After a decade in the making, Brightline is set to redefine train travel in the United States (U.S.) with its bold venture connecting Miami and Orlando. The Sandton Times got onboard to experience this new service first hand.
- A decade in the making, Brightline’s launch this year looks to reinvent train travel in the U.S..
- The train offers a blueprint to connect city pairs that are too short to fly and too far to drive.
- Brightline currently runs 32 trains daily with 16 daily departures between Miami and Orlando.
- Visit www.sandtontimes.co.za for more stories.
September 2023 marked the official start of Brightline’s passenger rail service between Orlando and Miami. It’s considered to be the boldest private infrastructure project in the United States and the first major railway infrastructure in over 100 years.
Brightline is deemed to be the only provider of modern, eco-friendly, intercity rail in the United States. The company currently serves Miami, Aventura, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach and Orlando. It’s a great connection for anyone wanting to enjoy the many cruise options out of Fort Lauderdale or Miami, before jumping on a train to Orlando to experience all that Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Universal Studios and Disney’s many parks have to offer.
Brightline launched operations in South Florida in 2018, connecting Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Stations in Boca Raton and Aventura opened last year. Construction on its 273 km extension from West Palm Beach to Orlando began in 2019. The $6-billion project claims to have generated substantial economic benefits in Florida creating 10’000 jobs and approximately $6.4-billion in direct economic impact to the region. Construction teams worked more than 7-million hours over the course of four years to complete the project.
Brightline boasts a different travel experience, with an innovative station design, spacious lounges and comfortable train sets. Designed by The Rockwell Group, and set with Brightline’s signature yellow, the stations are beautifully built and are packed with amenities including Starlink WiFi, chargers and outlets at every seat, and a selection of food, beverage and cocktails available for purchase for SMART and complimentary for PREMIUM. Passengers are able to enjoy a wide selection of light bites, beverages and cocktails throughout the day at one of Brightline’s signature in-station Mary Mary Bars or pick up last-minute gifts, sundries and refreshments at one of the MRKT shopping retail locations.
The new Brightline Orlando station is conveniently located at Orlando International Airport adjacent to Terminal C. This is the only intercity passenger rail station of its kind to be located in a U.S. airport and stands three-stories tall, including a 6’689 square meter platform area, making it the company’s largest train station. The Train Station connects directly to the airport’s Parking Garage C, which has more than 350 parking spaces marked for Brightline guests. The Train Station provides direct access to the other airport terminals A and B via the airport Terminal Link (automated people mover) in under five minutes.
Check-in is easy without the longer wait time usually associated with air-travel. Brightline also includes a basic luggage allowance, similar to an international flight i.e. a large check-in suitcase and carry-on bag per person with options to add-on more at an additional cost. The station and lounge area offers a relaxed modern travel experience with charging stations and free WiFi as well as comfortable work and seating space.
Designed with luxury and comfort in mind, the trainsets feature special ergonomic seating, contemporary communication systems and enhanced WiFi as well as wide aisles, wheelchair storage and fully accessible restrooms.
The Orlando expansion project included 56 bridges, including 18 new bridges, three underpasses, drainage installations, track and signalization installation and 96 km of new rail tracks. Over the four years of construction, upgrades and improvements were made to three underpasses and 156 railroad crossings. Engineering of double track under active airport taxiways and tug roads and a new 56 km rail alignment along the Beachline Expressway/SR 528, were also made.
The expansion to Orlando also included the development of Basecamp, a $100-million state-of-the-art train maintenance facility situated on 25-hectares south of Orlando International Airport (MCO). The facility operates 24/7, servicing trains with engineers, conductors, technicians and inspectors.
Environmental benefits are equally impressive and include reduced highway and city congestion and CO2 emissions by an estimated 72’000 metric tons per year.
It isn’t the cheapest or fastest option available (compared to taking a flight) with ticket prices starting between R1’497 to R2’256 per person in a SMART business class seat, but the comfort and thrill of a train ride, seeing Florida’s scenery fly by, is certainly something avid travellers will want to experience.
Brightline has revealed its plans to bring the service to additional city pairs and congested corridors across the country, with immediate plans to connect Las Vegas to Los Angeles.
To get on the Brightline, visit the website or native mobile apps for iOS and Android devices.
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