Tuesday, December 11, 2012

NS welcomes Amtrak back to Norfolk

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Amtrak is touting its return to Norfolk. Amtrak is touting its return to Norfolk. Amtrak
Norfolk Southern Corp. Tuesday heralded Amtrak's return to the corporation's headquarters city, Norfolk, Va., and the Hampton Roads area.

As part of the event, NS said it was providing a locomotive simulator, a vintage double-decker dome car, and "Brainy," a public safety mascot, to contribute to the day's festivities.

NS, the city of Norfolk, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), and Amtrak scheduled a public ceremony Tuesday to welcome Amtrak's Inaugural Whistle Stop train to Norfolk at Amtrak's new passenger platform at Harbor Park. Norfolk was last served by passenger rail service in 1977.

The Class I railroad says it worked in partnership with Amtrak, DRPT, and CSX Corp. to bring passenger service back to South Hampton Roads by making improvements to a portion of NS's Heartland Corridor that mostly parallels U.S. 460 between Norfolk and Petersburg, Va., where the route connects with CSX for service to Washington, D.C., and points on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor.

NS and the state of Virginia announced the effort to extend Amtrak service to Norfolk in Dec. 2010. Amtrak service to Virginia's Tidewater region currently operating on CSX right-of-way to and from Newport News, Va., on the north side of the James River, will continue to operate.

DRPT hopes to eventually increase frequency on the new service, currently limited to one train a day each way between Norfolk and Petersburg. The new service also has early departure times—4:50 a.m. on weekdays and 6:05 a.m. on weekends—which some fear could discourage ridership. Arrival times are somewhat better, with Amtrak scheduled to reach Norfolk at 8:50 p.m. six days a week, and 11:48 p.m. on Saturday.