Start-date set for Roanoke passenger service return

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The first crew-qualifying run for extended Northeast Regional service to Roanoke, Va., was eastbound at Webster, Va., in this June 5 image.
Samuel Phillips
ROANOKE, Va. — Amtrak and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, working in cooperation with Norfolk Southern, announced this week that Oct. 31 will be the start date for Northeast Regional revenue service to and from Roanoke, Va. Beginning on that day, the one daily round-trip between Lynchburg, Va. and Boston or New York, via Charlottesville and Manassas, Va., and Washington, D.C., will be extended to Roanoke. This will be the first regularly scheduled passenger train to serve Roanoke in 38 years.

The exact schedule has yet to be announced and tickets have not yet gone on sale, but weekday northbound train 176 to Boston will likely depart the Roanoke around 6:20 a.m. and the weekday southbound train 171 from Boston will arrive there shortly before 10:00 p.m. On weekends, northbound train 156 to New York will likely leave Roanoke around 8:50 a.m. and southbound train 147 (Saturdays from Springfield, Mass.) or 145 (Sundays from New York) will arrive there between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m. Travel time from Roanoke to Washington will be about five hours; to New York will be just under nine hours.

Amtrak has been conducting test runs over Norfolk Southern’s ex-Norfolk & Western trackage between Lynchburg and Roanoke during June and July using a typical Northeast Regional Amfleet I consist. The first revenue trainset will be brought to Roanoke during the day on Monday, Oct. 30, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and will lay over in preparation for Tuesday morning’s inaugural revenue departure.

The Roanoke station will be located on Norfolk Avenue downtown near the city’s bus hub, roughly across the four-track main line from the 1946-built mid-20th century Norfolk & Western depot, now housing the O. Winston Link Museum and a regional visitors’ center. An 800-foot high-level platform fully covered by a canopy, long enough to berth a typical eight-car Northeast Regional consist and compliant with Amtrak standards, is being built there.

The long-planned service extension, work on which began three years ago, comes thanks to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s unique purchase of service arrangement with Norfolk Southern, wherein the state purchases a certain amount of capacity from the railroad, allowing it to pay for necessary track upgrades, in exchange for a commitment to host the passenger train and meet certain performance standards. The Roanoke extension cost the Virginia commonwealth $100 million.

The department has plans to extend passenger service further southwest to Bristol, Va., over the ex-Norfolk & Western, but this would require a reworking of the trains’ schedules to avoid unattractive early departure times or late arrival times southwest of Roanoke.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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