After years of proposals and discussion from several companies hoping to reintroduce passenger rail service between Southern California and Las Vegas, one project now appears to be on the fast track.
Las Vegas Railway Express, the company that plans to operate a weekend, adults-only party train between Fullerton and Sin City, marked a milestone this month with the signing of an agreement with Union Pacific Railroad. The pact will allow the "X Train" to run on tracks that have carried only freight since Amtrak ceased passenger service between Los Angeles and Las Vegas 15 years ago.
The venture has purchased 16 rail cars, but they need to be refurbished before the trains can begin operating. Company officials say they hope to launch in time for New Year's Eve 2013.
The trip from the Fullerton train station, which serves Amtrak and Metrolink, to a yet-to-be-built depot in downtown Las Vegas would take five hours. The Vegas-bound trains would depart on Thursday and Friday afternoons, with two return trips on Sundays.
Anyone who has driven along Interstate 15 during peak travel times understands how lengthy that journey can become in heavy traffic.
"Sunday is horrific," Michael Barron, the company's president and chief executive, told the Associated Press. "So now you've been up for 40 hours gambling and you have to drive for seven hours -- that's just horrible."
A potential passenger who was in Las Vegas from Orange County during the Thanksgiving holiday agreed.
"If you party really hard, it sucks driving back," said John Lawson, 28.
With two "ultra lounges" and an entertainment car in which passengers can play games for prizes (but not for cash payouts), the concept is designed to safely extend the party atmosphere to the travel time on both sides of a Vegas weekend.
The company’s website states that one-way tickets are to sell for $99, including a meal and a beverage. And there is to be plenty of booze available for purchase from the Amtrak employees who, according to current projections, would staff the trains.
"The whole idea is when you get on a train, you feel like you're in Las Vegas," Barron told the AP. "It's essentially a nightclub on wheels."