Story: The Triumphant Return of Private U.S. Passenger Rail.
Bit of a misleading headline.
The railroad in question is the Florida East Coast Railway, which is owned by Fortress Investment Group. Fortress also owns Florida East Coast Industries (FECI). FECI, in turn, owns All Aboard Florida as well as the right of way that the FECRy runs over. FECRy granted AAF an easement to run passenger service over the line. Confused yet? I am. Part of the problem is that FECI used to own all the pieces, but it’s since been carved up like a mortgage-backed security.
Moving on, it’s AAF’s intention to run passenger service between Miami and Orlando via Cocoa, Florida, just west of the Kennedy Space Center. Sixteen round trips per day are expected with trains capable of 125 mph with limited stops. That’s not actually high-speed rail, but plenty fast enough for a three-hour trip time. (Aside: If the one-way trip is truly less than three hours, as they say, then the company ought to be able to get two full round-trips out of a crew before their hours of service expire – by law, RR workers can only work 12 hours in a row).
The FECRy route is straight and flat so 125 shouldn’t be a problem once they install updated signaling. West of Cocoa, the service will run over a new line to be built on an easement leased from the Orlando Expressway Authority that runs along Florida State Road 528, the Beachline Expressway, which will end at an intermodal facility being built at the Orlando airport.
But here’s the thing: There is no “triumphant return” because trains aren’t actually running. Trains aren’t running because there are no trains. Even if they do hit their target dates, and I hope they do, then there is no guarantee that they will attract enough passengers to bring in enough revenue to cover their costs or get a satisfactory return on their considerable investment.
Yes, I am skeptical. This is not the first time there has been an announcement that some company or another is going to run a passenger train and expect to make money on it. There have been many of those over the years including one in Oklahoma a few months back.
There is a difference with this one in that they have actually executed legal documents with other parties. IOW, they really seem serious.
We’ll see if there are trains running by 2015.