Norfolk Southern, VPRA in discussions on Virginia passenger service

Norfolk Southern Corporation and the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority announced this week that they have entered into preliminary discussions on a deal that would expand passenger rail service in the Commonwealth of Virginia while also preserving critical freight connections.

While negotiations are in early stages, if executed, the framework of the agreement would allow VPRA to purchase the Manassas Line and pursue an option to extend passenger rail service to the New River Valley (NRV) on the Norfolk Southern main line (N-Line).

The purchase of the Manassas Line by VPRA would give the authority the flexibility to work with VRE on expanding service to allow for additional frequencies on the line, including evening and weekend service. Utilizing the N-Line, which would replace current VPRA plans to deliver service using the Virginian Line, could provide a more cost-effective and timelier option for extending passenger service to the NRV, as well as allow service to Norfolk Southern’s Cambria Yard in Christiansburg, which served passengers until 1979.

 “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.”

“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 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.”