MIAMI — Developers of the planned express passenger rail between Orlando, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami are promising a modern and sophisticated service that will appeal to tourists.
"We will reset the expectations we all have for travel by train," Mike Reininger, president of the service's developer, All Aboard Florida, said at a news conference last week at the construction site of the line's Miami terminal.
Reininger joined other All Aboard Florida leadership at the media event to announce that the rail service would be named Brightline.
When full operations launch — currently scheduled for late 2017 — Brightline trains will cover the 235-mile route in three hours, less time than it takes to travel by car.
Trains traveling at up to 125 miles per hour will run 16 times a day each way. And though prices haven't been set, All Aboard Florida said they would be cheaper than airfare and competitive with what it costs to drive from Miami to Orlando.
Brightline's stations will be at Orlando Airport and in the downtowns of West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
In addition to announcing the line's name, Reininger used last week's news conference to unveil renderings of the train cars and to discuss the amenities that the cars and the stations will provide.
The cars, which are being constructed in North Sacramento, Calif., by Siemens USA, will be outfitted in a bright palette of five colors, most notably yellow and aqua blue. Sleekly curved front-end locomotives will contribute to the trains' 21st-century look.
The two-class trains will be outfitted to meet the expectations of the modern traveler, Reininger said. They will feature free WiFi, all reserved seating, power outlets available at every seat and wide aisles. Pet-friendly trains will also be offered, as will bicycle and luggage storage.
Details have not yet been released about the Brightline dining cars, but in an interview with Travel Weekly, Michael Cahill, the Siemens executive who is heading up the train-building effort, promised great things.
"It's special, and it's definitely a new age in cafe car," he said.
Other high-end features of the Brightline trains will be less obvious to the eye. For example, they'll be made with stainless steel rather than carbon steel, enabling them to better withstand Florida's humid and salty air.
In addition, the locomotives will be powered by energy-efficient diesel-electric motors, which are designed to meet increasingly stringent federal emissions standards.
Cahill also called attention to the trains' framework, known in industry parlance as its bogies, which will be welded rather than cast. The result, he said, will be a quieter, smoother ride.
He said Siemens is on course to deliver five trains, each containing four cars, by mid-2017, when service between Miami and West Palm is slated to begin. Dining cars will be delivered in time for the scheduled launch of service to Orlando at the end of that year.
"It's an exciting project for us," Cahill said. "It's a new age in passenger service. I think the effort that All Aboard Florida is putting into the comforts and the interior designs are extraordinary."
All Aboard Florida expects Brightline, including the trains and stations, to cost approximately $3.5 billion to construct. More than $1 billion of that is being invested in upgrades to the existing Florida East Coast Railway corridor, which was built in the 1880s.
Brightline will travel on new track as it heads east/west between Cocoa Beach and Orlando.
Julie Edwards, All Aboard Florida's chief marketing officer, said that Brightline tickets would be commissionable to agents commensurate with the industry standard. The company, she said, intends to be involved in packaged deals connecting the theme parks of Orlando to the cruise ports and beaches of South Florida.
The stations will be a key tourist-friendly feature of the Brightline service. Their locations will offer easy connections to car rental facilities, ground transportation and regional transit lines. Like the trains, the stations will feature WiFi and power outlets at each seat, Reininger said.
Waiting areas will be configured with individualized seating designed both for those who wish to socialize and those who want to work.
Once completed, Brightline will be the first private, intercity passenger rail launched in the U.S. since 1956.