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Virgin Trains USA announces funding for Orlando expansion, West Palm Beach leaders hopeful

Posted at 7:55 PM, Apr 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-04 19:55:08-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Billionaire businessman and media mogul Richard Branson was in West Palm Beach, Thursday to announce funding to expand Virgin Trains USA formerly known as the Brightline train system.

The announcement of Virgin's partnership with Brightline was first announced in November.

Virgin Trains USA said this will make them the nation’s only privately owned and operated railway.

Branson's trip started at the new Virgin Central Miami location, announcing the construction of a 170-mile extension from West Palm Beach to Orlando.

"Virgin trains has proven that it can work," Branson said.

Almost a year after launching the rail line, the President of Virgin Trains USA says they have had more than 100,000 riders. However, that's lower than initial projections and the company is operating at a loss.

Still, the company raised 1.5 billion in bonds to start construction on the project and President of Virgin Trains USA Patrick Goddard told WPTV about a potential partnership with Walt Disney World.

"We currently have a letter of intent with Walt Disney World to have a stop right 20 miles west of the Orlando International Airport where our first station will be into Walt Disney World," he said.

West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James is optimistic that Virgin Trains' growth will be good for the city.

"It is a private enterprise, so they are the ones putting their money where their mouth is," he said. "We will certainly do what we can as a city to market it as best as we can because we believe as their ridership levels improve it's only going to be good for the city."

The company is scheduled to debut on the bond market this week.

Brightline currently runs high-speed rail service between Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach but seeks to expand service to central Florida.