ROANOKE, Va. (WSET) — Amtrak and the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA) are celebrating a milestone for their Roanoke service.
On October 31, 2017, passenger rail service returned to Roanoke for the first time since 1979.
Over the past five years, more than 879,000 passengers have traveled the corridor between Roanoke and Washington, DC, and points beyond.
On Monday, the VPRA and Amtrak marked their 5th Anniversary by celebrating the service’s ridership growth.
“The success of our Roanoke state-supported service is a great example of how local communities can work with the Commonwealth and our rail partners to provide rail service that Virginians want and need,” said DJ Stadtler, Executive Director of VPRA. “Our mission is to expand passenger rail service throughout the Commonwealth and that begins with strong partnerships like what we have with Roanoke.”
“Amtrak is proud of our expanding partnership with VPRA because of the continuing, growing demand for train travel,” said Ray Lang, Vice President of State Supported Services at Amtrak. “Roanoke service is an example of the commitment Virginia has in providing residents more transportation options than driving and flying, taking vehicles off the road, and improving our lives and carbon footprint.”
The popularity of the Roanoke service was immediate with strong ridership numbers from the start, and 2019 saw a record ridership of 220,000 on the corridor.
That number led the Commonwealth to negotiate an agreement with Norfolk Southern to add a second roundtrip between Roanoke and Washington, DC. The record-setting ridership continued into the spring of 2022 leading up to the launch of the second roundtrip this past July.
“Norfolk Southern joins the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority and Amtrak in celebrating the expansion of passenger rail options to and from the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Mike McClellan, Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer for Norfolk Southern. “The Roanoke, Norfolk, and Christiansburg services demonstrate how thoughtful collaboration and deliberate investment can lead to a reliable and sustainable passenger service, even as that service enhances the State’s economic base. Virginia’s efforts demonstrate that a strong partnership between the State and freight rail carriers can result in a win-win for everyone.”
‘I am so excited to be celebrating the fifth anniversary of Amtrak’s return to the City of Roanoke,” said Sherman P. Lea, Sr., Mayor of Roanoke. “It is important to be able to offer this convenient and affordable travel option to our community and surrounding areas, as well as make our region more accessible to visitors. This year we have seen increased ridership and the addition of a second Roanoke roundtrip service and look forward to more opportunities for passenger rail in our city in the years to come.”
“I am pleased to celebrate the 5th anniversary of Amtrak service in Roanoke,” said Virginia State Senator John S. Edwards (D-21). "The new second train from Roanoke, just inaugurated this summer, has already increased ridership 65% above 2019 levels, and the planned extension to the New River Valley in a few short years will be even more beneficial. Years of persistence, working with officials across multiple administrations, is paying off. I am proud of what we have accomplished in Roanoke and I look forward to working with the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority, the Department of Rail and Public Transportation, and the New River Valley Passenger Rail Station Authority to expand service in our region.”
"Amtrak gives Virginians the opportunity to connect with other communities in the Commonwealth and throughout the country by a safe and affordable mode of transportation," said Jennifer DeBruhl, Director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and Chairperson of the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority Board. "Intercity passenger rail service supports the development of state and local economies and makes cities like Roanoke a more vibrant place to live."
Ridership along the Roanoke corridor continues to grow.
In September, the corridor carried 28,357 passengers, an increase of 117.7% over September of 2021 and an increase of 64.9% over pre-pandemic September 2019.
Rail service returned to Roanoke in October of 2017 when Amtrak’s Northeast Regional service was extended from Lynchburg. The popularity of the Roanoke service can be seen in the growth in ridership year-over-year since the state-supported service launched. The total for federal fiscal year 2022 also includes the second roundtrip which began in July 2022.
The second roundtrip was made possible through the Western Rail Agreement, signed by VPRA and Norfolk Southern earlier this year. With two roundtrips, Virginians now have more options when traveling between the Star City and the nation’s capital. The service makes stops in Lynchburg, Charlottesville, Culpeper, Manassas, Burke Centre (one roundtrip daily), and Alexandria and offers a one-seat ride from Roanoke to points north of Washington, DC including Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. The convenient train times also make a day trip from Roanoke to Washington possible.
To purchase tickets, please visit Amtrak.com, Amtrak mobile apps, or call 800-USA-Rail.