USA: A strategic partnership and trademark licensing agreement for the launch of Virgin Trains USA was announced by Virgin Group and private-sector inter-city train operator Brightline on November 16.

Subject to certain closing conditions, Virgin Group is to make a minority investment in Brightline, which will be managed and operated by Brightline’s executive team and affiliates of Fortress Investment Group. Brightline is to rename itself Virgin Trains USA this month, and transition to Virgin Trains USA branding in 2019.

Brightline currently operates passenger services between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in Florida, with plans to expand to Orlando and Tampa. It has also announced plans to acquire the XpressWest project to develop a federally-approved rail corridor connecting Las Vegas with southern California.

Brightline said Virgin Group was ‘one of the world’s most recognisable brands in travel and hospitality’ and the partnership would allow it to leverage Virgin’s ‘industry-leading expertise and customer experience’ to establish a ‘powerful’ brand.

‘Our private sector-led effort to reinvent passenger rail service in America is taking another leap forward with the addition of the Virgin team’, said Wes Edens, Chairman of Brightline and co-founder of Fortress Investment Group. ‘Virgin has built a respected and trusted brand in travel and hospitality. With our shared focus on customer experience, powered by a culture of innovation and disruption, we are well positioned to build on our success.’

‘We have had a lot of fun and success creating innovative transport businesses that shake up markets and establish loyal followings’, said Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson. ‘We transformed domestic air travel with Virgin America. Tens of millions of Americans travel on the railways every day, and we have tried for over a decade to find an opportunity to provide them with that same excellent service experience. Brightline is at the forefront of innovation in this market, and the ideal partner for Virgin to work with to alter perceptions and traveling habits across the United States.’