Virgin Trains USA – How Train Travel Should Be

I am a big railroad fan. I love to hang out near train tracks but with a safe distance or near train stations to take pictures of passenger and cargo trains. A new private railroad company emerged over the last few years. During construction, the company was called All Aboard Florida and got rebranded as they opened in early 2018 to Brightline.

Less than a year after that, the railroad got renamed again to Virgin Trains USA. Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group visited Brightline on April 4, 2019, and also announced a significant investment into the railroad company. Their new hub in Miami is now called Virgin Central Miami.

The trains carry still the Brightline livery and the only visible change I could see so far was the new logo above the main entrance to the Miami Station as well as the big red Virgin-V which integrates perfectly into the buildings pillar design. All the other stations, which are currently only Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach didn’t show any major exterior changes so far.

The train service between Miami at the southern end and West Palm Beach as the current northern end of the rail line is one of the best in the country. The trains are clean and comfortable and have altogether three different classes of fare.

It’s America’s only privately owned high-speed rail. So far the speeds are around 70 mph but with future improvements of the rail corridor, these speeds will increase in the near future. So far Virgin Trains USA network has only three stations: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. Travel time between each segment is about 30 minutes.

The trains currently running on Virgin Trains USA rail networks are the newest generation of diesel-electric locomotives build by Siemens. Their engines are one of the most efficient once available. Unfortunately, they are still diesel engines and in a world of growing awareness of global warming and climate change, I would love to see this railroad using electric locomotives only. Most of Western Europes railroads run only on electricity. Of course, the question is, where do they get their power? Is it from renewable energies or a coal plant? Well, they all try to be as environmentally friendly as possible but if you have already diesel-electric locomotives you can’t run your trains with renewable energies.

Extension to Orlando

Thanks to the huge investment of Richard Branson and others, Virgin Trains USA announced that their extension to connect to Orlando International Airport is in full swing. A new station will be built near the Orlando International Airport as well as rail corridor improvements along the way. The new extension will also have a stop at Walt Disney World. The company hopes to operate the first trains in 2022. The trains are planned to reach speeds of up to 125 mph and the railway estimates to run 32 trains daily.

There are future plans to extend the service to Tampa on Florida’s west coast.

Virgin Trains USA Classes of Service

As mentioned earlier the trains have currently three classes of service and all come with different benefits. An up to date comparison between the classes can be found on the official website.

Classes of Service

Prices for the different fare classes are fair. Trips on the weekend are usually up to $5 cheaper than during the week. While fares during the week for Select fares are somewhere around $30-35, Smart fares are around $15-20.  These prices are all for a one-way trip from end to end.

I think it’s almost not worth it buying Smart Plus fares as the only benefit I can see, you get one free snack, one free alcoholic beverage and one free non-alcoholic beverage per trip. The difference is sometimes up to $10.

Select fares are on the other side probably worth it every cent. You get access to the first-class SELECT lounge as well as unlimited drinks and snacks during your trip. Another great benefit is one day of free parking at one of the Virgin Trains USA parking garages. The parking is really a great perk as the train stations are located in prime locations in the downtown areas of each city. Parking prices are expensive in these areas. Another big advantage is the parking garage location, which is basically right next to the train station and your walking distance is short.

The Virgin Trains USA Fleet

The passenger cars offer many amenities no matter in which class you travel. All seats come with multiple power and USB outlets to keep your devices charges as well as large multi-task tray tables for your food or laptop. An additional benefit is the complimentary WiFi access on every train to stay connected to the outside world.

Usually, the seats come in a configuration of 2 on each side of the coach. Group seats are available with 4 seats and a table in the center, perfect if you ride as a family with kids, as well as single seats directly at the window in Select Class. Each train has enough space to store your bags, golf clubs or even your bicycle.

Brightline Train leaving West Palm Beach Station

Transportation at your Destination

Once arriving at a location you can jump on a Citibike right outside the Virgin Miami Central Station or use Virgin Trains USA preferred transportation and rideshare partner Lyft. There are convenient drop-off and pick up spots right at the train station for quick and easy in and out.

Richard Branson’s investment into Virgin Trains USA former Brightline was a great move as he is starting his new cruise line – Virgin Voyages. Virgin Voyages homeport in the United States will be Miami and its perfect to connect with rail to bring people from and to his adult only cruise ships. Especially the extension to Orlando will open up even more possibilities. Virgin Trains USA already offers Train to Port Packages where you get the whole package to get from the train station near you to the cruise ship. This includes parking, one free bag, round trip tickets on the train and Lyft transfer to and from the cruise ship. Packages start at $65, which is a stall.

A ride report will follow in the near future as I am eager to try this type of transportation. Finally, public transportation which you actually want to use.

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