Japan has its famed Shinkasens, Russia its Maglevs, France its TGVs.
But what about the United States?
One train company has high hopes of bringing high-speed rail travel to America. Brightline Trains, which bills itself as “America’s first new major private intercity passenger railroad in over a century,” has just gotten a major vote of confidence from Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.
The Virgin Group has taken a minority financial stake in Brightline, which will officially rebrand as Virgin Trains USA in January 2019.
Currently, the company has focused on Florida, running high-speed passenger trains between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
In 2019, Virgin Trains USA hopes to launch routes connecting Orlando and Tampa, and then work on an ambitious project to link Los Angeles and Las Vegas via the same high-speed trains.
“Tens of millions of Americans travel on the railways every day, and we have tried for over a decade to find an opportunity to provide them with that same excellent service experience,” said Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, in a statement to the press.
“Brightline is at the forefront of innovation in this market, and the ideal partner for Virgin to work with to alter perceptions and traveling habits across the United States.”
The Virgin brand has had mixed results in the United States. The Virgin America airline brand merged with Alaska Airlines in 2017, with the last Virgin America-branded flight taking off in April 2018.
Currently, the majority of Americans travel predominantly by car. According to Census data, only about five percent of US workers commuted regularly to work by public transportation, including by subway or regional rail, in the years 2012 to 2016.
One of the most popular routes that was flown by Virgin America? Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Sounds like a lot of former Virgin diehards might just be convinced to travel by rail instead.