AMTRAK has introduced a new service from Richmond to the Northeast Corridor (NEC) as part of the $US 3.7bn Transforming Rail in Virginia initiative to improve passenger and freight rail capacity and relieve road traffic congestion.

Amtrak Northeast Regional Route 51 began offering a new early-morning service from Main Street Station in Richmond to Washington, DC, and New York on September 27. Passengers can now choose from three daily departure times - two in the morning and one in the evening.

“If you’ve ever been stuck on I-95, you know we can’t pave our way out of congestion,” says Virginia governor, Mr Ralph Northam, who in December 2019 unveiled the “Transforming Rail in Virginia” initiative, which will boost Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) services, create a pathway for the separation of freight and passenger rail in Virginia, and preserve future rail corridors. Virginia, Amtrak, CSX and VRE finalised agreements for the initiative in March.

“This new train offers quick, reliable service from the commonwealth’s capital to Washington, DC, connecting our two cities and making it easier for thousands of Virginians to get to work in the morning. Virginia is leading the nation in expanded access to high-performance rail - and I look forward to many more milestones ahead.”

The wider transformation initiative will offer a double-track railway from Washington, DC to Ridgeway, North Carolina that will be used by both Amtrak and VRE trains. In partnership with CSX, Amtrak, and VRE, Virginia is constructing the new $US 1.9bn dedicated passenger Long Bridge over the Potomac. The state has also acquired 621km of railway right-of-way and 358km of track from CSX. It is also investing more than $US 1bn on additional rail infrastructure.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, service to and from Richmond’s Staples Mill Station was suspended in March 2020,” says Virginia Passenger Rail Authority executive director, Mr DJ Stadtler. “Today’s resumption of this service, which includes the extension to Main Street Station, marks the return to pre-pandemic service levels in Virginia.”

The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority supports four Northeast Regional routes with service originating in Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond and Roanoke. Passengers can travel to cities along the East Coast without changing trains.

For more on Amtrak’s wider service expansion ambitions, see the September 2021 edition of IRJ p22, or website subscribers can click here.