, Disney withdrew from the project after Brightline shifted their focus to a more northerly option with a Destination Parkway station near the Orange County Convention Center. This would act as an access point for Universal Studios and Sea World.

Further stations are planned at Sunbridge Parkway in East Orlando and South International Drive which would be the closest to Walt Disney World.

Ultimately other intermediate stations could be built along the Space Coast and Treasure Coast.

Las Vegas to Los Angeles

In a second project, Brightline is also looking at the idea of connecting the 260 miles between Las Vegas with Los Angeles using similar rolling stock and work was expected to start in late 2020 but it now looks like Brightline West will start construction in 2023.

Brightline Background

In 2015, All Aboard Florida announced that the new privately owned train service (the only one in the United States) would be called Brightline.

They were originally expected to open the first phase in mid 2017 and connect with Orlando by the end of 2017 but the first phase was delayed until early 2018 with construction starting on the second phase to Orlando slipping into the first quarter of 2019.

In late 2018, the Virgin Group purchased a minority stake and in January 2019 the service was rebranded as Virgin Trains USA only for the partnership to be terminated in July 2020 and the name reverted to Brightline Trains.