An ACS-64 locomotive leads a Northeast Regional through Maryland in 2014
|Service type||Higher-speed rail|
|Locale||Northeastern United States, Mid-Atlantic United States|
|Start||Boston or Springfield, Massachusetts|
|Stops||35 between Boston and Newport News, 7 on Springfield branch|
|End||Norfolk, Richmond, Newport News, or Lynchburg, Virginia|
|Distance travelled||664 mi (1,069 km)|
|Average journey time||12 hours 30 minutes|
|Service frequency||18 trains per day|
|Seating arrangements||Airline-style coach seating|
|Catering facilities||On-board café|
|Baggage facilities||Checked baggage available at selected stations|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
|Operating speed||max: 125 mph (201 km/h)|
The Northeast Regional is a higher-speed rail service operated by Amtrak in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic United States. In the past it has been known as the NortheastDirect, Acela Regional, or Regional. It is the busiest Amtrak route, carrying 8.04 million passengers in fiscal year (FY) 2013, a 0.4% increase over the 8.01 million passengers in FY2012. The Northeast Regional service earned over $568.7 million in gross ticket revenue in FY2013, a 6.2% increase over the $536 million earned during FY2012.
There is daily all-reserved service about every hour during the day. Trains generally run between Boston, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C. with more between New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington. Extensions and branches extend to Springfield, Massachusetts and Richmond, Newport News, Norfolk, and Lynchburg, Virginia.
Travel times are about 4.5 hours between Norfolk or Newport News and Washington, two hours between Washington and Philadelphia, 1.5 hours between Philadelphia and New York, 3.5 hours between New York and Springfield, and four hours between New York and Boston.
Trains usually have 7 to 10 cars with one or two locomotives pulling, although consists may be as long as 14 cars during peak travel periods.
Today the passenger cars are the rebuilt Amfleet I series passenger cars built by the Budd Company in the mid to late 1970s. Prior to March 2008, when Amtrak changed its format for the new Northeast Regional service, the first car was Business Class (formerly the last car), and the second car was the operational Café Car (formerly the second-to-last car). Today all regional trains have the cafe in the middle of the train, but the business-class car is still on the front. If a second Café Car is present, it is only used for passenger seating. Some trains offer a limited number business-class seating at the front of the Café Car, instead of having a dedicated Business Class car. The Coach Class car adjacent to business class usually is designated the quiet car, where passengers are asked to refrain from loud talking and mobile phone conversations. On rare occasions, an ex-Metroliner cab car used for the Keystone Service and the New Haven–Springfield Shuttle will be included at the front (after the locomotive) or end of the train. This is usually a deadheaded car, and a locomotive leads all Amtrak trains on the Northeast Corridor except the Keystone.
Between Boston and Washington the service has overhead electric wires and largely travels over Amtrak-owned tracks. This segment reaches speeds of 125 mph (201 km/h) with electric locomotives, including the AEM-7 class, built 1978–1987 for the now retired Metroliner service with 5800 horsepower (4.3 MW), the rebuilt AEM-7AC with 7000 horsepower (5.2 MW), the Bombardier/Alstom HHP-8 built 1999–2002 with 8000 horsepower (6 MW), and the ACS-64 built 2012-2015 with 8600 horsepower (6.4 MW), the last of which is set to replace the previous three. The HHP-8 locomotives are not as commonly used on NE Regional trains, since they are standard power for the long-distance trains that use the Northeast Corridor (the Cardinal, the Carolinian, the Crescent, the Palmetto, the Silver Meteor and the Silver Star).
Northeast Regional trains in Virginia and along the route between Springfield, MA and New Haven, CT, use GE P42DC diesel locomotives and have generally lower peak train speeds. Because the Virginia segments are using freight railroad tracks, these trains are more likely to suffer delays due to congested tracks.
The services along the line, as inherited from Penn Central, once had their own names, such as the "Yankee Clipper" and the "Federal"; typically a name applied to at most one train and its "twin" in the opposite direction. Electrification ended at New Haven, Connecticut, requiring an engine change. On October 28, 1995 Amtrak introduced the "NortheastDirect" brand for all trains on the Northeast Corridor (and its extension to Newport News, Virginia) except for the express Metroliner and hourly Clocker services. The November 10, 1996 timetable restored the old names in addition to the NortheastDirect brand. The names (except the Twilight Shoreliner) were dropped with the May 16, 1999 schedule. In 2000 Amtrak completed electrifying the route from New Haven to Boston in preparation for the introduction of the Acela Express, eliminating the engine change at New Haven. The first two all-electric round-trips to and from Boston were branded Acela Regional and equipped with refurbished Amfleet cars painted in the Acela-like "Capstone" livery. All-electric service began on January 31, 2000.
Due to customer confusion with the Acela Express, the name was changed again on March 17, 2003 to "Regional". On April 7, 2008, with the release of their new timetable, the name was changed again to "Northeast Regional" and as a result, Amtrak has started adding the new Northeast Regional logo to their cafe cars. However, as of 2010[update], some Amfleet cars still have the "NortheastDirect" branding in the side.
Although Virginia is not strictly part of the Northeast Corridor, some Northeast Regional trains continue into Virginia, serving Richmond, Norfolk, Newport News, Lynchburg and points in between. These tracks are not electrified and are owned by freight railroads. Trains travel the short distance between Richmond's suburban Staples Mill station and its downtown Main Street station very slowly because of the reliance on freight railway track rights through a CSX rail yard. The Commonwealth of Virginia and Amtrak partnered in 2009 under the brand "Amtrak Virginia" to expand passenger rail service within the Commonwealth.
Northeast Regional service south to Alexandria, Richmond, Williamsburg, and Newport News formally began on June 14, 1976, when Amtrak ended the Newport News 'section' of the James Whitcomb Riley. This extension travels over CSX tracks from Washington, D.C. south to Newport News, VA. The long-standing service to Newport News, which operates 2 trains per day in each direction, has not been subject to either a subsidy or performance guarantee by the Department of Rail & Public Transportation (DRPT), Commonwealth of Virginia.
In October 2009 Amtrak extended the Northeast Regional with daily service from Alexandria, VA, via Burke, Manassas, Culpeper, and Charlottesville, to Lynchburg with support from the Department of Rail & Public Transportation, Commonwealth of Virginia. This extension has traveled over CSX tracks between Washington, D.C. and Alexandria, VA, and traveled over Norfolk Southern tracks between Alexandria and Lynchburg. In the first month, ridership doubled expectations. DRPT provided a performance guarantee for this route.
A further extension south from Richmond to Norfolk along Norfolk Southern tracks was planned by the Department of Rail & Public Transportation (DRPT), and the Commonwealth of Virginia in cooperation with Amtrak. Certain track upgrades (e.g. passing sidings, replacing track to increase operating speeds) between Richmond and Norfolk that were necessary to enable this extension were funded jointly by Norfolk Southern and DRPT. Service started on December 12, 2012.
Classes of service
- Coach class: Coach class cars have 2x2 seating with reading lamps, fold-out tray tables, and an electrical (120 V, 60 Hz AC) outlet at each seat. Reservations are required.
- Business Class: This is either a full business class car with 2x2 seats, reading lamps, fold-out tray tables, and at least 1 (120 V, 60 Hz) electrical outlet per seat, or this is a portion of the Cafe car with 1x2 reclining leather seats, with leg rests, reading lamps, fold-out-tray tables, and at least 1 (120 V, 60 Hz) electrical outlet per seat. Business Class passengers receive complimentary soft drinks. The Business Class car is normally supplied with a daily newspaper, often The New York Times, at its origin station. Regardless of car type, Business class has more legroom than coach, seats which recline further than those in coach, footrests, and window curtains.
Effective April 25, 2005 Amtrak abolished the previously common unreserved trains. Now, any ticketed passenger is guaranteed a seat on his/her train. "Reservations" may be made at any time after eleven months prior to the train's departure, easing the frequent practice of arriving at the station and purchasing a ticket for the next train. Now reservations are made online at amtrak.com or at 1-800-USA-RAIL. Tickets may also be purchased at the station closer to departure if the station is equipped with a ticket window. Quick Trak machines are available for self-ticket service in place of a ticket window.
Most Northeast Regional trains operate over the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington (via New York). The Corridor is owned, in part, by Amtrak, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and Metro-North Railroad (MNRR):
- MBTA Providence/Stoughton Line, Boston to Massachusetts/Rhode Island state line (dispatched and maintained by Amtrak)
- Amtrak Northeast Corridor, state line to New Haven
- MNRR New Haven Line, New Haven to New Rochelle
- Amtrak Northeast Corridor, New Rochelle to Washington
Trains which turn north at New Haven to serve Springfield, Massachusetts, operate over the New Haven-Springfield Line, wholly owned by Amtrak. Both Virginia extensions of the Northeast Regional (Newport News and Lynchburg) use the ex-Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad, now CSX, between Washington and Alexandria, Virginia. From Alexandria the Lynchburg trains use the Norfolk Southern (ex-Southern Railway, ex-Virginia Midland Railway), while Newport News trains use the following CSX tracks:
There has been frequent service between Washington-New York and Washington-Boston through the day. There has been some service to Springfield, Massachusetts, either through to Washington or via a connection at New Haven, Connecticut. Trains between Springfield and New Haven run on Amtrak track but require a diesel locomotive there. Some trains travel as far south as Richmond, Norfolk, Newport News or Lynchburg, Virginia.
Until around 1999 some service to Springfield continued east to Boston, for an alternate Inland Route between New York and Boston. One weekend train stayed on this route until the November 1, 2004 schedule.
One train, the Federal (Twilight Shoreliner until 2004), formerly carried an overnight sleeper between Washington and Boston, giving the corridor 24-hour service; the Federal name (briefly resurrected in 2004) is no longer used as an indication of the absence of sleeper service, but a Northeast Regional runs in its place.
- "Amtrak Sets Ridership Record And Moves The Nation's Economy Forward - America’s Railroad helps communities grow and prosper" (PDF) (Press release). Amtrak. October 14, 2013. Retrieved 2014-09-03.
- "Timetables (see Northeast Corridor 1-3)". Amtrak. Retrieved 2014-09-05.
- "Amtrak Sets New Ridership Record" (PDF) (Press release). Amtrak. October 10, 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-04.
- "RARE MUST SEE!! Late 137 with Amtrak Cabcar!".
- Mitchell, Matthew (October 27, 1995). Free rides, misc.transport.urban-transit.
- "Scanner". Trains. February 1997.
- "A step back in the Northeast". Trains: 17. August 1999.
- Palmer, Thomas C., Jr. (February 1, 2000). "Amtrak Unveils All-Electric Train Boston-N.Y. Trip Takes 4 Hours on Acela Regional". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2013-01-02. (subscription required (. ))
- "Rail Travel News", News Posting, March 23, 2003.
- "Timetable with new service name" (pdf). Amtrak. April 2008.[dead link]
- "Cafe car with Northeast Regional logo".
- "Department of Rail & Public Transportation". DRPT.virginia.gov.
- Reed, Ray (December 16, 2009). "Amtrak's Lynchburg-Washington line beats projections". The News & Advance. Retrieved 2009-12-17.
- "HR Rail", Rich2HRRail.info.
- "Governor McDonnell Announces Amtrak Virginia to Norfolk to Start December 12, 2012" (Press release). Amtrak Virginia. August 30, 2012. Retrieved 2014-09-05.
- "Officials hope to have passenger rail in Roanoke by 2016, Gov. McDonnell and Norfolk Southern announce". WDBJ. December 24, 2013. Retrieved 2014-09-05.