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New train company could bring passenger rail from Atlanta to Charlotte

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Plans call for Virgin Group’s investment in the railroad business to link other traffic-clogged cities

a picture of a brightline train
Brightline, now called Virgin Trains USA, is expected to connect car-dependent metropolises.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

For years, Atlanta’s chances of seeing an interstate commuter rail line have seemed far-fetched.

Could that be changing now?

Thanks to Virgin Group’s investment in Florida-based train company Brightline, it looks like our city might have a decent shot at getting a passenger railroad connection to Charlotte.

Last week, Brightline announced it would be rebranded as Virgin Trains USA, and that it was in the process of becoming a publicly traded company, according to the Miami Herald.

“Our goal is to build railroad systems in North America that connect major metropolitan areas with significant traffic and congestion. We believe that the economics of passenger rail service offer a highly compelling investment opportunity,” the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission obtained by the paper.

Virgin Trains’s expansion is also expected to bring routes from Dallas to Houston and Los Angeles to San Diego.

A line between Tampa and Orlando was proposed before the Richard Branson company’s overhaul, and Brightline had also recently obtained a route connecting Southern California to Las Vegas, reported the Herald.

Where exactly the Atlanta train terminal would go remains to be seen.

However, downtown’s Gulch, which is on the cusp of a multi-billion-dollar revamp, might be a viable setting.

Atlanta pundit Maria Saporta, in a column published last week on Saporta Report, urged state, regional, and local leaders to support the creation of an “architecturally elegant Grand Central Terminal for Atlanta” in the Gulch.

In other train-related news, the Atlanta City Council’s approval of the Gulch development deal all but guaranteed that Virginia-based railroad giant Norfolk Southern will bring its headquarters to Atlanta.

The new HQ is expected to be built in Midtown.