Brightline/Virgin Trains (FEC) Update

Discussion in 'High Speed and Other Non-Amtrak Intercity Rail' started by Anderson, Jun 5, 2012.

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  1. Jun 2, 2019 #2451

    me_little_me

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    me_little_me

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    Never underestimate the stupidity of the stupid.
     
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  2. Jun 3, 2019 #2452

    grover5995

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    Service between Chicago-Quad Cities-DesMoines-Omaha-Lincoln would be a nice corridor route, but would require upgrading much of Iowa Interstate tracks.
     
  3. Jun 6, 2019 #2453

    jis

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  4. Jun 11, 2019 #2454

    daybeers

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    On the actual ticket page, I found all tickets for all dates were $99 with an $8 fee, making each ticket $107.
     
  5. Jun 11, 2019 #2455

    jis

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    That is for the Havana Special.
     
  6. Jun 11, 2019 #2456

    daybeers

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    Yes, I know. I should have included this quote above my statement. See below:

    On the actual ticket page, I found all tickets for all dates were $99 with an $8 fee, making each ticket $107.
     
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  7. Jun 12, 2019 #2457

    jis

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    Interesting article in Railway Age about VT USA...

    https://www.railwayage.com/passenger/intercity/mind-the-widening-gap-amtrak/

    I worry that articles like this resemble the elation of a person crossing a desert that has just seen a mirage. I would be in this mood after Virgin Trains USA manages to get the Los Angeles to Las Vegas thing up and running. Florida is a very unique set of circumstances give the FEC history there and proves nothing about the feasibility of anything outside of Florida using the VT USA model.

    But in so far as it causes Amtrak management to start feeling a little uncomfortable seeing the marketing hype slides from VT USA mentioning many of the corridors that Amtrak ostensibly wants to develop too, so far so good. The customers of passenger rail may win out even if VT USA does not deliver on the entire hype itself.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
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  8. Jun 12, 2019 #2458

    bretton88

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    I suspect some of this negative comparison will die down when Amtrak starts getting their new equipment running. That's most of the experience. Between the Acela 2s and the Siemens cars, the Amtrak experience will look very different in the next few years. Secondly, I think the only way VT gets in on these other corridors is if a state decides to put out their trains for bid, as VT would probably want a subsidy to make it work. It would probably have to be a completely clean sheet too (none of that akward partner bid that IP went into with Amtrak). I just don't see any of these other corridors bring profitable enough for VT to start on their own.
     
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  9. Jun 13, 2019 #2459

    cirdan

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    Or maybe even Virgin going after existing corridor contracts as they come up for renewal and offering better terms than Amtrak?
     
  10. Jun 13, 2019 #2460

    jis

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    I just spoke with a VT USA senior executive at the FECRS Annual Convention last week. He was quite clear that their plans currently do not include taking on any state contract. That is not their business model.

    They apparently require a few things like at least 10 RT per day, significant control over dispatching, and real estate development opportunities at or close to the stations. They will look at about half a dozen potential beyond Las Vegas and Jacksonville. But realize that even Jacksonville is at least ten years away.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2019
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  11. Jun 13, 2019 #2461

    bretton88

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    That's more in line with what I'd expect from them and rules out most existing Amtrak corridors.
     
  12. Jun 13, 2019 #2462

    Anthony V

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    Virgin Trains USA should consider starting service in Ohio's 3C corridor, as it fits their criteria of too long to drive, too short to fly, and there will be plenty of real estate opportunities for them in Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati.
     
  13. Jun 13, 2019 #2463

    jis

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    Maybe they will after they have established their Florida project to a state of stable profitability and started running the Las Vegas thing. Realistically I don’t see them taking on anything major beyond these until they have positive cashflows from these.

    The Ohio Corridors additionally do not even come remotely close to the Florida and Las Vegas - California Corridors, and it is not clear how they get the sort of dispatching control they require.
     
  14. Jun 14, 2019 #2464

    cirdan

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    Let's wait and see.

    Virgin as a company, and especially its rail department, has flip flopped on questions of strategy before.
     
  15. Jun 14, 2019 #2465

    jis

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    But this is not the Virgin company that we know from the UK, either the Trains one or the Airline one. Branson has no control, small minority investor, and provider of name under contract for a period of time. The business model is completely different from that of Virgin Trains UK. This is not Virgin Rail Department. This is All Aboard Florida with a spanky new dba marketing name, still firmly owned by FECI. It still is a real estate operation with a railroad attached. I think many are missing that and juxtaposing whatever happened in the UK on this just because of the name.

    Of course no one can tell what will happen in the future, but all indications at present are that the US railfans are so elated by one maybe success of a passenger system that they are busily counting the chicken even before any eggs have been laid. Just IMHO of course. The only thing that is certain at present is the Florida operations and possibly the California/Nevada ones. Only those eggs have been laid so far.
     
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  16. Jun 20, 2019 #2466

    VentureForth

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    You'd like to think so. Someone could jump off the bridge onto the tracks, and it's still the train's fault.
     
  17. Jun 20, 2019 #2467

    MARC Rider

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    Let me be cynical here, and predict that at some time after FECI makes a fortune from real estate development adjacent to the stations, they'll all of a sudden find that actually operating the service isn't all that profitable and try to either dump the whole thing on to Amtrak or the state, or else try to extort subsidies directly to keep the service going. They are not exempt from the dynamics of high overhead and maintenance costs that apply to every other railroad operation in the world.

    If running rail passenger service was profitable, we wouldn't have Amtrak and public-sector commuter operators doing it, it would be done by the private railroads.
     
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  18. Jun 20, 2019 #2468

    Pere Flyer

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    My thoughts since the first day of service. I predict that eventually, the real estate economic cycle (especially without Dodd-Frank) will put the rail operation in the hands of the State of Florida or the NRPC.
     
  19. Jun 21, 2019 #2469

    Anderson

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    Eh, there are cases (the Surfliners come to mind) where the operating picture is at least debatable, and at a presentation last month Amtrak Joe McHugh noted that the Hiawathas are quite close to profitability as well. So the picture is at least a little more complicated than is sometimes made out.
     
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  20. Jun 21, 2019 #2470

    chrsjrcj

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    Brightline released their May numbers: https://emma.msrb.org/ES1275945-ES998481-ES1399922.pdf

    85,740 passengers carried
    $1.7 million in revenue

    If I am keeping track correctly, that is $20 per passenger which is down from $25 per passenger in April and March. Not too surprising considering the $5 fares they offered to celebrate MiamiCentral one weekend.

    I wonder how much that will rebound in June, considering they are offering lower fares (Summer season is slow), free companion tickets, and kids ride free.
     
  21. Jun 21, 2019 #2471

    MARC Rider

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    "Profitability" is an extremely slippery term. That's why if you work in Hollywood, you make sure your agent gets you a cut of the gross, not a share of the profits. I think there's a term, "Hollywood accounting" that is related to that. The Surfliners and the Hiawathas may be in a position to not need a state subsidy (or maybe they're "profitable" because of the state subsidy) but I find it hard to think that the revenues they generate from passengers cover all of their costs, including the infrastructure. They pay the host railroads for track slots, but as many have pointed out here, the host railroads believe that the rental rates are not sufficient to cover the costs.

    Brightline/Virgin, on the other hand, has to pay the full cost for everything, because they own the whole shebang. My understanding was that they were going to cross-subsidize the operating costs with some of the revenues from the real estate development. So what are they going to do after they close their real estate deals? Are their projects going to have a long-term sustainable cash stream that can subsidize the train service? Are they going to cost-cut on the train service to the point that people won't want to ride the trains? Or has it been their plan all along to eventually off-load the whole thing on to the state or Amtrak or Tri-Rail, or whatever, and they'll just pocket the cash from the real estate deals and be on their merry way?
     
  22. Jun 21, 2019 #2472

    chrsjrcj

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  23. Jun 22, 2019 #2473

    Anderson

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    So, Ft. Lauderdale Airport is one location* and Aventura is another**. Both make a certain amount of sense to me.

    *And one that I know I've been predicting for quite some time.
    **A bit of a surprise but not really a shock to envision an additional stop on this portion. I would have expected that you'd have a stop on the northern portion.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2019
  24. Jun 23, 2019 #2474

    jis

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    Rusty Roberts (VP Communication) is now consistently showing a Space Coast and a Treasure Coast stop in his presentations. We know that the Space Coast one will be located on VTUSA owned land in Cocoa-Rockledge. The exact location of the Treasure Coast stop is TBD at present
     
  25. Jun 24, 2019 #2475

    cirdan

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    How can one look aggressively? Sounds like something from The Godfather.
     

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