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Discussions for New Rail Agreement Would Extend Passenger Service to NRV

The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA) has announced that it is in preliminary discussions with Norfolk Southern Corporation to pursue an option to extend passenger rail service to the New River Valley (NRV) on the Norfolk Southern main line (N-Line) as well as to purchase the Manassas Line which will add more service to the Northeast.

While negotiations are in the early stages, VPRA and Norfolk Southern have established a mutually beneficial framework for both passenger and freight rail service.

After receiving more information regarding the cost and timeframe for delivering service along the Virginian Line — per a 2022 agreement with Norfolk Southern — VPRA revisited negotiations with Norfolk Southern to find a more cost-effective and timelier alternative on the N-Line.

Extending service to the NRV via the N-Line would allow VPRA to offer passenger rail service to Norfolk Southern’s Cambria Yard in Christiansburg, which served rail passengers from 1904 to 1979. It could potentially reduce the cost and accelerate VPRA’s plans to expand passenger rail service to the area. Following recent public outreach in the NRV that included surveys and public meetings, it became clear that service on the N-Line was also the preferred option for constituents there.

Recognizing the importance of determining the feasibility of the N-Line option, VPRA is advancing discussions with Norfolk Southern. Those discussions are ongoing and together with Norfolk Southern, VPRA will work expeditiously over the summer to complete the necessary evaluation of the N-Line option and Cambria Yard site. The results of that evaluation and a recommended path forward will be presented to the VPRA Board at their August meeting.

“We saw the numbers, the timeline, and listened to our stakeholders, and it became clear that if using the N-Line was a possibility, we had to pursue that,” said DJ Stadtler, Executive Director of VPRA. “Norfolk Southern has been a great partner to VPRA as we’ve worked to reach more Virginians by rail, and we appreciate their efforts in aiding us in this endeavor.”

The purchase of the Manassas Line would be beneficial to Virginians who use VRE’s Manassas Line service as it would allow for additional frequencies including evening and weekend service. Currently, VRE offers eight roundtrips on the Manassas Line with stops at Broad Run, Manassas, Manassas Park, Burke Centre, Rolling Road, Backlick Road, Alexandria, Crystal City, L’Enfant, and Washington Union Station. Purchasing the Manassas Line would give VPRA the flexibility to work with VRE to expand service beyond the current traditional commuting option with northbound trains operating in the morning hours and southbound trains in the afternoon.

“VPRA exists to promote, sustain, and expand the availability of passenger and commuter rail in the Commonwealth, and with these negotiations, we are working towards that mission,” said Jennifer DeBruhl, Director of the Virginia Department of Rail & Public Transportation (DRPT) and VPRA’s Board Chair.

“We value our relationship with VPRA and appreciate the role the authority plays in advancing passenger rail in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Norfolk Southern Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer Mike McClellan. “We look forward to continuing to partner on projects like this that stand to serve the interests of our communities while also balancing the needs of our freight customers and the economy we support.”

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