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Northeast Regional Norfolk, VA service

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Regarding the Northeast Regional (NER) and service to Norfolk, VA (NFK):

 

What I would like to see happen are changes to the schedule between NFK and RVR which would allow for shorter layovers in Richmond and reduce (or eliminate) the need for the thruway bus between NFK and Newport News (NPN).

 

I live in Portsmouth, VA, but if I want the option of a shorter RVR layover (and not worry about the bus) I would need to travel to NPN to catch the train. I live closer to the Norfolk station so I would prefer to use that one.

 

 

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Regarding the Northeast Regional (NER) and service to Norfolk, VA (NFK):

 

What I would like to see happen are changes to the schedule between NFK and RVR which would allow for shorter layovers in Richmond and reduce (or eliminate) the need for the thruway bus between NFK and Newport News (NPN).

 

I live in Portsmouth, VA, but if I want the option of a shorter RVR layover (and not worry about the bus) I would need to travel to NPN to catch the train. I live closer to the Norfolk station so I would prefer to use that one.

 

 

 

 

Hi.

 

You're new here so first of all, I'd like to say welcome!

 

Masswelcomemat.jpg

 

 

Secondly, I'm not sure I understand your post. What is the duration of the layover in Richmond? What services are you utilizing because it doesn't seem the existing services have significant layovers in RVR.

 

Additionally, although more trains are slated for NFK in the future, the current set up for NFK does not leave room for multiple train storage nor long trains.

 

Finally, the future of direct NPN service may be in jeopardy.

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I am guessing it is referring to southbound connections at RVR. Also, why is the NPN service in jeopardy?

 

I was wondering the same thing. I thought I had seen plans for a new station, complete with a high level platform and all. Did I dream them up? :giggle:

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Yes, I failed to mention that it's for southbound connections out of RVR.

 

Next year, I MIGHT be taking the train to Orlando (ORL), which would be either on the SS or the SM. I haven't looked to see what the layover times are for northbound trains, so the times might be shorter.

 

For southbound trains, one layover time I saw on the Amtrak website was over 9 hours.

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Yes, I failed to mention that it's for southbound connections out of RVR.

 

Next year, I MIGHT be taking the train to Orlando (ORL), which would be either on the SS or the SM. I haven't looked to see what the layover times are for northbound trains, so the times might be shorter.

 

For southbound trains, one layover time I saw on the Amtrak website was over 9 hours.

The schedule for the current NFK service with it's early AM weekday departure from NFK is aimed at providing contractors and military personnel in the Norfolk area the ability to make day trips to DC. So the train departs NFK very early, the return trip departs WAS circa 4 PM. This is what VDRPT wants (and pays for). Southbound connections at RVR is not a consideration for VDRPT.

 

It won't help you next year, but the expansion of NFK service to 3 daily trains is in the Six Year Improvement Plan budget. VA is expending considerable funds to add capacity south of RVR to the CSX tracks to allow for 2 additional trains to NFK and to improve trip times for the NFK trains. The FY17 6 year out budget has the subsidy for the 2nd train added in state FY2019 which starts on July 1, 2018; the 3rd daily NFK train starting in FY22. So the 2nd daily NFK train may be added sometime in the Fall of 2018. The 2nd train might provide better southbound connection options at RVR or PTB. Or not, no word on what the schedule will be.

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LookingGlassTie,
I live over in Newport News, so I feel your pain. Long, long ago I gave up trying to connect out of Hampton Roads to head to Florida (I take the train that way about 4-5 times per year) and just got used to driving/riding to RVR.

 

The connecting times from the evening train from NPN isn't horrible, but it's still a 2:30-ish layover at a suburban station without a whole lot obviously around it. The other connection pairs are, however, somewhat toxic (Star-to-Regional is something like five hours, Meteor-to-Regional is close to the same, and Regional-to-Star is about six hours). One thing I've been trying to nudge for is a bit more thruway connectivity, such as a midday bus that would at least knock some of those waits down to <2:00. As it stands, practically speaking I often can't even take the train to Richmond for a meeting from here, something which makes me pull my hair out since it seems to be a "natural" city pair (what with service into RVM and all).

 

For good or ill I expect the second NFK train to either be a return to the 0500-ish departure NFK used to have or for NFK to "steal" the morning train out of NPN and for NPN to get one of the early-ish departures. Basically you've got NB Regional departures from RVR at 0600, 0700, 0800, 1104, and 1900. The 1900 train probably isn't moving (I wouldn't be deeply stunned if that happened but I'd happily take a $5 bet against it for now) which means you're shuffling the others around...and 0600 is a problem because that puts you coming out of NFK at about 0400 (which is a stretch even in a military town). So now you're allocating 0700, 0800, and 1104 between NPN and NFK.

 

TBH your best bet would be the third train, which if I read some of the nuances in the various plans would probably be set up to connect with another train at RVR (for the simple fact that allocating anything to the 0600 train is a problem and you've now got six brides for seven brothers, so to speak).

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The Long bridge problem rears its ugly head for any of these proposals. A possible solution would be setting up RVR as a combine / splitting station. Wonder how much track work / additional tracks would be needed to accomplish this ?

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Virginia is hamstrung by a history of hamhanded political moves; if they'd just *bought* the RF&P outright when they sold it to CSX, their position would be so much better... oh well.

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In a perfect world would the VRE extend down to Richmond, and have trains from the Tidewater stop going north and instead continue west & southwest?

 

It seems like the reason for the obscenely early departures from Tidewater is to continue the train on to NYC at a reasonable hour. Shorter, more frequent trains Tidewater <> Richmond then gives more opportunity to connect in Richmond to EVERYTHING going north & south. Extending that service to Tidewater <> Richmond <> Charlottesville <> Lynchburg <> Roanoke gives the same opportunities for better north/south connections in Richmond, as well as tying all the population centers of the state (that aren't NVOA) together. It would also create a potentially better connection in Charlottesville to the Crescent and Cardinal. I might even suggest then that the Cardinal might make more sense terminating in Richmond than NYC.

 

That's as pie-in-the-sky as any other "What if..." thread, so I'll stand by it. I have no clue if the tracks are there to do it, or the capacity, or the whatever, or the ramifications of having to be a state-supported service.

 

But the more of these threads that I read, the more I feel like the best way to grow passenger rail service is more frequency on shorter distances and more connections to make a network.

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I am guessing it is referring to southbound connections at RVR. Also, why is the NPN service in jeopardy?

 

 

 

I am guessing it is referring to southbound connections at RVR. Also, why is the NPN service in jeopardy?

 

I was wondering the same thing. I thought I had seen plans for a new station, complete with a high level platform and all. Did I dream them up? :giggle:

 

 

Let's put it this way....from a system perspective, there is a lot of negotiating forthcoming over CSX's plans for route downgrades and PTC implementation plans.

 

In a perfect world would the VRE extend down to Richmond, and have trains from the Tidewater stop going north and instead continue west & southwest?

 

It seems like the reason for the obscenely early departures from Tidewater is to continue the train on to NYC at a reasonable hour. Shorter, more frequent trains Tidewater <> Richmond then gives more opportunity to connect in Richmond to EVERYTHING going north & south. Extending that service to Tidewater <> Richmond <> Charlottesville <> Lynchburg <> Roanoke gives the same opportunities for better north/south connections in Richmond, as well as tying all the population centers of the state (that aren't NVOA) together. It would also create a potentially better connection in Charlottesville to the Crescent and Cardinal. I might even suggest then that the Cardinal might make more sense terminating in Richmond than NYC.

 

That's as pie-in-the-sky as any other "What if..." thread, so I'll stand by it. I have no clue if the tracks are there to do it, or the capacity, or the whatever, or the ramifications of having to be a state-supported service.

 

But the more of these threads that I read, the more I feel like the best way to grow passenger rail service is more frequency on shorter distances and more connections to make a network.

 

If you sever the one seat VA service rides to the corridor, you will damage the ridership and revenue on the line. If you look at the top revenue city pairs for the VA services, most of the top revenue comes from ridership that enters the NEC. This is not surprising since the longer the run, the greater the chance for more revenue. However, half of the top ten ridership city pairs are past WAS and onto the NEC.

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In a perfect world would the VRE extend down to Richmond, and have trains from the Tidewater stop going north and instead continue west & southwest?

 

It seems like the reason for the obscenely early departures from Tidewater is to continue the train on to NYC at a reasonable hour. Shorter, more frequent trains Tidewater <> Richmond then gives more opportunity to connect in Richmond to EVERYTHING going north & south. Extending that service to Tidewater <> Richmond <> Charlottesville <> Lynchburg <> Roanoke gives the same opportunities for better north/south connections in Richmond, as well as tying all the population centers of the state (that aren't NVOA) together. It would also create a potentially better connection in Charlottesville to the Crescent and Cardinal. I might even suggest then that the Cardinal might make more sense terminating in Richmond than NYC.

 

That's as pie-in-the-sky as any other "What if..." thread, so I'll stand by it. I have no clue if the tracks are there to do it, or the capacity, or the whatever, or the ramifications of having to be a state-supported service.

 

But the more of these threads that I read, the more I feel like the best way to grow passenger rail service is more frequency on shorter distances and more connections to make a network.

If you sever the one seat VA service rides to the corridor, you will damage the ridership and revenue on the line. If you look at the top revenue city pairs for the VA services, most of the top revenue comes from ridership that enters the NEC. This is not surprising since the longer the run, the greater the chance for more revenue. However, half of the top ten ridership city pairs are past WAS and onto the NEC.

 

Exactly!

 

If Virginia wanted to setup an intra-state system and fund it all by itself, more power to it. But that would be a service in addition to the lucrative NEC extension service. Indeed it would be more in the bailiwick of some Virginia specific operation funded in its entirety by Virginia whether operated under contract by Amtrak or by an intra-state agency setup specifically for that purpose.

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. . . connections out of RVR.

The schedule for the current NFK service with it's early AM weekday departure from NFK is aimed at providing contractors and military personnel in the Norfolk area the ability to make day trips to DC. So the train departs NFK very early, the return trip departs WAS circa 4 PM. This is what VDRPT wants (and pays for). Southbound connections at RVR is not a consideration for VDRPT.

 

. . . VA is expending considerable funds to add capacity south of RVR to the CSX tracks to allow for 2 additional trains to NFK and to improve trip times for the NFK trains. The FY17 6 year out budget has the subsidy for the 2nd train added in state FY2019 which starts on July 1, 2018 . . . might provide better southbound connection options at RVR or PTB. Or not . . .

Any notion of the time saving they hope to get out of Richmond-Petersburg? Every little bit helps when it helps the Palmetto, the Silver Star, the Silver Meteor, and the Carolinian. Similarly, is there any update on the Stimulus work around Quantico? That triple-tracking project could take 10 minutes out of those Amtrak trains, plus the Amtrak Virginia trains to Richmond and the Tidewater.

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All these additional services fall back on one great big problem. " Long Bridge ". Until the additional tracks are built across the Potomac capacity is constrained. It may be some help if the approaches to both sides of Long Bridge were 3 or 4 track then maybe Long bridge could take some more trains.

 

Otherwise the only apparent solutions are split / combine trains at Alexandria and Richmond until Long bridge expanded..

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Otherwise the only apparent solutions are split / combine trains at Alexandria and Richmond until Long bridge expanded..

 

Do you really think CSX, which is the company that claims there is a capacity constraint over Long Bridge, is going to allow Amtrak to stop a few miles south of the bridge with constraints....and start combining and splitting trains....on their main line tracks...in a train station without facilities?

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Let's put it this way....from a system perspective, there is a lot of negotiating forthcoming over CSX's plans for route downgrades and PTC implementation plans.

I reiterate my statement that Virgnia should have bought the RF&P when they last had the chance. Still should, really.

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Do you really think CSX, which is the company that claims there is a capacity constraint over Long Bridge, is going to allow Amtrak to stop a few miles south of the bridge with constraints....and start combining and splitting trains....on their main line tracks...in a train station without facilities?

Absolutely not:: it will require some station tracks to be constructed both ALX and RVR. VRE already does some combining at various stations and splits at ALX. The easiest way southbound will be if the FRA will allow for direct combining of trains at WASH so leader just pull off first. northbound is the problem of combining requiring a brake check

Edited by west point

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VRE already does some combining at various stations and splits at ALX.

Say what now?

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Do you really think CSX, which is the company that claims there is a capacity constraint over Long Bridge, is going to allow Amtrak to stop a few miles south of the bridge with constraints....and start combining and splitting trains....on their main line tracks...in a train station without facilities?

Absolutely not:: it will require some station tracks to be constructed both ALX and RVR. VRE already does some combining at various stations and splits at ALX. The easiest way southbound will be if the FRA will allow for direct combining of trains at WASH so leader just pull off first. northbound is the problem of combining requiring a brake check

 

 

I'm not aware of any VRE trains combining at stations and splitting at ALX. Additionally, even if you split a train, a new brake test on both trains is required. You would also have to come up with more diesels for this operation.

 

I don't see it as a reasonable alternative.

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If your splitting a train just do it in WUS. It just makes more sense as there are already switch crews, and infrastructure there. So it's not horrible.

As far as why trains are timed out of VA it's about operation constraints on the corridor itself.

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What was said on WAS is basically true. You might be able to get CSX to be slightly more cooperative if you had trains "chasing" one another out of WAS.

 

With that said, I'm not opposed to splitting a few trains at RVR: NFK-RVM and NPN-RVM are both significant, potentially viable markets but the clunky nature of the NFK-NPN bus undermines viability. I've been hoping for a rush hour-ish train cycle on the route for a while as well, largely because I know there are James City County/Williamsburg commuters, and if it takes splitting a train or two to cover both sides of the water then so be it.

 

This is especially since I do not expect that business out of NFK will rise to the sheer volume of that from NPN/WBG anytime soon...for reference, those two have generally hovered between 160-180k pax with no functional commuter market. Adding a commuter-capable round-trip between those stations (and potentially adding a stop out at Norge/Toano) would probably be worth a decent pile of passengers. The problem is that the slot in question north of WAS belongs to the Lynchburger, but if you had the "new" train come in a few minutes earlier on the timetable you could very likely guarantee a cross-platform connection.

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Adding a commuter-capable round-trip between those stations (and potentially adding a stop out at Norge/Toano) would probably be worth a decent pile of passengers. The problem is that the slot in question north of WAS belongs to the Lynchburger, but if you had the "new" train come in a few minutes earlier on the timetable you could very likely guarantee a cross-platform connection.

 

I think that's what drives my thinking: while a single-seat trip north of Richmond is preferable, I think given the choice between one single-seat trip per day, and multiple trips with a connection in Richmond, I'd take the later. This leverages the already existing and slotted traffic from DC to Richmond (which I think is six more trains northbound). The idea of being able to find a commuter market within Norfolk <> Williamsburg <> Richmond <> points west is interesting.

 

But, as I said before, it's all probably pie in the sky. Sadly.

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The only reason for the combination / splits south of WASH proposal is the Long bridge restrictions and inability to negotiate more passenger trains over the bridge. Once Long bridge is 4 tracked and the route from WASH <> south of Alexandria is also 4 track then each train would not need that very complicated expensive maneuver.

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In a perfect world would the VRE extend down to Richmond, and have trains from the Tidewater stop going north and instead continue west & southwest?

 

It seems like the reason for the obscenely early departures from Tidewater is to continue the train on to NYC at a reasonable hour. Shorter, more frequent trains Tidewater <> Richmond then gives more opportunity to connect in Richmond to EVERYTHING going north & south. Extending that service to Tidewater <> Richmond <> Charlottesville <> Lynchburg <> Roanoke gives the same opportunities for better north/south connections in Richmond, as well as tying all the population centers of the state (that aren't NVOA) together. It would also create a potentially better connection in Charlottesville to the Crescent and Cardinal. I might even suggest then that the Cardinal might make more sense terminating in Richmond than NYC.

 

That's as pie-in-the-sky as any other "What if..." thread, so I'll stand by it. I have no clue if the tracks are there to do it, or the capacity, or the whatever, or the ramifications of having to be a state-supported service.

 

But the more of these threads that I read, the more I feel like the best way to grow passenger rail service is more frequency on shorter distances and more connections to make a network.

If you're thinking pie-in-the-sky how about a tunnel south of Newport News following I-664 then connecting to the NS main to Norfolk. Then you can get more trains via Williamsburg.

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