Brightline is preparing to get conductors acquainted with a portion of its Central Florida expansion.
The Miami-based intercity rail system on Jan. 17 will start running trains on a 130-mile portion of track between West Palm Beach and Cocoa, per a notice from Brightline. The trains — which will be without passengers and run at 60 miles per hour — will run one roundtrip a day.
"Qualifying runs are the federally approved approach to familiarize certified engineers and conductors with new rail territory," the company said. "Operating a train requires engineers and conductors to be intimately familiar with the rail corridor, including road crossings, signals, curves and speed restrictions."
Other local train systems like SunRail also have had to make qualifying runs, Bob O'Malley, vice president of corporate development in the Orlando office for Murfreesboro, Tennessee-based Railroad Consultants PLLC and a former Brightline employee, told Orlando Business Journal. "There’s a specific threshold (of miles) they need to reach, but I don’t know the exact amount."
The Brightline train system expects to go through additional tests on the full corridor before it starts passenger service.
Brightline spokeswoman Katie Mitzner said the company will start with training two engineers, who over the course of the next year will help familiarize 28 other engineers with the corridor. Mitzner added that the company likely will hire additional staff as it gets closer to the launch of service.
One of the next construction milestones for the company, according to its most recent quarterly report in December, is that by February it will deliver new train sets to its vehicle maintenance facility in Orlando, which is expected to wrap up in early 2022.
Meanwhile, Brightline's $2.7 billion Central Florida route is currently 70% complete. The 168-mile expansion is expected to wrap construction by the end of this year and begin service by early 2023.
By Staff Writer, Orlando Business Journal