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Brightline takes over XPress West!


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#21 VentureForth

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Posted 18 September 2018 - 03:22 PM

I'll tell you this - there is a TON of car traffic that leaves the LA basin and heads to the Vegas dessert. There are also 28 daily Friday departures that start at only $185 pp, round trip.

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#22 Palmetto

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Posted 18 September 2018 - 04:15 PM

I have to agree with VentureForth here. How many start ups have failed because they tried to grow too quickly?

I do hope it does become a reality. That is a huge gap in the passenger rail network.

Midway Airlines comes to mind.  Too bad, because their onboard service was very goof.



#23 Palmetto

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Posted 18 September 2018 - 04:19 PM

Isn't the line between LAS and Victorville owned UP? Is there a parallel line?

There is no railroad between LAS and Victorville presently.  The UP runs down to join the BNSF just east of Barstow, and they have trackage rights on BNSF to get to the L.A. area.

 

Both the BNSF and the UP have lines running through Cajon Pass.  It's the BNSF line that goes to Victorville, but it's crowded.  I would think that one or the other of the freight companies have been approached about how to access L.A.  Victorville is in the middle of nowhere, and from what I've read, traffic is at its worst between there and L.A.


Edited by Palmetto, 18 September 2018 - 04:22 PM.


#24 bretton88

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Posted 18 September 2018 - 04:26 PM

This feels a lot like Brightline's Orlando expansion. I have to suspect FECI has other holdings in Vegas besides the 38 acres they are buying. It is definitely a prime corridor to do real estate development on. I wonder if they are doing true HSR or the HSR light like they are doing in FL? I feel like it would save some capital costs doing HSR light.


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If I won the lottery, I'd probably build a passenger from nowhere to nowhere.


#25 AGM.12

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Posted 18 September 2018 - 08:19 PM

Hopefully, this move will not make Brightline follow the path of Auto Train when they expanded to the midwest route at Louisville.



#26 crescent-zephyr

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Posted 18 September 2018 - 09:01 PM

Hopefully, this move will not make Brightline follow the path of Auto Train when they expanded to the midwest route at Louisville.


Wasn't it a major derailment that did the auto train in?

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#27 Anderson

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Posted 18 September 2018 - 11:17 PM

Yeah...basically, in Las Vegas they seem to have 4x the land they have in downtown Miami (MiamiCentral is a 9 acre plot vs 36 in Las Vegas).  So, the model looks pretty similar.  I have to suspect that SoftBank (not Fortress) had this in mind.  If anyone can finance this sort of thing, it is SoftBank.

I will say that, unlike Orlando-Tampa (which I think is likely to involve some sort of state support or another given the project proposal), which at least has a clear synergy with the existing project, or Jacksonville (which could probably be done for a song, but where I suspect they are only ), this will probably need to be a "firewalled" project.  In theory, even Orlando-South Florida is buffered from West Palm-Miami.

If Brightline were to use the exact same plans that XpressWest tried, I would be worried, particularly since those pretty explicitly relied on CAHSR happening.  My guess is that we're going to see a substantially revised plan come into the mix, probably using the same (or similar) equipment as is being used in Florida.  The main problem with this particular project is still going to be getting into the LA basin (since I really don't see "drive to Victorville and then board the train" working, while the passes are jammed full).

Also, as far as "moving too fast" (not an unreasonable criticism), let's not forget that the planning phase on this one will probably take several years.  Even if they start on this project tomorrow morning, they wouldn't be in a position to begin construction until after Orlando (at least) is built.


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Amtrak mileage to date: Somewhere between 120,000 and 150,000 miles...I /really/ need to run all of my trips through a calculator sometime.

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#28 Anderson

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Posted 18 September 2018 - 11:26 PM

 

Hopefully, this move will not make Brightline follow the path of Auto Train when they expanded to the midwest route at Louisville.


Wasn't it a major derailment that did the auto train in?

 

It ultimately was, but remember...that part of the Auto Train also had a host of issues (it was never as popular as the Lorton-Sanford route, which apparently spawned a second daily frequency at one point and was running in multiple sections at another) and it failed long before the company did (undone by three derailments in under two years; in at least two of the three cases, cracked wheels on Auto-Train equipment were a contributing issue).


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#29 cirdan

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Posted 19 September 2018 - 11:36 AM

My take on this huge expansion is that when Softbank bought Fortress last year, the new owners either had plans for Brightline before the purchase or Wes Edens convinced them of the potential for Brightline to expand outside of Florida. It would not surprise me if Softbank is providing equity or loans to Brightline or FECI to enable this.

 

What will happen if the Vegas Brightline does actually get built and operational in 4 years? How would that impact the CA HSR project in terms of public perception and be a motivating force to get the CHSRA built sooner?

 

To make an impact, the Vegas train would have to get closer to LA than just Victorville.

Being able to use CAHSR infrastructure is thus an integral part of the plan.

 

In other words, CAHSR has to be built first.



#30 Brian_tampa

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Posted 19 September 2018 - 12:43 PM

To make an impact, the Vegas train would have to get closer to LA than just Victorville.
Being able to use CAHSR infrastructure is thus an integral part of the plan.

In other words, CAHSR has to be built first.

 
I would think that Brightline will ultimately build a new Los Angeles area station with TOD that is closer to the center of the region. Victorville and Palmdale will become intermediate stops if they choose to use the same route Xpresswest was planning on building to Palmdale. Victorville to Las Vegas would be similar to building Orlando to WPB. To make it work, Brightline has to build further into the LA basin.
 
As far as CA HSR having to be built first, if Brightline goes with 125mph equipment they can negotiate agreements with the freight railroads to use their routes to gain access into the LA basin. The grapevine route is more likely due to the nature of Cajon Pass. The PR announcing the purchase of Xpresswest specifically said no decision on trainsets or final track design had been made yet as it was all under review. Even at 125mph maximum authorized speed, running time of less than 2 hours can be possible. Since CA HSR will not be operational into LA for at least 20+ years, I doubt that Brightline is too concerned about interoperability issues with CA HSR at this time. As long as they design it to allow for future electrification then they can use 125mph maximum speed diesel trainsets for the first 20-25 years. Once it is electrified, those diesel trainsets can be transferred to other Brightline routes in place by that time.

 

Edit: Also, as pointed out by others, Brightline is looking to cut the cost in half (from $7B to $3 - $4B). If they don't require electric 170mph trains they won't use them. Unlike CA HSR, Brightline has to make a profit and can use trainsets that aren't the fastest and latest technology available.


Edited by Brian_tampa, 19 September 2018 - 12:49 PM.


#31 frequentflyer

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Posted 19 September 2018 - 01:20 PM

 

To make an impact, the Vegas train would have to get closer to LA than just Victorville.
Being able to use CAHSR infrastructure is thus an integral part of the plan.

In other words, CAHSR has to be built first.

 
I would think that Brightline will ultimately build a new Los Angeles area station with TOD that is closer to the center of the region. Victorville and Palmdale will become intermediate stops if they choose to use the same route Xpresswest was planning on building to Palmdale. Victorville to Las Vegas would be similar to building Orlando to WPB. To make it work, Brightline has to build further into the LA basin.
 
As far as CA HSR having to be built first, if Brightline goes with 125mph equipment they can negotiate agreements with the freight railroads to use their routes to gain access into the LA basin. The grapevine route is more likely due to the nature of Cajon Pass. The PR announcing the purchase of Xpresswest specifically said no decision on trainsets or final track design had been made yet as it was all under review. Even at 125mph maximum authorized speed, running time of less than 2 hours can be possible. Since CA HSR will not be operational into LA for at least 20+ years, I doubt that Brightline is too concerned about interoperability issues with CA HSR at this time. As long as they design it to allow for future electrification then they can use 125mph maximum speed diesel trainsets for the first 20-25 years. Once it is electrified, those diesel trainsets can be transferred to other Brightline routes in place by that time.

 

Edit: Also, as pointed out by others, Brightline is looking to cut the cost in half (from $7B to $3 - $4B). If they don't require electric 170mph trains they won't use them. Unlike CA HSR, Brightline has to make a profit and can use trainsets that aren't the fastest and latest technology available.

 

I agree with your entire post, and think that Brightline has had discussions with UP and BNSF about added capacity and what it will cost. I am sure Brightline has spoken to the Nevada and California congressional delegation too to some funds swung their way.



#32 cirdan

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Posted 19 September 2018 - 01:45 PM

 

 

As far as CA HSR having to be built first, if Brightline goes with 125mph equipment they can negotiate agreements with the freight railroads to use their routes to gain access into the LA basin.

 

I think this may be easier said than done.

 

Even 125mph running is not easy to achieve and may require considerable investment in straightening out curves etc.

 

And even after they've done that and spent all that money, they don't actually own the ROW.

 

There is a reason the initial segment of Brightline is limited to 79mph, and this despite being straight as a piece of string in places.



#33 Brian_tampa

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Posted 19 September 2018 - 02:15 PM

The 125mph running would be limited to Palmdale to Las Vegas. Obviously, on the UP or BNSF lines into the LA basin it would be 79mph maximum. The route beyond Palmdale to Las vegas, I have read, Xpresswest designed it for 150+ mph running. It is mainly flat. Brightline would, if anything, modify the Xpresswest design to not allow for such fast speeds in order to save money.

 

I mentioned 125mph equipment only to say that running diesel trainsets on UP or BNSF is much more realistic than installing catenary for electric trainsets that go faster. Not saying that they would go 125mph on all sections.


Edited by Brian_tampa, 19 September 2018 - 02:16 PM.

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#34 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 19 September 2018 - 04:21 PM

 

My take on this huge expansion is that when Softbank bought Fortress last year, the new owners either had plans for Brightline before the purchase or Wes Edens convinced them of the potential for Brightline to expand outside of Florida. It would not surprise me if Softbank is providing equity or loans to Brightline or FECI to enable this.

 

What will happen if the Vegas Brightline does actually get built and operational in 4 years? How would that impact the CA HSR project in terms of public perception and be a motivating force to get the CHSRA built sooner?

 

To make an impact, the Vegas train would have to get closer to LA than just Victorville.

Being able to use CAHSR infrastructure is thus an integral part of the plan.

 

In other words, CAHSR has to be built first.

 

 

If we're depending on California, good luck.

 

I found this latest update of the California High Speed Rail Plan. They now expect it to be done by … 2040!

 

http://www.dot.ca.go.../CSRP_Final.pdf


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#35 crescent-zephyr

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Posted 19 September 2018 - 04:55 PM

The drive time from LA Union Station to Las Vegas is 4 hours 40 minutes. 

 

The Chief takes almost 3 hours to get from LA Union Station to Victorville.

 

Victorville to Vegas is 188 miles.... so 125 could do it in about 1.5 hours.  

 

So.... IF brightline could get trackage rights they could do it in 4.5 hours. About the same as driving time.  That's of course without using any California High Speed right of way that may or may not get built anytime soon.  


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#36 RSG

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Posted 19 September 2018 - 05:11 PM

I'll tell you this - there is a TON of car traffic that leaves the LA basin and heads to the Vegas dessert. There are also 28 daily Friday departures that start at only $185 pp, round trip.

 

I-15 has become a major bottleneck from Barstow to Vegas. In addition to the party people, there is the usual Interstate Highway traffic---trucks, tourists, and the like. Add in the buses and shuttles, along with drivers who might not be paying close attention to driving, and it's becoming a safety hazard in an area where there are not an abundance of emergency services.

 

Anything that would take pressure off the existing highway system would likely do quite well, if done correctly.  [Which means no seven hour trips for $100+ each way.]



#37 Anderson

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Posted 19 September 2018 - 05:34 PM

Well, and it seems probable that some investments could get a better runtime than Amtrak presently has Los Angeles-San Bernadino, too.  I think 4.5 hours Union Station to Las Vegas might be a bit too long.

Practically speaking, I have to wonder what could be done on the Palmdale side of things (which implies a different catchment area).


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#38 Brian_tampa

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Posted 19 September 2018 - 05:51 PM

Exactly! Based on the experience here in Florida, with OTP percentages above 95, I would think that Brightline would enter into a dispatching agreement similar to what they have done with FECR. There is no excuse for a passenger train to take 3 hours to get to Victorville from LAUS. if Brightline were to put up the money for additional tracks and other improvements on the grapevine route, I am sure they could get similar results as seen with FECR. I mention the grapevine route as that seems to be the politically favored route with the most support. UP, BNSF, and FECR (or any other railroad) have no incentive to run passenger trains at expedited schedules that will disrupt their main business of delivering freight unless they are compensated for it.

 

Before buying Xpresswest, which must have been under consideration for a long time, Brightline would have met with UP and BNSF to determine the feasibility of gaining access to the LA Basin. Included in those discussions would be the ability to negotiate an agreement that would allow Brightline to obtain OTP numbers in the 90s. Brightline is not X Train or the Florida Fun Train. They know what they are doing and are very methodical about their decisions.


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#39 crescent-zephyr

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Posted 19 September 2018 - 08:40 PM

"There is no excuse for a passenger train to take 3 hours to get to Victorville from LAUS."

Well it's 119 rail miles. That's an average of 40 mph, which is what you would expect from freight rail with 3 intermediate station stops. Let's say the train loses 20 minutes total (both the dwell time and the loss time in acel/ decel) that's 2 hours and 35 minutes with an average speed between 45 and 50. Those are good average speeds on freight lines.

The Brightline sets would shave a few minutes off with faster acel / decel, so without the intermediate stops you could probably get it around 2:15.

Also... You do know that Brightline and FEC are practically the same company. Negotiating with UP or BNSF will be much more difficult.

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#40 jis

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Posted 19 September 2018 - 08:59 PM

Why are we seemingly assuming that they must use the congested Cajon Pass line via San Bernaredino anyway when it might be musch easier to get a better partner in Metrolink to get to Palmdale.Afterall extending the passenger line from Victorville to Palmdale vicinity has been part of the plan all along to eventually connect up with CAHSR if/when it happens. My guess is, for now any approach to LAX will not be via San Bernardino and will not involve UP or BNSF.


Edited by jis, 20 September 2018 - 11:43 AM.

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