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Va., Amtrak launch new train service

Virginia rail officials along with Amtrak launched the second state-funded intercity passenger train Tuesday in an effort to expand mass-transit options throughout the commonwealth.

Operated by Amtrak and funded by the state, the train leaves Richmond at 7 a.m. and arrives at Union Station at 9:30 a.m., stopping at Ashland, Fredericksburg, Quantico, Woodbridge and Alexandria. The train continues to Boston, Amtrak officials said. The new southbound intercity train leaves Union Station at 3:55 p.m.

The train, which is the fifth to connect Richmond to Washington, is part of a three-year, $17.2 million pilot project that includes a similar train between Lynchburg and Washington that started in October.

"This new service is evidence of how well the Commonwealth of Virginia, Amtrak, the Virginia Railway Express and CSX Transportation have worked to enhance passenger, commuter and freight rail service in the I-95 corridor," Quintin Kendall, resident vice president for CSX Transportation, the host railroad for the Richmond train said in a press release.

The Richmond train was scheduled to launch last year but was delayed as transportation officials worked to complete about $78 million in needed infrastructure improvements. The winter weather, Amtrak officials said, slowed the process further.

Virginia is the 15th state to partner with Amtrak to provide intercity passenger rail. While the pilot project is fully funded, the state does not have the funding to continue service if it proves successful, state rail officials said. The hope, they said, is to lobby the General Assembly for funds.

-- Jennifer Buske

By Michael Bolden  | July 20, 2010; 4:46 PM ET
Categories:  Amtrak, Virginia  
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It would be nice if there were options going the other way as well (south to Richmond in the morning and north to DC in the afternoon), but I guess the demand probably isn't as significant. I'm sure there must be people who commute from Fredericksburg to Richmond, though, who would support a train service, and it would seem that the additional cost of extending that train up to the DC area would be minimal.

Posted by: 1995hoo | July 20, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

This is some sloppy and misleading reporting here.

The story is, Amtrak added one train a day to it's schedule of 8 (I think) other trains, which now features hourly frequencies from Richmond to Washington and New York in the peak period.

Regarding the previous comment expressing a desire for a morning train out to Richmond and returning in the evening - this is in fact available. (it goes on to the Norfolk area)

Posted by: conductorchris | July 21, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

This sentence in the article is an oxymoron, as written:

"While the pilot project is fully funded, the state does not have the funding to continue service if it proves successful, state rail officials said."

Why would Virginia cancel a "successful" train.

A law passed in 2008 in the Bush Administration, called the "Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) requires states to pick up the operating expenses for the new Lynchburg and Richmond trains, and ANY NE trains in five years or 2013.

The older NE trains have 5 years to be "successful": for revenues to cover operating expenses. The State is covering about 55% of the expected operating shortfall of the two new trains for three years (until Oct 2012, new Lynchburg Train and July 2013, new Richmond Train)

State rail officials should have added, "unless revenues exceed operating expenses after the 3 year pilot period".

The first subsidized Lynchburg Train, which started last October, was self-sufficient after 2 months of operation; after 8 months, revenues exceed operating expense by 108%. If the trend continues, no one can discontinue that train. It will need no subsidy.

Anyone who wants to keep the two new trains after 3 years or any other Northeast Train in Virginia after 2013 needs to do 2 things: 1) use it and 2) encourage others to use it.

Unless the law is changed or the surplus of another train is allowed to cover the shortfall of an "unsuccessful" train, that train is gone!

The Washington Post can help make readers aware of this important story as the country tries to move to green transportation options. Some trains will never be "successful", based only on revenue and operating cost, but they have many social benefits that the law does not recognize.

Posted by: PeacockDan | July 24, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

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