More than 200 business leaders, elected officials, and other invited guests ventured aboard Norfolk Southern’s restored vintage railcars on October 21 for a special passenger train trip presented by the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. The event provided the group with a preview of passenger rail service that is expected to launch in less than three years taking people on Amtrak from Norfolk to Richmond, Washington, D.C. and up the East Coast.
Guests boarded the train at Harbor Park and enjoyed a nearly four-hour 154-mile roundtrip from Norfolk to Petersburg, parallel to U.S. 460. The train traveled paralleled U.S. 460 and averaged 55mph. In the future, passenger trains are expected to reach speeds of 79mph. It had been more than 30 years since the public had boarded a passenger train and traveled this route.
Marino Santarelli, Wachovia's Southside Hampton Roads market executive, said, “Spending a good part of my career in the North, I have experienced the incredible advantage of taking the ACELA between NYC, Philly, Wilmington, Baltimore, and Union Station in DC. The calm, socializing, and timeliness that were experienced on the road to Petersburg were just a ‘tease’ of what's to come. I wait in great anticipation.”
Virginia’s Transportation Board has set aside $93 million to make the necessary improvements, including upgrading some sections of the track and enhancing the signal system. Currently, Norfolk Southern operates 15-18 freight trains a day on the lines. Those who want to take a passenger train to D.C., currently have to travel to Newport News. The new service would operate out of a transportation center at Norfolk’s Harbor Park.
During the trip, Norfolk Southern employees made presentations on passenger rail operations and safety, and the Heartland Corridor project. After lunch and the turn-around in Petersburg, guests moved about the train, took photos, and networked.
Another passenger Wade Powell, President of Dale Carnegie Training, said, “I appreciated this opportunity thanks to Norfolk Southern and the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. It was a very relaxing trip that we enjoyed without being concerned about traffic tie ups and other problems on the roads. We love the idea of being able to take a one day trip, by train, from Norfolk to Richmond or Washington, D.C. in the near future.”
Jack Hornbeck, President & CEO, Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, said, “We extend our appreciation and thanks to Norfolk Southern Corporation for making this trip possible. It was a wonderful opportunity for our members and has generated enthusiasm for passenger rail in Hampton Roads. The feedback from our guests has been extremely positive, some calling it a ‘once in a lifetime experience.’”
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