Virginia Expands Rail Service, with an Option for More

New daily service to Richmond and Lynchburg is first step towards integrated state rail network

Virginia Rail Network

This week, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (D) announced that the state would pay for two new daily trains from Washington, D.C., one to Richmond, the state capital, and the other to Lynchburg, via Charlottesville. The latter route already has once-daily service on the Amtrak Crescent (with part of the route – to Charlottesville – covered by the daily Cardinal as well), and the former has seven daily trains on the Amtrak Northeast Regional, Palmetto, Carolinian, Silver Star, and Silver Meteor. The agreement was signed with Norfolk-Southern, a freight rail company that owns the track between Washington and Lynchburg, and which will invest some of its own money in renovating the tracks for increased passenger and freight services. Though the additional service doesn’t amount for a huge improvement, especially along the Richmond line, the state’s willingness to invest almost $20 million in the trains augurs well for future passenger services in Virginia.

What’s most important about the money being spent on the trains is that it demonstrates that the state considers rail a viable travel alternative to other modes of transport. The increase on the Washington-Richmond segment to eight roundtrips a day suggests that future electrification of the corridor is a viable option (it has been suggested by Amtrak’s president in recent weeks as a high priority), as would be increased services to the southeast section of the state, which has a high population but only sees two roundtrips a day.

If state investment ramps up, three major Virginia projects (shown on the map above) are likely to see funding in the next few years: the TransDominion Express connection from Richmond to Lynchburg, and then south to Roanoke and Bristol at the state border; new service to Norfolk and southeast Virginia; and the Southeast High-Speed Rail project (tin-hsr). All three of these projects rely on upgrades to existing tracks, rather than construction in new rights-of-way – as a result, improved train service would be relatively simple and cheap to obtain on all three corridors. As of now, though, those projects remain in the conceptual stage, waiting for funds to be found.

7 replies on “Virginia Expands Rail Service, with an Option for More”

What’s interesting is that there is no federal money going into this. Assuming that the $40mil total is being split between the two lines, that’s about one fifth of the projected cost of the TDX (which hadn’t included the DC-Richmond route).

Also of note is that the two major university sports colleges in VA (UVA in Charlottesville and VaTech in Blacksburg) are along or relatively close to the projected TDX lines. Both schools are major feeders to Washington DC, and anyone who’s had the misfortune of accidentally timing a return from Knoxeville to DC with the end of a game at VaTech *cough* would greatly appreciate having taken a large number of those cars off the road.

Yonah, on the tin-hsr stuff, I hear you, I really do. But the SEHSR project will have the same average speed as the Acela between Richmond and Raleigh. That being the case, then the Acela is also tin-hsr.

Here’s my recommendation: part of the dumbing down of HSR is that it now even seems to be used to discuss projects bringing mainline railroad MAS to 79 mph via track improvements. I believe this is the stuff that should receive the tin-hsr designation.

I propose another moniker for SEHSR and similar projects: TIMSR!

“This Is Medium-Speed Rail.”

TIMSR should be applied to projects that if successfully implemented, will raise the speed of intercity passenger service in a way that the majority of the running alignment is not limited to the Class IV track 79 mph MAS, with top speeds in the 110 – 125 mph area.

makeprinceton: that would be a lot easier if there were tracks that ran between c’ville and richmond

yes, but there is a scottsville–rva line… perhaps I’m dreaming, or maybe a cville-scottsville-rva line could be built

I don’t see that happening for many, many years. C’ville is basically 1) UVA and 2) (to a much, much lesser extent) a Richmond exurb, and already has an interstate, but no direct rail connection to, Richmond.

The bit of land between Scottsville and C’ville is rugged and likely lacks rights-of-way for a rail line, so the costs of building a section of rail between the two are liekly prohibitive.

It’s a matter of leveraging transit dollars in the most effective way, and, in this case, a direct bus run between UVA campus and various bits of downtown Richmond would probably be the closest you’re going to get for right now.

Leave a Reply