Second passenger train may begin operating this July

It has been nearly a dozen years since Amtrak running daily service through Charlottesville and we are perhaps months away from when a long-awaited second train will begin work. This week, the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority’s Board of Directors met and got an update from executive director D.J. Stadtler, who said a deal with Norfolk Southern has to be closed. He expects that to happen next month or early in July.  (meeting material)

“It’s only when that close takes place that we can start the new service,” Stadtler said. “There are three trains waiting for that close. One is the new Roanoke train which would be the second-round trip. One is the [third] Newport News train that was paused due to COVID/Amtrak staffing issues. And then the third one is the new Norfolk train.”

Construction of a new bridge to cross the Potomac River will not be needed before it begins, but Stadtler said VPRA is applying for $300 million in federal funding to help cover some of the $2 billion cost of Long Bridge expansion project. 

Ridership data was shown to the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority at their meeting this Monday

Stadtler also said ridership is rebounding after the pandemic on all routes. 

“If you look at the April ridership, we’re up over 25 percent over the previous month,” Stadtler said. “‘Normal’ times you would see an increase from March to April of about eight percent so this is a huge increase showing that folks are getting back on the train.”

Ridership on the Roanoke train in April 2019 was at just under 19,000 but plummeted to 1,116 in April 2020 and rebounded to 9,385 in April 2021. This year ridership was at 19,605 for the month. 

Hat tip to WDBJ-7 for the original reporting that prompted this story

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