19 months after it was first announced, the plan to build a train station connecting Walt Disney World to the Orlando International Airport and Tampa has been scrapped.
The planned Disney Springs station was part of an expansion of the Brightline private rail network, which currently runs between Miami and West Palm Beach and expects to begin service to Orlando International Airport in 2023. The original route to Disney World would have bypassed other parts of the Orlando area, heading to Disney Springs and then following Interstate 4 to Tampa.
However, earlier this year, the route changed after lobbying from Universal Orlando and other businesses in Orlando’s International Drive tourist corridor. Universal offered 13 acres of land to build a station near the Orange County Convention Center and its under-construction Epic Universe theme park for a Brightline station, which would have been the first stop for out-of-town guests coming from the airport.
Disney spokesperson Avery Mather told the Orlando Business Journal, “As many people who are involved in this project are aware, the new route configuration does not support a Disney Springs station and as a result, we don’t anticipate being part of this project.”
It’s not clear exactly why the new route physically precludes the possibility of building a station at or near Disney Springs, which is next to I-4.
The Brightline station would have been an obvious replacement for the Disney Magical Express, the discontinued bus service between the airport and Disney World that Disney once provided to on-site hotel guests. Private, paid options remain, but without a direct connection between the airport and Disney property, guests can more easily look for hotel and entertainment options outside the Disney World bubble — including local rival Universal.
It’s not the first time Disney World rail plans failed to come to fruition. The Orlando Sentinel reported in 1986 that Japanese National Railways wanted to build a 310-mph train system between Disney property and the airport, but the plan was never realized.