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Front Page » Top Stories » Virgin Trains USA might roll into PortMiami

Virgin Trains USA might roll into PortMiami

Written by on February 19, 2019
  • www.miamitodaynews.com
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Virgin Trains USA might roll into PortMiami

Miami-Dade County may soon look at linking Virgin Trains USA to PortMiami, a move that would connect the port to Broward and Palm Beach counties and extend a valuable lifeline to the struggling passenger rail service formerly named Brightline.

Commissioners in committee last week voted 3-0 to advance an item directing Mayor Carlos Giménez’s office to examine the extension, which would use existing rails, according to sponsor Rebeca Sosa, who asked that the item be expedited to the next full commission meeting Feb. 20.

“There’s already rail infrastructure that leads into PortMiami from Virgin Trains’ downtown Miami station,” she said. “With all the terminals, with all the different cruise lines, then we can invite the people from the northern part to come down.”

If approved, the item would direct the county administration to deliver within 120 days a written report “setting forth the county [administration’s] findings on the feasibility of said expansion.”

Juan Kuryla, PortMiami director, attended the Feb. 13 Tourism and Ports Committee meeting to express his support of the item, which stated that passenger counts at the port had increased more than 37% in the last five years, with 5,591,839 throughputs in 2018.

“Our port is growing, the passenger count is growing and we do not see that trend reversing anytime soon,” he said. “So, more options, the better it is for us.”

Jose Gonzalez, executive vice president of Florida East Coast Industries, Virgin Trains’ parent company, said his company was “excited” about the potential extension.

“We brought the rail from West Palm down, and we keep hearing from our cruise passengers that are taking the train today that they’d like to see that seamless connection to PortMiami,” he said. “As we continue to talk to the cruise industry, they also want to see options as they continue to grow and have more passengers. We want to be part of that solution.”

According to financial disclosures included in a since-rescinded initial public offering last week, Virgin Trains’ cash balance has plunged from $169.1 million at the end of 2017 to $48.7 million in September 2018.

The company in November announced its 2019 rebranding under the Virgin Trains moniker in accordance with a minority position purchase by British billionaire Richard Branson, whose Virgin Voyages vessels will set sail from a new PortMiami terminal in 2021, the same year the high-speed train service is expected to connect to Orlando using close to $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds.

The rail company, which saw a 42% ridership increase last year, has failed to perform to expectations, losing $56.5 million in the first half of 2018.

Total ridership during that time was 180,870 – 16% of the 1.1 million passengers the pro forma it presented to Fitch Ratings in December 2017 projected.

Commissioner Esteban Bovo Jr., chair of the transportation committee and a co-sponsor of the item along with Javier Souto, said he’d like a similar study done for a port connection with Tri-Rail, which also serves Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.

“I think the more ways we can get folks to the port that’s less car intensive,” he said, “the better it is.”

10 Responses to Virgin Trains USA might roll into PortMiami

  1. DC Copeland

    February 20, 2019 at 9:49 am

    I can’t believe they will send this proposal to a committee to study its feasibility and then give it 90 days for an answer. Just do it.

    • Larry D. Crumbley

      February 20, 2019 at 10:15 pm

      DC COPELAND—–Please remember whom you are referring this to?? The MIAMI–DADE COUNTY GOV.

  2. Gerwyn Flax

    February 20, 2019 at 8:03 pm

    Lets hope they will spruce up the area between Miami Central and the port. From the above caption that is a horrible appearance for visitors coming from Orlando or Broward and Palm Beach.

  3. Tom Ladomirak

    February 20, 2019 at 9:04 pm

    I think this is a good idea,as I used to live in the Miami area and have done work on the Port of Miami Site many years ago when I worked for Southern Bell Telephone Company.

  4. anon

    February 21, 2019 at 11:25 am

    Make sure taxpayers aren’t on the hook for it. If the cruise companies want to use existing infrastructure and fund it themselves, great!

  5. Samuel

    February 21, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    Will Virgin survive in the USA? UK cancelled Virgin’s east coast franchise between London and Edinburgh last year.

  6. William

    February 22, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    So in other terms, this would just be transit for tourists and not for the people who actually live here. Time for honesty.

  7. Elliot

    February 23, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    I’m considering taking a day trip to explore the Brightline/Virgin train experience. But this is the first time that I’ve heard that the train service is “struggling”. Someone, enlighten me. This service should be a highly prized and valuable asset for Miami and South Florida. What’s up? Where are the bugs to be worked out.

    • DC Copeland

      February 24, 2019 at 11:22 am

      It depends on who you ask. “Struggling” is a word that doesn’t support this: http://bit.ly/2ICda5U I ride Brightline and it is unlike any experience associated with traditional Miami Dade mass trans, ie, the trains are clean and modern and the staff friendly and helpful.

    • Jamie E Moore

      February 24, 2019 at 4:55 pm

      One minute they say it’s doing well the next minute it’s not. I believe from other sources that it’s doing well under the circumstances. The service has just started it’s services and still isn’t finished with its build out yet to really make a true observation. Once the whole thing is finished including the expansion to Orlando not to mention Miami world center then we can see the potential of the service.

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