Brightline ends partnership with Virgin Trains in South Florida

Train service has been suspended since March 25

Richard Branson and Brightline train (Getty, Virgin)
Richard Branson and Brightline train (Getty, Virgin)

Brightline and Virgin Trains are headed on different tracks and have ended their partnership agreement in South Florida. The commuter train service will go back to using the name Brightline, it said in its monthly revenue and ridership report.

Brightline had been operating as Virgin Trains USA, and was expected to complete the rebranding by this summer. The rail service, which operated from downtown Miami to West Palm Beach, with an expansion to Orlando under construction, said it will change its name back to Brightline Trains LLC. It stopped service on March 25, amid the pandemic.

Brightline, which is majority owned by Fortress Investment Group, said in its report to bondholders that its parent delivered a termination notice tied to its license agreement on July 29. “Virgin has disputed the validity of the termination notice,” according to the report.

Billionaire Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, visited the downtown Miami station for a ribbon-cutting ceremony that unveiled a new sign at the mixed-use MiamiCentral station in April of last year.

As part of the partnership, first announced in November 2018, Virgin Trains was set to make a minority investment in Brightline.

Virgin Group has struggled amid the pandemic. Earlier this week, Virgin Atlantic Airways filed for bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York, as part of a $1.5 billion restructuring plan, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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Brightline has three stations completed, including one in downtown Fort Lauderdale. It’s also working on expanding throughout Miami-Dade County. In its monthly report, the company said it made “substantial progress” on negotiations with Miami-Dade for a new county commuter service on its rail corridor.

The pandemic hasn’t been easy on Brightline, which reduced its service in mid-March and then suspended all service before the month’s end. The company laid off 250 employees in March.

Year-to-date, 271,778 passengers rode Brightline this year, amounting to just $6.6 million in revenue, according to the report.

The development of Brightline’s train stations has spurred investment in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Last year, Kushner Companies made its first big real estate play in Fort Lauderdale across the street from the then-Virgin Trains station.

Brightline plans to operate a high-speed rail project between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Write to Katherine Kallergis at