Florida's Brightline train service suspended indefinitely during coronavirus shutdown


  • Photo via Brightline/Facebook
Update, March 26 | Late Wednesday night, Orlando Business Journal reported the grim consequences: Brightline is reportedly laying off more than 250 workers, including operations and management employees.

Brightline trains are temporarily suspending service, according to an announcement made online around 7 p.m. on Wednesday. The suspension is effective immediately.

The last train southbound was at 6:40 p.m., and the last northbound train left Miami at at 6:50 p.m. Stations closed 40 minutes after the last trains arrived.

"While we don’t have a definitive timeline to be up and running again, we’ll take the lead of the CDC, federal and local agencies to inform our next steps," the company tweeted. They noted "construction to Orlando is still on track, while taking all necessary precautions for COVID-19."

On Monday, the train service gave employees bright yellow coronavirus-prep goodie bags, which included disinfectant wipes and tips from the CDC.
  • Photo via Brightline/Facebook
"We encourage guests and teammates to do their part to flatten the curve as we provide a critical service for essential workers that must travel during this time," the company wrote on Monday.

The Wednesday suspension follows President Trump's declaration of the state of Florida as a disaster area, earlier in the afternoon.

"This is a challenging time and it has been an especially difficult week for all of us," wrote Brightline president Patrick Goddard in an email, saying he places "the health and safety of our guests and teammates first."

Florida was once slated to receive a federally-funded high-speed train, until then-Gov. Rick Scott blocked it, calling the Obama-era project too risky. Soon after, Scott and his wife covertly invested in All Aboard Florida, Brightline's parent company, earning them approximately $150,000.

Since then, Scott won a U.S. Senate seat, of course – and the private train line has lost money each year. It's even been called the deadliest train line mile-for-mile in the U.S.

The company has been undergoing a glacial rebranding process, as well, to Virgin Trains USA, just in time for important new stations ahead at Orlando International Airport and near Walt Disney World.
  • Photo via Brightline/Facebook
"We take this difficult decision not only to do our part in flattening the curve, but to put the health and safety of our guests and teammates first," wrote Goddard. "Three short weeks ago, Brightline was on its way to its best month ever and on a clear path for a record 2020."

Brightline is issuing all guests a full refund within 30 days for all passes and tickets purchased for future dates. They are also suspending all automatic renewals starting in April.

Riders are asked to keep up with Brightline at GoBrightline.com or through their Twitter account.

Please follow CDC guidelines and Orange County advisories to stay safe, and please support this free publication. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you news on how coronavirus is affecting Central Florida. Please consider making a one-time or monthly donation. Every little bit helps.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.