Vegas to LA high-speed rail project hits snag

With the Governors of California and Nevada not working on any plans for economic recovery, the $600 million bond offering for the High-Speed rail line between Las Vegas and California has been put on hold.

Earlier this year, California State officials approved a $600 million private activity bond allocation, which was supposed to raise up to $2.4 billion for the project. In a statement, California Treasurer Fiona Ma said “economic uncertainty” has led to the decision to delay the sale of the bonds.”

This makes sense.  Neither state governor is giving the large institutional investors any confidence in their ability or even their desire to improve their state’s economic recovery.   You need a steady flow of tourists who are traveling between the two locations to ride the train and to have tourists, you need to have an economy that is in recovery mode.  Neither one is there and it looks like neither governor even wants to work in that direction. So why invest right now?

As with most things happening right now, everyone is waiting for the election to be over and to rebuild based on the political outcomes.

Brightline West

The project is named Brightline West.  The High-Speed rail project between Las Vegas and Southern California has been in the works for two decades with various names and owners.  Brightline, a company out of Florida that already has a light rail project operating in Florida, took over this project last year and renamed it “Brighline West”.  They have made actual progress and investments towards making this a reality.

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No More Virgin Trains to Las Vegas? An Update! (video)

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Last week the Las Vegas blogosphere was filled with the usual doom and gloom predictions about the High-Speed Rail line from Victorville, California to Las Vegas, Nevada.

The news that Virgin was no longer part of the consortium building the rail line apparently pushed some of them over the edge.

Unfortunately, a lot of them never read past the headline!

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Is It Real This Time?

In some ways, I can see their frustration. This train has been in the planning stages for over twenty years!  The previous company, XpressWest, did a lot of talking and schmoozing, but nothing more. It really did seem like a wasted space project that was never going to happen because the builders wanted us, taxpayers, to foot a majority of the costs.

Two years ago that all changed when Brightline, a Florida based intercity service owned by Fortress Investment Group, acquired the company and suddenly put the project in high gear.


Not many people outside of Florida had heard of Brightline. But they have had heard of a company called Virgin.  As in Virgin Airlines, Virgin Hotels and of course they know of one of its most flashiest of founders, Sir Richard Branson.  And Virgin was in the process of becoming an investor in the company as well as being the marketing brand of the already established line.

At this point, ears perked up and people got interested.  People started to get excited (again).  Good things started to happen.  The Virgin name had done what it was meant to do.  It helped change people’s perceptions of the project and that motivated elected officials to move a little quicker in clearing the hurdles needed to move the project from the dream stage to reality.

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xpress west victorville location

The plans for the Victorville/Apple Valley Train Station


It Became a Reality!

The Virgin name, as well as having a proof-of-concept in Florida helped in getting the states of California and Nevada to approve the process for them to sell more revenue bonds to secure the project gets completed on time and on budget.

They have already acquired the land for the stations as well as securing the right of ways to build the tracks. It is all happening!

Brightline/Virgin had done in more two years than what the original company could not do in twenty years.

Everything was moving along well when the virus panic hit and international travel ceased.  Causing Virgin Airlines to enter bankruptcy and the Brightline/Virgin Train deal was never finalized.  So the people at Brightline announced last week that they have canceled the marketing deal with Virgin.

Brightline will continue operating and building as they have been for the last several years, just without the Virgin brand.  And that is all it has been.  A name used to help in the marketing of the product.

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To hear the Vegas bloggers and some in the news media report it, you would have thought Virgin Trains was the entire project, that it was Virgin’s idea, their company, and their “feet on the street”.  When in reality, it was just their name being used to open doors, open minds, and get the project moving quickly.  A smart marketing move on the side of Brightline.

Brightline is already owned and backed by a large venture capital firm and they already have tracks laid and cars moving in Florida. They (Brightline) were already operating and making plans to expand in Florida when the idea of adding the Las Vegas train to their portfolio hit them. The deal with Virgin was more for marketing than the investment.

No Virgin Trains?  Nope.  However, they will continue to run the project under its original name, Xpress West


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