LOS ANGELES - A high-speed bullet train connecting Southern California to Las Vegas is one step closer to reality after a landmark deal was inked with several craft rail unions that will enable construction for the historic project to begin this year.
Brightline, which is reportedly the only private rail company in the U.S., is on track to connect Las Vegas to Los Angeles with a new 218-mile rail system linking stations at the Las Vegas Strip, Apple Valley, Hesperia, and Rancho Cucamonga within the I-15 right-of-way with trains capable of speeds of 200 mph.
The company recently announced the memorandum with the High Speed Rail Labor Coalition, which includes 13 rail unions representing more than 160,000 freight, regional, commuter and passenger railroad workers.
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"The MOU demonstrates the support of union labor in the development of the Brightline West system and Brightline West’s commitment to providing the safest possible rail operations and high-quality working conditions for its employees," the company said in a statement.
The Brightline train is seen at the new MiamiCentral terminal during the inaugural trip from Miami to West Palm Beach on May 11, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Approximately 50 million one-way trips are made annually between these two destinations with 85% of them by car or bus, the company said. At full operations, Brightline expects to attract approximately 12 million one-way trips each year.
Amenities for travelers include free onboard WiFi, ADA accessibility from station to train, a wide selection of food and drinks, checked luggage, and hotel check-in services.
The system is expected to create over 1,000 permanent jobs once operational.
Construction was originally set to begin in 2020, but was halted when the company postponed a planned $2.4 billion bond sale to finance initial tracks and stations for the $8 billion project. The company blamed the delay on market instability because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
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"This will transform transportation in Southern California and Las Vegas for generations by providing a fast and efficient connection that gets people out of their cars, reduces traffic congestion and decreases air pollution," said California State Treasuer Fiona Ma.
Construction is slated to begin later this year and could finish by 2027.
Brightline currently operates a high-speed rail line in Florida between Miami and West Palm Beach. Testing is currently taking place for trains traveling along the Orlando corridor.