The Amtrak Northeast Regional Route 51 expansion launches in Virginia

Posted: 30 September 2021 | | No comments yet

The launch of the Amtrak Northeast Regional Route 51 has been announced by Governor Ralph Northam, with the rail expansion set to provide early morning service from Main Street Station.

The Amtrak Northeast Regional Route 51 expansion launches in Virginia

Governor Ralph Northam has announced the launch of expanded rail service from Richmond to the Northeast Corridor. The Amtrak Northeast Regional Route 51 will now offer early morning service from Main Street Station, getting travellers from Downtown Richmond to Washington D.C. The new train is the first expansion of service under Governor Northam’s Transforming Rail in Virginia Programme to significantly expand rail infrastructure throughout the Commonwealth. 

On 27 September 2021, Governor Ralph Northam celebrated the milestone from the tracks at Main Street Station, as the first train departed at 5:35 a.m.

“If you’ve ever been stuck on I-95, you know we can’t pave our way out of congestion,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “This new train offers quick, reliable service from the Commonwealth’s capital to Washington, D.C., 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 newly expanded service has stops at a variety of destinations in the Northeast Corridor. Travellers can choose from three daily departure times, two in the morning and one in the evening.

“Originating more trains from Main Street Station will connect our vibrant capital city to Washington D.C., and population centres along the East Coast,” added Shannon Valentine, Secretary of Transportation. “This extension will bring trains closer to where people live and work, expanding access and economic opportunity.”

The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority supports four Northeast Regional routes. Service originates in Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, and Roanoke. These routes allow passengers to travel to cities along the East Coast without needing to change trains.

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

Main Street Station is a National Historic Landmark located in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom district. It is served by Amtrak, GRTC, RVA Bike Share, and Megabus. The station’s Virginia Welcome Centre is stocked with information about local and statewide tourist destinations.

Amtrak service was restored to the station in 2003. The train shed opened in 2018 as a 47,000 square foot event space. This station serves a variety of transportation needs. Most recently, a Pulse bus rapid transit service stop was added at the entrance.

“We are pleased to partner with Virginia to bring additional Amtrak service to the Main Street Station,” said Ray Lang, State Supported Services at Amtrak Vice President. “As people feel comfortable travelling again, we are honoured that our customers trust us on their journey as we are excited to welcome them onboard.”

Tammy Butler, CSX Vice President further commented: “CSX is proud to partner in this Transforming Rail in Virginia initiative, which is enhancing passenger and rail freight service from the Commonwealth of Virginia into the District of Columbia. This is just the first step in creating safer, more efficient service while easing congestion in the region.”

Transforming Rail in Virginia is a $3.7 billion programme to expand and improve passenger, commuter, and rail freight in Virginia. It will connect the Northeast and Southeast corridors in America’s national rail network. In partnership with CSX, Amtrak, and VRE, Virginia is constructing a new Long Bridge over the Potomac, dedicated to passenger and commuter rail. In addition, 386 miles of rail right-of-way and 223 miles of track were acquired, and more than $1 billion was invested for additional rail infrastructure.

Over the next decade, these investments will result in nearly hourly Amtrak service between Richmond and Washington, D.C. Amtrak‘s service will also be enhanced for Newport News and Norfolk. VRE services will increase by 75 per cent along the I-95 Corridor and a weekend service will be added.