AMTRAK and the Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority (PNRAA) have released the findings of a two-year study into the potential for running passenger rail services between Scranton, Pennsylvania, and New York City.

Amtrak says the analysis has included operations planning to develop a sample timetable, passenger journeys estimates, economic impact studies and an infrastructure assessment of the likely cost of upgrading the track along the existing 96.5km of line owned by PNRAA between Scranton and the Delaware Water Gap.

The proposals for a passenger service would also include restoring track along the 32km Lackawanna Cut-off between the Delaware Water Gap and Andover, New Jersey, and using existing track owned and operated by NJ Transit and Amtrak between Andover and New York City.

The study estimates that the track improvements required on the PNRRA-owned section of line would cost $US 100-175m, while acquisition of new rolling stock is estimated at $US 70-90m, with these two items accounting for about 30-45% of the total project cost.

The proposed service requirements include three return train trips per day travelling at a maximum speed of 177km/h over the Lackawanna Cut-off and able to provide a journey time between New York City and Scranton competitive with the average journey by road of 2h 50min.

A map showing the location of the Scranton to New York rail route in green. Picture credit: Amtrak

There would be intermediate stations at Mount Pocono, East Stroudsburg, Blairstown, Dover, Morristown, Montclair and Newark, and the line would carry 470,000 passengers a year. The new service could potentially begin as early as 2028 pending completion of design and construction work by stakeholders and support from federal government.

Amtrak says the passenger service would generate significant economic benefits including $US 84m in increased tourism and local economic activity, and $US 7m in benefits to society through reducing road journeys and pollution. The proposed services would also connect the area to other Amtrak and commuter rail services, and would link many colleges and universities to the cities.

Passenger rail services last ran between Scranton and New York in 1970. However, in 2019, 27 million people visited the Scranton area, the majority of whom were visiting from New York City to enjoy the region’s scenic attractions.

“The study’s release is extremely timely with last year’s passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that for the first time makes available federal funding for developing Scranton service, especially restoring the Lackawanna Cut-off and upgrading PNRRA track,” says PNRRA president, Mr Larry Malski.

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