Virgin Plans Orlando-PortMiami Passenger Rail Connection

Virgin's future PortMiami cruise terminal for the Virgin Voyages brand (Virgin)

By The Maritime Executive 10-31-2019 02:32:37

Florida's long-anticipated Brightline passenger rail service announced this week that it will be adding a station at PortMiami, connecting the world's busiest cruise port directly to the state's busiest airport, Orlando International.

Brightline is operated by Richard Branson's Virgin Trains USA and owned by private investors, making it unique among inter-city passenger rail companies in the United States. It began service last year between Miami, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, and Virgin announced this year that it has secured funding and legal clearance to build or improve enough track to serve Orlando. When completed in 2022, the $2.1 billion expansion project will allow tourists to make the 200-mile-plus journey to South Florida in three hours, without renting a car. 

The Orlando-PortMiami connection marks another first for an American operation: it will be the only intercity rail service in the U.S. connecting a large cruise port with an international airport. Orlando International handles about 50 million passengers per year, making it the busiest airport in the state and an essential transit point for cruise tourists. 

"This is a first-of-its-kind train [which] will connect the cruise capital of the world with a car-free option for millions of cruisers looking to start their vacation a little earlier," said Patrick Goddard, president of Brightline. 

Brightline's brand is being gradually retired and will eventually be fully replaced with "Virgin Trains USA." The new train stop at PortMiami will directly assist another Virgin Group enterprise, Virgin Voyages, which will homeport its new cruise ships at PortMiami beginning in 2021-22. Virgin is building a new, modern terminal at the port to accommodate its new fleet. 

“Miami is an incredible city and one of my favorite places to work and play,” said Branson in announcing the new terminal last year. “From our headquarters for Virgin Hotels, Virgin Voyages and now Virgin Trains USA, South Florida has quickly become another home for Virgin brands in the leisure travel sector.”