Brightline’s new commuter trains will start running every day on Jan. 17 from West Palm Beach to Frontenac, but they won’t be carrying passengers just yet.
These “qualification trains” will instead educate Brightline train operators with the 130-mile Florida East Coast Railway corridor that runs between Cocoa and West Palm Beach.
“This is when the locomotive engineers and train conductors are genuinely learning the region.” As a result, there will be no passengers,” stated Brightline representative Katie Mitzner.
“And the highest speeds will be 60 mph, which is the freight industry’s top speed” (trains). As a result, we’ll be moving at freight rates,” Mitzner explained.
More than 70% of Brightline’s $2.7 billion higher-speed rail project from West Palm Beach to Orlando International Airport has been finished. Trains from South Florida will go north along the double-tracked FEC mainline to Cocoa, where they will turn west along with a new set of tracks paralleling the Beachline Expressway.
Brightline plans a 320-mile Florida passenger rail network from Miami to Tampa by 2028, providing hope for higher-speed train service.
Brightline trains for the Orlando service move off the assembly line in California.
Brightline hopes to have the Orlando extension completed by the end of the year, with passenger service beginning in early 2023. A future Cocoa station is still being discussed.
In September, the first pair of red-and-yellow diesel-electric trains for the future Orlando route ran off the production line at a Siemens Mobility rail factory in Sacramento, California.
Brightline expects to run one round-trip qualifying train every day between Frontenac and West Palm Beach until 2022. Between Sharpes and Port St. John, Frontenac is a tiny unincorporated town north of Cocoa.
“There will be two locomotives — one on each end — and four-passenger carriages on this train.” It will trail a northbound (FEC) train from West Palm to Frontenac, which will take around three hours, according to Mitzner.
“And then it’ll come to a halt up in Frontenac.” We’re going to change which locomotive we’re driving. “After that, we’ll take a southbound train back to West Palm Beach,” she explained.
Brightline qualifying trains, according to Mitzner, will be 3 to 4 miles behind FEC trains. Officials from Brightline highlighted the following safety precautions for vehicles and pedestrians in a press release:
•When crossing gates are down, it is unsafe and unlawful to drive or walk past them.
•When near railroad tracks, stay vigilant and observant, knowing that trains go in both ways.
•Only cross railroad tracks at a railroad crossing; do not stroll beside them.
•Never come to a halt on the rails.
“It’s thrilling. “This is a vital step for us to be able to travel to Orlando,” Mitzner added.
Brightline road restrictions are putting a financial strain on some small businesses in Melbourne’s central area.
Plans for a 600-foot-long fly-under tunnel: Brightline is developing a 600-foot-long tunnel that will take trains beneath State Road 528.
Brightline trains will move between 79 to 110 mph through Brevard once passenger service begins next year, according to Mike Cegelis, Brightline executive vice president of infrastructure, who spoke to the Melbourne Regional Chamber in October.
Cegelis said the gate should fall down and Brightline’s train should pass by in around 25 seconds at railroad crossings.
Between Orlando and Miami, trains should take around three hours and one-way tickets should cost around $100, according to Cegelis.
Brightline’s expansion, which includes 156 train crossings between Cocoa and West Palm Beach, has taken more than 1,300 workers 4.7 million man-hours to complete. Moreover half have received safety upgrades, with the remaining set to be completed this year.