• Amtrak NEC Virginia Regional Service

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

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  by gokeefe
 
ryanch wrote: Sat Dec 21, 2019 6:52 pmIs there any change of that in middle term? Or is that prohibitively expensive until you've got dozens of trains that would use it?

On the NEC, what trains use the catenary? Regionals do not, correct? Are some of the commuter trains electric? Or do all NEC trains use electric, but those trains that leave the NEC have to swap out locomotives?
Most passenger trains on the NEC operated with electric motive power, especially for Amtrak which changes power on everything northbound into WAS. Regionals most certainly do use electric power (ACS-64). Most of the commuter trains are electric, obviously VRE is not along with some MARC Penn Line trains (and obviously all MARC trains on the Camden and Brunswick Lines).

There are no freight trains using electric engines.
  by mtuandrew
 
gokeefe wrote: Sat Dec 21, 2019 7:08 pm
ryanch wrote: Sat Dec 21, 2019 6:52 pmFor me to consider the new trackage part of the NEC, it would have to be electrified.
Understood but the New Haven to Boston segment was always considered part of the NEC from "Day 1" even prior to electrification.

That project went in service a mere 20 years ago next month (January 31, 2000 being the anniversary).
I think Washington-Atlanta and Washington-Florida is considered the Southeast Corridor for USDOT planning purposes. As it should be, in my opinion.

I’m still excited about this, progressively more by the day. Guess I need to take a joy ride to Richmond when I have my next day off!
  by BM6569
 
Is the S line Savannah-Jacksonville railbanked or at least intact?
  by mtuandrew
 
BM6569 wrote: Sun Dec 22, 2019 10:22 am Is the S line Savannah-Jacksonville railbanked or at least intact?
Formally abandoned but intact in part, in shortline service in part. Might be some bridges missing. I don’t expect either Florida or Georgia to invest in it for public use, but there’s opportunity for an investor like FEC or Brightline.
  by ryanch
 
I didn't realize Boston-New Haven was only 19 years old. The complexity of these systems is fascinating and confounding.

This makes me more intrigued at the thought catenary could stretch further south.

My comment on Richmond being part of the NEC was more of a pointed joke. Obviously few in Richmond think of themselves as Northeasterners.

But there is a difference in kind between service north of Richmond, through Boston; and the service south of Richmond, that makes a mockery of "Southeast Corridor" at present, but does indeed put Richmond on an existing and expanding corridor.

I think the suggestion of "Atlantic Corridor" makes best sense of the current reality. Amtrak might do well to start branding it thus, as a way of calling attention to the widening area in which they are the best way to move between cities. At any rate, someone should be thinking about this. NEC tells voters in the Carolinas and Georgias it's a weird thing people from Massatusits use. Atlantic Corridor tells travelers where they can, and may make more Southeasterns recognize the value in joining up.

I, too, am excited about this, MTUAndrew, and am starting to think that Raleigh and Charlotte may soon be brought into play (not for catenary, but for a full, corridor-like schedule.)
  by njtmnrrbuff
 
Eventually there will be five Carolinians running from Charlotte to NYP and back. One pair will continue to run by way of SSM, WLN, and RMT while the other four pair will operate on the S-Line. In the shorter term, look for a few more Piedmont runs between Charlotte and Raleigh. I agree that the branding NE Regional should change after more Amtrak trains continue south of DC. Atlantic Corridor sounds like an idea.
  by gokeefe
 
ryanch wrote: Sun Dec 22, 2019 1:54 pm I didn't realize Boston-New Haven was only 19 years old. The complexity of these systems is fascinating and confounding.
Agreed. The Northeast Corridor is easily the single most complex railroad operating environment anywhere in the world. Even the electrified portions aren't uniform. There's 3rd rail territory, different frequency AC systems, different voltages and a half dozen different equipment pools.

Now it will have non-electrified territory again and even segments of abandoned (railbanked) trackless Right of Way that will be slowly upgraded to HSR standards.
ryanch wrote: Sun Dec 22, 2019 1:54 pmThis makes me more intrigued at the thought catenary could stretch further south.
Yes, I think it's very likely. With the SEHSR EIS already underway in many respects I think we will see a proposal for wires to Richmond in the coming years.
ryanch wrote: Sun Dec 22, 2019 1:54 pmMy comment on Richmond being part of the NEC was more of a pointed joke. Obviously few in Richmond think of themselves as Northeasterners.
They probably don't however the trains running in Virginia are still branded as Northeast Regional.
  by Arlington
 
The Washington DC Exurbs --any place in VRE territory (as far south as Fredericksburg) --definitely consider themselves part of Greater Washington and therefore part of the Northeast Corridor.

And Richmond would be happy to be the southwest anchor of the Northeast Corridor, particularly if they could join the electric club.

Part of what drives demand at CVS and RVR is the number and depth of connections with the cities of the NEC.
  by njtmnrrbuff
 
Metropolitan areas, in general, are expanding. As home prices continue to climb in the city as well as suburbs within a 10-15 mile radius from the core of the city, that is causing more and more people to move further out to the exurbs, still making that part of a metropolitan area. More and more people are moving toward Fredericksburg to save money but still be within a reasonable distance from the District. I'm sure that Amtrak trains heading from Fredericksburg northward pick up several DC bound commuters.The current Amtrak schedule from Fredericksburg to DC should cater better people who work in the District. Train # 86 is good if you work a 9:00 to 5:00 job. Train # 93 is best for you if you are leaving your job in DC at 5:00. Of course, that is a very long wait for a train. If you work 8:00 to 4:00 in DC and live near Fredericksburg, than you are better off taking VRE. The same holds true when heading back to Fredericksburg if you work in the District until 4:00. Many of those trains stop at L'Enfant Plaza to accommodate those workers who are employed in the many office buildings in Southwest DC. I believe that people who use VRE monthly passes can also use them on Amtrak trains heading between the same station pairs that they travel to on VRE. Hopefully once the new Amtrak trains start running south of DC, they will help out commuters heading to their jobs in Northern VA and the District.
  by MattW
 
So is the new service going to be on entirely separated tracks then? For both directions? Unless they're ready to build a new double-track railroad, that seems very short-sighted and inefficient.
  by Bob Roberts
 
MattW wrote: Mon Dec 23, 2019 8:56 am So is the new service going to be on entirely separated tracks then? For both directions? Unless they're ready to build a new double-track railroad, that seems very short-sighted and inefficient.
Can’t find were I read it (perhaps discussions about electrification) but I believe that freight will mostly be confined to the existing double tracks but there will be crossovers in place to make all the tracks sharable when necessary.
  by Arlington
 
I would say that the long term plan is that VA builds it 2 track DC2RVA HSA on its side of the ROW, eventually fully separate so they can do 110mph, while CSX has 2 freight tracks free of passenger obligations. .in the interim they're sharing the tracks.
  by orulz
 
MattW wrote: Mon Dec 23, 2019 8:56 am So is the new service going to be on entirely separated tracks then? For both directions? Unless they're ready to build a new double-track railroad, that seems very short-sighted and inefficient.
The articles written about this seem to say that four tracks from DC to Richmond is eventually in the plans.

This is good, but we should also bear in mind that the RF&P is a very old route - and has quite a lot of constraints that will make turning it into a world-class railroad pretty difficult. Much of the route is quite curvy meaning that even with electrification, it would still be slow.

The current plan calls for only minor realignments, mostly within the existing right-of-way. This makes sense as an endgame north of Quantico, where the right-of-way is pretty much hemmed in by the river, by development, or both - making anything more than minor curve changes difficult.

South of Quantico, however, things change. Much of the route goes across the countryside, where there would be few things (other than trees) to stand in the way of building a true high speed alignment. When there is enough service planned to merit four tracks all the way to Richmond, I hope that a full electrified HSR route, with top speeds north of 200 and no curves slower than 150, might be on the agenda as a part of that. This would involve quite a bit of greenfield construction, including high speed bypasses of Fredericksburg and Ashland. Going passenger-only would allow for steeper grades, up to 3 or 4%, instead of the typical 1% max allowed for freight, so that might make it easier to find a route without quite so much earth moving. Regardless, it would cost a pretty penny - but worth it, given how many routes funnel into the NEC through Richmond. Hey, it might even make sense as a demonstration next gen HSR project for Amtrak.
  by Ridgefielder
 
orulz wrote: Mon Dec 23, 2019 1:28 pm The current plan calls for only minor realignments, mostly within the existing right-of-way. This makes sense as an endgame north of Quantico, where the right-of-way is pretty much hemmed in by the river, by development, or both - making anything more than minor curve changes difficult.

South of Quantico, however, things change. Much of the route goes across the countryside, where there would be few things (other than trees) to stand in the way of building a true high speed alignment. When there is enough service planned to merit four tracks all the way to Richmond, I hope that a full electrified HSR route, with top speeds north of 200 and no curves slower than 150, might be on the agenda as a part of that. This would involve quite a bit of greenfield construction, including high speed bypasses of Fredericksburg and Ashland. Going passenger-only would allow for steeper grades, up to 3 or 4%, instead of the typical 1% max allowed for freight, so that might make it easier to find a route without quite so much earth moving. Regardless, it would cost a pretty penny - but worth it, given how many routes funnel into the NEC through Richmond. Hey, it might even make sense as a demonstration next gen HSR project for Amtrak.
Is the RF&P really that much curvier than, say, the ex-New Haven through Connecticut? Doesn't seem like that to me.

Also-- it's only ~100 miles from DC to Richmond, and ~70 miles from Quantico to Richmond. If they bring the RF&P up to the same Class VI standard as the rest the NEC-- 110mph max-- DC to Richmond is theoretically 55mins. At 200mph it's 30mins. You're talking tens of billions of dollars to hypothetically save 25mins, maximum. Not worth it.

The thing to bear in mind with all train service is that it's not the maximum speed you should focus on, it's the average speed. Eliminating bottlenecks-- capacity-constrained tunnels and bridges, stations without bypass tracks for through service, that sort of thing-- will do more to enhance service than building a few miles of super railroad.
  by orulz
 
The RF&P seems pretty comparable to the NEC through Connecticut, indeed. And that part of the NEC is curvy, even by the standards of conventional rail - to the point that I would call Amtrak's claim that it is a "high speed" line far-fetched and dubious.

Eliminating the slowest curves is another important part of bringing up average speeds. There are a series of very sharp curves through Fredericksburg, for example, which makes sense because it's a colonial-era city that predates the railroad. Regional trains stopping in Fredericksburg should of course travel this route, but if we're thinking about the larger context of linking the Southeast Corridor to the Northeast Corridor, a full bypass of Fredericksburg makes sense.

There are also, somewhat inexplicably, a series of sharp curves in the vicinity of the "bustling" metropolis of Colemans' Mill Crossing, with no obvious reason for existence whatsoever. Perhaps it required moving the least earth (which would have doubtless been done by slaves, given that it was built in the 1830s, before the civil war and long before mechanization.)

But the difference is, Connecticut is wall to wall with wealthy, leafy, suburban sprawl that likes to pretend it's rural, and is mostly occupied by, well... NIMBYs. Even the slightest suggestion of a proposed realignment would be akin to kicking a hornet's nest.

In contrast, the corridor from DC to Richmond, especially south of Fredericksburg, isn't that at all - not yet at least. If Virginia wants to have a real high speed rail line in their state at any time in the future, and all indications are that they probably do, it's best to start planning for it *today* - before Spotsylvania County has a chance to turn into a nest of NIMBYs like Greenwich, CT.

To say that a few high-speed bypasses of the slow segments of the RF&P south of Quantico would cost "tens of billions of dollars" is a stretch. Cutting a 200mph route through Alexandria and Arlington? Yeah, probably not worth it - but through rural Virginia, why not? 200mph would only save 25 minutes if Richmond were the end of the line, but extend that down to Atlanta and it saves 3 hours.
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