Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday that the state and Norfolk Southern have signed the previously-agreed on deal to to expand passenger rail service to the New River Valley for the first time since 1979.
The Western Rail Initiative will add a second state-supported round-trip train between Roanoke and Boston later this year, which will be extended to the New River Valley upon completion of a new station, track and signal improvements. The agreement also allows for a third train to operate in the future between Roanoke and the New River Valley, according to the governor’s office.
In an agreement with Norfolk Southern, the state is acquiring approximately 28 miles of the Norfolk Southern-owned “V line” right of way and existing tracks from Christiansburg to the Salem Crossovers and a passenger rail easement between the Salem Crossovers and the Amtrak Roanoke station platform. Norfolk Southern will continue to provide freight service on the line.
Amtrak regional daily service in Southwest Virginia began in October 2009 with one round trip between Lynchburg and Washington. During the first year of operations, ridership outperformed forecasts by more than triple. In November 2017, the state expanded service to Roanoke, and, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the route was one of the most profitable intercity passenger rail routes in the country, according to the governor’s office.
The second train, for which service is expected to commence in 2022, willrun from Roanoke to Lynchburg to Charlottesville with other stops in Culpeper, Manassas, Burke Center, Alexandria and Washington before continuing on up the Northeast Corridor.
The agreement also references “the potential for a future station” in Bedford.