4 Months On for Brightline – A Progress Report from the Florida Operator
In January 2018 Brightline, the first private passenger rail service in the United States since the decommissioning of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad in 1983, started services on the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Unfortunately, the first few days of operations were overshadowed by the tragic accidental deaths of three people who were hit by the trains after wandering on to the line. In the months since then the service has proven itself to be both efficient and popular and in addition to expansion within Florida, it also looks like the company will try to develop new routes in other states.
Railway-News asked a spokesperson for Brightline for their own views on how things are going for them.
Railway-News (RN): How has efficiency of operations, usage of the service and gross profit compared with expectations before the start of services?
Brightline (B): Brightline is a private company, and we do not disclose ridership numbers. We can say that Brightline has exceeded ridership expectations during introductory service, and we look forward to launching Miami in the coming weeks.
RN: Brightline currently only serves the FEC line between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, but is considering expansion to Jacksonville, Tampa and Orlando; the potential of an interstate service between Atlanta, Charlottesville, Houston and Dallas, and between Dallas and Austin is also being considered. How realistic are these potential expansions and how far are you towards this goal?
B: Brightline is currently focused on extending service to Miami and starting construction north of West Palm Beach to Orlando. There are other corridors in the U.S. that fit our model, which can be classified as “too short to fly and too long to drive”. We are actively looking at other corridors.
RN: Brightline is the first private passenger rail service to start operations in more than a century; why has this type of service not had a profile in the US market for such a long period?
B: There are several passenger rail systems around the world that are profitable and several rail corridors in the U.S. that do not require subsidies to operate. We studied these systems prior to launching Brightline and determined passenger rail is a viable and profitable alternative in markets that are “too short to fly and too long to drive”.
RN: Do you think that the success of Brightline, especially if it does expand, will prompt the launch of private passenger rail on other lines?
B: Brightline is being watched around the world as we are redefining what it means to travel by rail. We believe Brightline’s success will encourage the launch of additional privately owned, operated and maintained passenger rail systems.
RN: Finally, in the days after the start of the Brightline service much of the news coverage focused on the terrible accidents involving trespassers on the line, which resulted in several fatalities; how effective were the initiatives you implemented to reduce these accidents?
B: Safety is Brightline’s top priority. Each of the incidents that have occurred have either been ruled suicides or resulted from individuals circumventing the grade crossing infrastructure in place to keep the public safe or disobeying state traffic laws and stopping on active railroad tracks.
For more than a year, Brightline has been working to educate the public on the importance of staying safe around active railroad tracks, which includes a partnership with Operation Lifesaver. The company continues to partner with federal, state and local agencies, including local law enforcement, to raise awareness about rail safety.
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