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The US Department of Transportation has awarded a $25m Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant to the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) to be used on the final design and construction of the Brightline West passenger stations at Hesperia and Apple Valley, California. 

Brightline West is a proposed high-speed rail line connecting Las Vegas, Nevada and Los Angeles, California. Brightline, the US rail operating company with newly opened lines in Florida, said the line will be fully electrified and aims to remove 3 million vehicles from the congested I-15 corridor. 

The $25m will fund the California end of the new line, with further grants and federal funding sought for the larger capital projects involved in the Nevada constructions. 

The RAISE grant will aid the first leg of the line, which will connect the high desert towns outside the Los Angeles-dominated Southern California conurbation to LA via Metrolink’s San Bernardino Commuter Rail service. 

The Nevada side of the project, which will involve the construction of approximately 250km of new rail and associated infrastructure and a new rail terminus in Las Vegas, has applied for a multi-billion dollar grant. 

The Nevada Department of Transportation and Brightline West has applied for $3.75bn from the Federal-State Partnership for the Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program, part of President Biden’s infrastructure legislation. 

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SBCTA executive director Raymond Wolfe said: “This will provide a direct link between the High Desert, Rancho Cucamonga, downtown Los Angeles and our own East Valley, reducing the need to rely on personal vehicles for daily commutes, improving air quality and closing the live-work gap for millions of people.

“Along with other commuter projects either underway or under development, including the Arrow Line and the West Valley Connector bus rapid-transit system, Brightline West represents a cost-effective, 21st-century solution to our region’s transportation challenges.”

Brightline West president Sarah Watterson said the company hopes to begin construction in H2 2023: “We’re moving towards a groundbreaking later this year, kickstarting one of the largest job creators in the country and setting the stage for a new era in transportation. We are appreciative of our federal partners, the SBCTA and all those who support our system.”

Meanwhile, in London, Brightline is in dispute with Richard Branson’s Virgin Enterprises over a decision by the US corporation to pull out of a trademark licencing agreement. 

Brightline had agreed to brand its service as Virgin Trains USA but later cancelled the agreement, alleging the Virgin’s brand had ceased to be one of “high international repute”.

Virgin’s lawyers argued the claim was “cynical and spurious” and asked London’s High Court to award Branson’s establishment £200m ($255.3m). Brightline argued the claim should be dismissed. 

The case continues and a ruling is expected in the coming weeks.