Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Va. advocates push another Amtrak extension

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Buoyed by recent state-supported extensions of Amtrak service that have proven popular, state rail advocates are clamoring for Amtrak service to be extended to Virginia’s southwestern reaches, including Roanoke, Va., last served by Amtrak’s Hilltopper in 1979.

The National Association of Railroad Passengers reports Amtrak operated a special train Nov. 5 between Bristol, Va., in the extreme southwest corner of the state, and Roanoke. Supporters envision service continuing northeast from Roanoke to Lynchburg, Va. , where Amtrak service currently terminates.

The trip was hosted by the Roanoke chapter of the National Railway Historical Society (NRHS) and the Virginia Association of Railway Patrons (VARP). An American Public Transportation spokeswoman, speaking privately to Railway Age, said business and community leaders also support the plan, encouraged by Amtrak’s state-supported addition of Northeast Regional service linking Lynchburg with the Northeast Corridor.

Norfolk Southern owns the right-of-way, but advocates point to the recent agreement the Class I railroad reached with Virginia in December 2010 to expand Amtrak service over NS right-of-way to Norfolk, Va., where NS is headquartered.