The company launched a feasibility study for the project several months ago, and an “investment-grade” ridership study and engineering work are under way, according to a press release. Now, FECI will begin to work with local, state and federal officials, as well as communities along the route.
Because the project currently is in what All Aboard Florida spokesperson Christine Barney terms the “due diligence” phase, FECI has not yet determined what type of trainsets it will need to purchase or what firm will operate the trains, she says. Once ridership and environmental reports are completed, the company will be able to issue a project timeline.
At least one date has been issued: FECI plans to launch All Aboard Florida in 2014, a timeframe that’s realistic because the majority of the service will operate along tracks already in service on the Florida East Coast Railway L.L.C. (FEC), Barney says.
The studies under way also will help FECI determine train speeds. The company plans to operate trains at top speeds of 100 mph to 110 mph, says Barney.
And while the line’s operations, maintenance and ownership will be “100 percent privately funded with no risk to the state,” Barney did not rule out the possibility of obtaining at least some public funds for the line’s construction.
“What, if any, minor participation from the state may be required is premature to say at this time,” she says.
I am less than thrilled with the fact that they are only just now doing an investment-grade ridership study and engineering work and working with officials. That, as well as the fact that they do not yet know what type of train sets they will need to purchase, lead me to believe that they will most likely not achieve their anticipated 2014 start date. Other than some legacy Pullmans, which may not be available in the quantities needed, the only intercity rolling stock likely to be available is Wisconsin's Talgos and possibly an additional set or two if they contract with Talgo to continue manufacturing them. Alternatively, of course, they could lease or purchase some commuter rolling stock and refit it, with replacement a few years later, although I don't imagine that would start them off with the best image. The old Mark Twain Zephyr is apparently available for sale however.
It is, however, encouraging to see them planning to operate at up to 110 miles per hour. With the limited number of stops, flat topography of the route, and the PTC mandate for passenger rail, there isn't much reason not to operate at such speeds.