Brightline partners with Virgin Group, rebrands as Virgin Trains USA

Nov. 19, 2018

Brightline has entered into a new strategic partnership and trademark licensing agreement with the Virgin Group that will, among other things, establish Virgin Trains USA.

“Our private sector-led effort to reinvent passenger rail service in America is taking another leap forward with the addition of the Virgin team,” said Wes Edens, chairman of Brightline and co-founder of Fortress Investment Group. “Virgin has built a respected and trusted brand in travel and hospitality. With our shared focus on customer experience, powered by a culture of innovation and disruption, we are well positioned to build on our success.”

Brightline launched service between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in May 2018. Brightline currently has plans to expand to Orlando and Tampa and, pending the closing of the previously announced XpressWest acquisition and receipt of necessary federal approvals, to begin railway construction next year to connect Las Vegas to Southern California.

“This partnership further validates the incredible accomplishments of our team as we challenge conventional wisdom to reinvent train travel in America,” said Patrick Goddard, president of Brightline. “Given our shared values and Virgin's track record, this partnership will help amplify our efforts and growth potential as we seek to expand to new markets.”

Virgin Group has significant experience operating in the UK rail sector, including its ongoing investment in Virgin Trains, a high-speed intercity passenger rail system which it has run for 21 years. Last year passengers took more than 38 million trips on the UK's West Coast Main Line.

“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. “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.”

In a blog further explaining Virgin’s interest in Brightline, Branson wrote, “On the potential of rail travel, Wes and I are kindred spirits. Rail is a sector close to my heart after 21 years of running Virgin Trains in the UK, creating breakthroughs from tilting Pendolino trains to the automated delay repay scheme. Virgin Trains continues to go from strength to strength, transporting more than 38 million passengers on the UK’s West Coast Main Line last year. We’re looking forward to working alongside Wes and Brightline to rejuvenate the US trains market too.”

As part of the strategic partnership, an affiliate of Virgin Group has agreed, subject to certain closing conditions, to make a minority investment in Brightline. Funds managed by an affiliate of Fortress Investment Group LLC will retain majority ownership of Brightline. Brightline's current management team will oversee daily operations, engineering, business development and strategy. Brightline will rename itself Virgin Trains USA this month and transition to Virgin Trains USA branding in 2019.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.