All Aboard Florida launches Brightline, unveils look of its trains

The effort to return passenger rail service to the Florida East Coast Railway tracks passed a critical juncture on Monday as All Aboard Florida unveiled a new name for its trains that will connect South Florida to Orlando — Brightline.

All Aboard also released the first renderings of its trains, which will travel between Miami and Orlando with stops in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale in about three hours.

To help set Brightline apart from other rail projects in the state, All Aboard Florida President Michael Reininger said the company’s trains will have bright distinctive colors — red, orange, green, blue and pink.

Brightline’s trains will also offer free Wi-Fi, power outlets at every seat, bike and luggage storage, and pet friendly cars. The trains will have “giant picture windows.” Beverages will be delivered to your seat and there will be a cafe area with food, drinks, a retail store and souvenirs.

“Gone will be the expectation for a gray or silver vehicle blending invisibly into the background,” Reininger told a group gathered at the site of the rail project’s future station in downtown Miami. “We instead want to take the gray out of travel and replace it with a brighter outlook.”

Company officials said the Brightline name represents the “optimistic” future of rail travel in Florida.

“Brightline will reset the expectations we all have for travel by train with specially designed trains that will focus on customers needs and wants,” Reininger said. “Brightline lives at the intersection of transportation and hospitality.”

The company plans to run 32 trains a day between Miami and Orlando. It plans to launch service between Miami and West Palm Beach in 2017. The West Palm Beach-to-Orlando span is expected to begin by the end of 2017.

Initially, the company will have five four-car car trains, each capable of carrying 240 passengers. By June 2018, Brightline will have 10 trains with seven cars each. Those trains will be able to carry 356 passengers.

The locomotives and passenger coaches are under construction in California by Siemens, which has a long-standing alliance with the Walt Disney Co., where Reininger was an executive.

To help with its branding effort, All Aboard also turned to a company with ties to Disney. The Rockwell Group, a New York-based architecture and design firm, has worked with Disney Cruise Lines, where Reininger helped oversee the design of two ships during the mid 1990s.

“It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of,” said David Rockwell, founder and president of the Rockwell Group. “We’ve worked with Mike (Reininger) on many successful collaborations since his days at Disney, and we appreciated the passion for innovation that we felt could take Brightline and reinvent in some ways the lost pedigree of train travel.”

Palm Beach County tourism officials on Monday praised All Aboard’s new brand, saying the rail line’s West Palm Beach station will bring more tourists to region.

More than a million travelers each year bypass Palm Beach County in trips to and from Orlando and Miami, tourism officials said. They have said the company’s West Palm Beach stop would give tourists the option of spending a few days in Palm Beach County as they travel between Miami and Orlando.

“This new service presents a great opportunity to introduce our area as an alternative destination perfectly situated between those two major gateways,” said Jorge Pesquera, president and CEO for Discover The Palm Beaches.

Critics of the rail project weren’t as impressed with All Aboard’s new moniker.

Although the passenger rail line has been largely supported in South Florida, the project is facing some opposition in northern Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast — and critics took to social media to sound off on the new brand.

“We have seen pretty pictures of stations, yet the building sites are still a pile of dirt,” the opposition group Florida NOT All Aboard wrote on its Facebook page. “Now we get to see the pretty little train pictures too. We don’t buy it!”

Despite the opposition, construction is underway on all four of the company’s stations. From Miami to West Palm Beach, crews are working to install a second rail line along the Florida East Coast Railway corridor — a move that will allow passenger and freight trains to share the tracks.

Reininger said Monday that construction on the company’s second phase between West Palm Beach and Orlando is expected to start next year.

All Aboard has already begun marketing the rail line to travel agents, tour groups and industry representatives around the globe. The company has not released its ticket prices, but a ridership and revenue study released last year by the company put the top projected fare at $143.

The company will offer two tiers of tickets — Smart and Select. The company plans to begin selling tickets late next year.

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