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Virgin out as partner in Las Vegas to SoCal high-speed rail project

Updated August 7, 2020 - 5:50 pm

The planned high-speed train system set to run between Las Vegas and Southern California will no longer bear the Virgin Trains USA name.

Instead, the Las Vegas to Victorville rail line will continue forward under the Xpresswest name.

Shortly after acquiring the Xpresswest project in late 2018, Brightline entered into a partnership with Virgin Trains to run the passenger rail line under the Virgin name. However, Brightline announced Friday in a report filed with the Florida Department of Finance that the deal was terminated.

“We will no longer use the Virgin brand following our parent’s (company ) termination of its licensing agreement with Virgin Enterprises Limited,” the filing read. “We will change our name to Brightline Trains LLC following the expiration of the applicable notice period for name changes under the loan agreement.”

The filing says Virgin disputed the validity of the contract termination, which was delivered to Virgin July 29.

Virgin representatives weren’t immediately available to comment.

Representatives from Brightline confirmed the contract termination, but declined to comment further.

Virgin has seen its share of issues in the transportation realm over the last year.

In December 2019, Virgin’s long-running passenger rail service in the United Kingdom came to an end after it was replaced by a different operator. Then this week, Virgin Atlantic filed for bankruptcy protection amid the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the travel industry.

Meanwhile, the high-speed rail project continues to progress.

Last month Nevada approved $200 million in private activity bonds to go toward construction of the $4.8 billion project. Virgin can market those bonds for up to four times their amount for a total of $800 million, per Internal Revenue Service guidelines.

In April, California approved the allocation of $600 million in tax-exempt bonds for the project, which can be marketed for a total of $2.4 billion in tax-free, private equity bonds, per IRS regulations.

The U.S. Department of Transportation in March approved $1 billion in tax-free private bonds for the project.

The bond approvals are reliant upon all Virgin bonds being issued by Sept. 30.

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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