ACS-64 locomotive #600 leads a Northeast Regional through Maryland in 2014
|Service type||Regional rail / intercity rail|
Higher-speed rail (only certain portions of route)
|Locale||Northeastern United States, Mid-Atlantic United States|
|First service||2008 (renamed from Regional)|
|Start||Boston, Springfield, Massachusetts, or New York City|
|End||Norfolk, Richmond, Newport News, Roanoke, Virginia, or Washington, D.C.|
|Service frequency||50+ trains per day|
|Class(es)||Coach and Business|
|Seating arrangements||Airline-style coach seating|
|Catering facilities||On-board café|
|Baggage facilities||Checked baggage available at selected stations|
|Rolling stock||Amfleet I coaches|
Siemens ACS-64 locomotives
GE Genesis locomotives
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Operating speed||Up to 125 mph (201 km/h)|
The Northeast Regional is a regional 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 8.41 million passengers in fiscal year (FY) 2016, a 2.4% increase over the 8.15 million passengers in FY2015. The Northeast Regional service earned over $613.9 million in gross ticket revenue in FY2016, a 0.4% increase over the $611.7 million earned during FY2015.
There is daily all-reserved service about every hour during the day. Trains generally run between Boston, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C., with some trains running only between New York City and Washington. Extensions and branches extend to Springfield, Massachusetts, and Richmond, Newport News, Norfolk and Roanoke, Virginia.
Travel times are about 4.5 hours between Norfolk or Newport News and Washington, 5 hours between Roanoke and Washington, under 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. Travel times between Washington and New York are typically slightly faster than the equivalent travel time by car.
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The passenger cars are the rebuilt Amfleet I series passenger cars built by the Budd Company in the mid to late 1970s. Since May 2008, Northeast Regional trains have the Café Car in the middle of the train. The Coach Class car adjacent to business class is designated the quiet car, where passengers are asked to refrain from loud talking and mobile phone conversations. If a second Café Car is present, it is only used for passenger seating. The overnight Northeast Regional trains 65, 66, and 67 have a different configuration from the other Northeast Regional trains. These trains offer a limited number of business-class seats at the front of the Café Car, instead of having a dedicated Business Class car. The overnight trains have a baggage car used for baggage service.
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 Siemens ACS-64 electric locomotives built from 2012–2015. The ACS-64 locomotives replaced the AEM-7 locomotives in June 2016 and the HHP-8s in November 2014.
Northeast Regional trains operating on the lines in Virginia, the New Haven–Springfield Line, and overnight trains 65, 66, and 67 use GE P42DC diesel locomotives and have lower top speeds of 110mph. Because the Virginian segments use 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, thereby 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. The NortheastDirect branding continued to be used for trains which changed from electric to diesel traction in New Haven.
Due to customer confusion with the Acela Express, the name was changed again on March 17, 2003, to "Regional" As part of rebranding and service improvements, the name was changed to "Northeast Regional" on June 23, 2008 (though it also appeared on schedules several months beforehand.)
On May 12, 2015, Northeast Regional Train 188, traveling from Washington, D.C., to New York City, derailed in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring more than 200 people. The train derailed along a curve and was determined to have been traveling at a speed of about 100 mph, exceeding the limit of 50 mph on that curve. This speed limit was not posted; engineers on that route are expected to rely on memory to control the speed of the train. Additionally, the train was suspected to have been hit by a projectile, as was a commuter train in the area shortly before the derailment.
Some Northeast Regional trains continue into Virginia, serving Richmond, Norfolk, Newport News, Roanoke, and points in between. These tracks are not electrified and are owned by freight railroads; some segments including tracks through Acca Yard in Richmond have severe speed restrictions.
After Amtrak took over intercity passenger service on May 1, 1971, rail service in Virginia was limited to a small number of long-distance trains, where they were often not suited to regional travel. Regional service south to Newport News via Alexandria, Richmond, and Williamsburg began on June 14, 1976, when Amtrak ended the Newport News section of the James Whitcomb Riley and the Colonial was added in its place. The long-standing service to Newport News, with two daily round trips, has sufficiently high farebox recovery that no subsidy from Virginia is required.
From 1996 to 2007, six different studies were performed on the Transdominion Express project, which would have created two new intercity rail routes from Bristol to Richmond and Washington. The final study recommended against the full plan, citing high cost and low ridership, and instead proposed that any further action be focused on corridors with the highest ratio of demand to cost. Fully 70% of the predicted ridership was between Washington and Lynchburg (already served by the Crescent) and 96% between Washington and Bristol, while Richmond demand was largely for north-south service on the existing route.
Virginia and Amtrak partnered in 2009 under the brand Amtrak Virginia to expand passenger rail service within the Commonwealth, making Virginia the 15th state to fund state services in addition to federally funded routes. One daily Northeast Regional round trip was extended to from Washington to Lynchburg on October 1, 2009, supplementing the existing Crescent service. In the first month, ridership doubled expectations. On July 20, 2010, Amtrak added an additional Northeast Regional frequency from Washington to Richmond Staples Mill Road station, increasing the Washington-Richmond corridor to eight daily round trips with hourly northbound morning service.
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.
On August 9, 2013, it was announced that Amtrak hoped to complete track and infrastructure upgrades in order to bring train service to Roanoke, Virginia by 2016. The project encountered delays, and by late 2016 service was planned to begin in late 2017 with a single train extended from Lynchburg serving the city daily after construction of the Roanoke station platform, which was to begin in early 2017 and take most of the year. Amtrak began service to Roanoke on October 31, 2017.
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 that recline further than those in coach, footrests, and window curtains.
Effective April 25, 2005, Amtrak abolished unreserved seating on these trains. Reservations may be made at any time up to eleven months in advance, either online or by phone. Tickets may also be purchased at a station ticket window or through a ticketing machine.
Most Northeast Regional trains operate over the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington (via New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore). The corridor is owned, in part, by Amtrak, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), Metro-North Railroad (MNRR), and the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT).
- MBTA Providence/Stoughton Line, Boston to Massachusetts/Rhode Island state line (dispatched and maintained by Amtrak)
- Amtrak Northeast Corridor, MA/RI state line to New Haven, Connecticut
- Connecticut Department of Transportation, New Haven to New Rochelle, NY
- Amtrak Northeast Corridor, New Rochelle to Washington, D.C.
Trains that 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 Roanoke) use the ex-Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad, now CSX, between Washington and Alexandria, Virginia. From Alexandria, the Roanoke trains use the Norfolk Southern (ex-Southern Railway, ex-Virginia Midland Railway), while Newport News trains use the following CSX tracks:
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, and an ordinary all-coach Northeast Regional runs in its place.
The Northeast Regional is primarily federally funded and receives federal funding for its operations between Boston and Washington, DC. Northeast Regional operations south of Washington towards Newport News, Norfolk, and Roanoke are funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia. New Haven to Springfield, MA operations are funded by the State of Connecticut and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
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- Marrano, Gene (August 20, 2013). "Passenger Rail Is Coming To Roanoke Says Governor McDonnell". The Roanoke Star. Retrieved June 20, 2018.
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