A new mode of transport is on the horizon between LA and Vegas

Could high-speed rail finally reach the Nevada desert?

The auto insurance industry will be awaiting the potential after-effects of a new high-speed rail link between Los Angeles and Las Vegas that could drastically cut the number of tourists requiring temporary auto insurance on their vacations. The $5 billion Virgin Trains-Brightline project has been given the green light following the approval of a private bond worth $600 million to enable construction to begin. The line, which will transport passengers from LA to ‘Sin City’ at up to 200mph, could revolutionize the way tourists travel internally to and from Las Vegas.

Although the proposed rail line is due to transport passengers from Vegas to a suburb on the very outskirts of Los Angeles, there will be fear in the auto insurance sector that more tourists will choose to travel by rail and avoid the rigmarole of finding the cheapest cars to insure and hire when traveling between Nevada and California. Ambitions to connect Vegas and LA by high-speed rail have existed for several decades. Over 20 years ago, Amtrak tried and failed to muster the interest and finance to provide this new train service, but Virgin Trains now appears to have stolen a march with its fully electric high-speed rail project.

West Coast project modeled on Brightline’s success in South Florida

Virgin Trains currently operates the high-speed Brightline rail service in southern Florida which provides a 70-mile stretch of rail connectivity between West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Brightline took to its social media handles to confirm that its West Coast project was “on track to break ground” by the end of 2020 following the approval of its tax-exempt bonds. The remainder of the funding for the project will be funded privately. It’s hoped that the project will provide 170 miles’ worth of high-speed rail connectivity from Las Vegas to Victorville, a suburban town 80 miles north-east of downtown LA. Those wishing to get from Victorville to downtown LA would then need to hop on an Amtrak service which takes just over two-and-a-half hours. In total, the train journey would take four hours door-to-door – slightly quicker than driving along the I-15 N and infinitely carbon friendlier.

LA to Las Vegas

Millions still flock to Las Vegas every year. In 2019, over 42.5 million tourists ventured to the Nevada desert – the second-highest annual figure since the turn of the millennium. The city’s McCarran International Airport is busier than ever in terms of international flights, while its proximity to Los Angeles makes it easy for Californians to make a weekend pilgrimage too. These trips might be to experience the Strip’s rapidly expanding high-end cuisines, its world-renowned shows or the poker scene that’s made Vegas an undoubted mecca for players worldwide. Either way, there is always something to entertain every visitor to the Strip that’s often labelled ‘Disneyland for adults’.

Construction experts have already been specified for the project

There’s no doubt that the officials at Virgin Trains are taking this project with the utmost seriousness. It has been reported that construction experts have already been contracted from Sweden, with the Stockholm-based Skanska firm expected to fly out to take charge. Meanwhile, land acquisitions have already been finalized for new train stations, as well as maintenance yards and connected commercial and residential developments. The new station in Las Vegas is expected to be positioned just one mile to the south of the Strip.

The high-speed rail line is also due to be constructed alongside Interstate 15, which provides the most direct road links from California to Nevada. This is in stark contrast to California’s own state-funded high-speed railway vision, which seeks to improve connectivity between growing towns and cities in the Central Valley area. The Central Valley project has encountered significant construction hold-ups and budget issues due largely to the difficulties of building new rail lines in densely populated areas.

Although the Vegas to LA line is due to be marketed as Virgin Trains, Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson has revealed that he has not stumped up any of the finance required for the project. Nevertheless, the line is seen as a silver bullet for reaching out to desert towns whose economies are struggling, bringing hundreds of jobs and new residential developments to the region.


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