Advocates of the planned high-speed Virgin Trains USA route between southern California and Las Vegas say it is a sure bet that will bring Nevada-bound passengers to the entertainment, gambling and pro sports destination in about an hour. The $4.8 billion high-speed rail link means passengers can travel 170 miles from Victor Valley station — to be built off I-15 near Victorville, California — to the planned Las Vegas station.
Construction on the project is scheduled to begin later this year. Operations are scheduled to begin in 2023.
“It could be enormous for Vegas!” Andy Kunz, president and CEO of the US High Speed Rail Association He predicts some visitors may stay for several days in Las Vegas. Others may just want to see the Cirque du Soleil show or a sporting event for the evening and then return to California, Kunz said. Also, instead of driving to Las Vegas from California, the high-speed train means less parking worries, lower risk of drunk driving, and reduced levels of highway traffic and emissions — in an easier and more comfortable traveling fashion, Kunz said.
“It will encourage people to go more often,” Kunz predicted. He explained that high-speed trains around the world have led to 30% or more additional travel to destinations — beyond others who would have gone anyway and opt for the train rather than planes, cars or ships. He also points out that US tourism has declined with many would-be travelers complaining about delayed commercial flights and not having another way to travel to get to their destination.
It could also mean tourists may fly from New York to McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, stay for a couple days, then take the train to Los Angeles. Once, other high-speed trains are running in California, it means the same tourists could also visit San Francisco, San Diego or Anaheim, the location of Disneyland.
The Las Vegas train is being privately developed as opposed to the high-speed train in California. The Nevada tracks mostly are to be placed in the open desert, while in California more challenges exist due to mountainous terrain and residents concerned about trains going through their neighborhoods, Kunz said.
Documents on the planned Las Vegas station were recently submitted to Clark County officials. The proposed 273,000 square-foot train station is to be built south of the Las Vegas Strip. It is situated on property between El Dorado Lane and Robindale Road. The two-story station and a seven-story parking garage will be built on part of the 110-acre parcel.
The first floor of the garage will have lanes for taxi and ride-hailing services and areas for shuttle buses. Some 2,680 parking spaces will be available at the train station. The garage and train station would connect through a 138-foot walkway. The station will sit on 14 acres, with the balance of the land possibly be developed for related uses.
Private bonds for the project still require approval by state officials in Nevada and California. Both states need the Federal Railroad Administration to rule that no additional environmental impact work is needed, the report adds.
Billionaire Richard Branson launched Virgin Trains USA in Florida in April 2019 after investing in trainline company Brightline, which triggered the rebrand to Virgin. Before it changed its name, Brightline acquired Xpress West, a private company that has been working since 2005 to build the track between Victorville in Southern California and Las Vegas.
Trains currently run from Los Angeles to Victorville, but the only way to continue the journey to Las Vegas using public transport is by bus.