ORLANDO, Fla. — Brightline, soon to be Virgin Trains USA, is eyeing a possible stop at Walt Disney World as part of its expansion of high-speed rail service to Orlando.
- Brightline, Virgin Trains trying to lure investors
- Says it is in talks with Disney for a station
- Rail system expanding from Miami to Orlando, Tampa
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The company used bond sales to obtain $1.75 billion to finance construction of the South Florida to Orlando route, with plans to open a station at Orlando International Airport.
The route would join the company’s already existing high speed service between West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami.
In the bid to find investors, Brightline, a private rail service, laid out its desire to build stations at Walt Disney World and in downtown Tampa.
“The company has engaged in discussions with regulatory authorities to construct a passenger rail system between Orlando and Tampa, with a station in downtown Tampa and potential extension to Disney World,” the company’s prospectus to potential investors said. “Disney World is the most visited theme park in the world and only approximately 20 miles from the Company’s Orlando Station. The potential extension of the Company’s rail system to Tampa and Disney World will not be funded with the proceeds of this offer.”
Documents filed for the rail system with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last November hinted at a train station on or near Disney property. At the time, the company would only say it was in talks with "private property owners."
Sir Richard Branson, majority investor for Virgin Trains USA, was in Miami on Thursday to kick off the formal rebranding of Brightline as Virgin Trains USA, and check out Miami's new station.
Company leaders will be in Orlando on Friday to seek approval of the Florida Development Finance Corporation to offer a sale of bonds to generate about $950 million in bonds to support the Orlando expansion, including the possible Disney stop.
A company spokesman told Spectrum News 13 on Thursday that the company has had multiple conversations with Disney about the additional stop, but there remains no guarantee about if, when, or where a station could be developed.
A second representative for Brightline told Spectrum News 13 that interest for a Disney stop is "very high" between the high speed rail and theme park companies. We reached out to Disney late Thursday for comment, but have yet to hear back.
Plans currently call for Brightline to open its Orlando station at Orlando International Airport’s new intermodal station by 2022. The expansion would also call for commuter system SunRail to expand service to OIA with seven-day-a-week service.
Construction on the Orlando-bound route could begin within the next 30 to 45 days, according to a company spokesman.
Brightline launched service in 2018 as the U.S.’s first privately owned and operated high speed rail service. Months later, in November 2018, Branson provided a hefty investment in the venture as part of a partnership to rebrand Brightline into “Virgin Trains U.S.A.”