Brightline, Florida’s private-sector passenger railroad, will restore service between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in the first half of November, President Patrick Goddard has reported.
All service was suspended March 25, 2020, due to the pandemic. A specific reopening date is expected “in the weeks ahead,” according to the company.
Brightline and host freight railroad Florida East Coast are now working with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to commission and certify a PTC (Positive Train Control) system. Once FRA grants certification, Brightline said it will initiate revenue service.
“We are thrilled to be gearing up to welcome guests back aboard Brightline,” Goddard said during a virtual announcement on Aug. 10. “Over the last few months, we’ve made upgrades to our guest experience and made significant strides in construction. Our goal remains the same, to take cars off the road while offering the most convenient way to travel in South Florida and a guest-first experience.”
Among the service enhancements and investments Goddard outlined:
• The introduction of a new mobility as a service (MaaS) platform to address riders’ first and last mile connections. The new service, from software company Iomob, “is designed to provide door-to-door travel through improved access to stations, offering a selection of private luxury cars, shared shuttle services, golf carts and micro-mobility options,” according to Brightline.
• The hiring of Chief Health Officer Timothy McCormick, a licensed physician with more than 25 years of experience in public health and occupational medicine. Dr. McCormick is providing medical expertise and guidance for the implementation of operations as well as corporate and construction practices, the railroad said.
• The requirement of all employees to be fully vaccinated prior to service resumption.
• The identification and implementation of COVID-19 protocols. These include increased cleaning, pre-packaged foods, touchless bathrooms, cashless payment and electronic tickets, according to Brightline. Mask wearing will be required in stations and onboard trains, per the existing federal mandate. Brightline said it will continue to offer reserved seating, and the private four-person table configurations within each coach will now have plexiglass dividers. In addition, Brightline noted that 25% of the air in its coaches comes from fresh-air intake ducts and gets filtered before mixing with recirculated air; the company will now also use the Siemens-developed Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization (NPBI) system, which it reported “artificially creates millions of positive and negative ions and releases them into the forced-air circulation of an HVAC system. The ions, or charged particles, neutralize pathogens, viruses and bacteria.”
• The recruitment of nearly 200 employees through multiple community partners and job fairs. “Brightline is building a modern, career friendly work environment, and we are dedicated to developing a team that is diverse, inclusive and representative of the communities we serve,” Goddard said.
• The investment over the next year of more than $6.5 million in safety enhancements.
Brightline also reported on its expansion work. Aventura station is currently under construction, and the Boca Raton station is expected to break ground in the coming months.
“Construction to Orlando has surpassed the halfway point and is on target to be complete by the end of 2022,” Brightline said. “Moreover, discussions remain under way with local stakeholders regarding expansion to Disney and Tampa.”
Railway Age Contributing Editor David Peter Alan reported late last month that Brightline’s line construction from West Palm Beach to Orlando International Airport (MCO), continuing west to Walt Disney World and Tampa, had been spared from missing a July 31, 2020 deadline imposed by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). The project will still take longer to complete than originally projected, but is proceeding.