All Aboard! Virgin panache meets Las Vegas pizazz! When the all-electric Virgin Trains USA high-speed passenger train between Southern California and Las Vegas launches in 2023, it is predicted an estimated 12 million people annually will ride-the-rails in luxury at speeds approaching 200 mph while sipping complimentary drinks during the 90-minute trip. Talk about a game-changer for SoCal – SoNev travel!
The 170-mile rail line runs mainly down Interstate 15 through the Cajon Pass between Las Vegas and Victorville, CA. However, Virgin plans to make it even more convenient for Angelenos to head east to Las Vegas. The company is in early talks to extend the line to Rancho Cucamonga, where a Metrolink station could connect passengers directly to Los Angeles, according to a recent Las Vegas Review Journal report. Rancho Cucamonga is about 35 miles southwest from Victorville. Ben Porritt, Virgin Trains spokesman said. “A future extension to Los Angeles through Palmdale and Rancho Cucamonga will provide Southern California residents full access to our high-speed rail service to Las Vegas. Greater connectivity and mobility brings with it economic opportunities, jobs and positive environmental benefits.”
In related news, Elon Musk’s Boring Co. and the San Bernardino Transportation Authority are in talks to construct an underground people-mover from Ontario International Airport to the Rancho Cucamonga station. The 2.8-mile loop would be similar to the system The Boring Co. is building at the Las Vegas Convention Center using autonomous Tesla vehicles.
More than 30 percent of Las Vegas visitors are from California. With the advent of high-speed train travel, Californians can forego hours of aggravating traffic by jumping on a luxury Virgin train in Victorville, CA and begin their Vegas partying even before crossing the state line. Virgin projects a potential market of 56 million annual trips.
On their return trip home, those who partied a bit too hard can comfortably sleep off their Vegas-weekend spree in over-sized seats complete with WiFi access, while attendants pass out warm towels and offer a never-ending selection of goodies. Other rail passengers may simply revel in the ease of a day-trip to Las Vegas (almost unheard of for those used to auto traffic delays) to cheer on the Las Vegas Raiders at the new Allegiant Stadium. And, whether they choose to admit it or not, many train travelers will be chuckling as their high-speed, carefree transport leaves in a blur the cars stuck in I-15 traffic.
Long before the California to Las Vegas train makes its first voyage, Virgin will make its presence known on South Las Vegas Blvd. As reported in the Las Vegas Review Journal, the company plans to break ground in 2020 on its ten-acre, 273,000 square feet, two-story, multi-use passenger depot at the end of 2020. Minutes from the Strip and Allegiant Stadium, the new terminal will be like no other in the world – beckoning visitors and locals alike to new retail and indoor-outdoor dining opportunities, and of course Las Vegas-worthy accommodations for travelers. According to media reports, Virgin also plans to have deals in place with Las Vegas resorts, sports venues and convention centers to streamline visitors’ stays.
Uri Vaknin, whose company KRE Las Vegas owns the luxury twin tower condominium community One Las Vegas on South Las Vegas Blvd, knows very well the benefits of a south Strip address. “Over the last few years, South Las Vegas Blvd. has become the hot place for living’ the dream,” said Vaknin. “And soon it will be the epicenter of America’s high-speed train travel with the train station located just across the street.”
While the US lags behind the European Union, Japan and China in instituting high-speed rail, public-private partnerships and privately funded projects are allowing American cities to play catch-up while also having direct and indirect impacts on the economy while helping the environment.
Virgin Trains USA estimates the California to Las Vegas service will generate approximately $1.98 billion in direct economic impact for Nevada’s economy, creating $73 million in state and local tax revenue annually. The project is expected to create an estimated 1,000 construction jobs in Clark County with an anticipated 400 permanent jobs at the Las Vegas train station.
The project is slated to take 4.5 million cars off I-15 annually, leading to 300,000 metric tons of carbon removed from the air each year, according to a Virgin report and an environmental improvement that would benefit both Nevada and California.
Virgin’s efforts in the US include a Florida rail line between Miami and Orlando, as well as its planned California-Nevada line, and both have created a passenger rail renaissance. On the drawing board, in the approval process, or currently seeking funding are high-speed passenger lines between Dallas and Houston; Portland to Vancouver, and San Francisco to Los Angeles.
Fast, effortless and traffic-free, high-speed rail travel sounds good to us! Get ready, Las Vegas!