History of Virginia’s State-Supported Rail Service

Virginia has been a part of Amtrak’s national system since the railroad’s creation in 1971.  With its crucial location just south of the nation’s capital, station stops in the Commonwealth are some of Amtrak’s busiest in the southeast.  Passenger rail service in the state includes Amtrak long distance services – the Cardinal, Crescent, Palmetto, Silver Meteor, Silver Star, and the Auto Train, the longest passenger train in the world, as well as the state-supported service, Amtrak Virginia.

In 2008 Congress passed the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, also known as PRIIA.  This legislation called for states to fund passenger rail service for routes of 750 miles or less.  In line with this, Virginia launched its first state-supported train, Amtrak Virginia, in 2009.  This roundtrip, between Washington, DC and Lynchburg, beat all expectations.  Ridership that first year was predicted to be 30,000 passengers.  However, when more than 100,000 passengers traveled, it was clear that passenger rail was something Virginians wanted and needed.

Over the next decade, Virginia added more state-funded service with roundtrips from Washington, DC to Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, and an extension of the Lynchburg service to Roanoke.  The service grew to include eight roundtrips daily with stops at 17 stations along four corridors.

As ridership continued to grow, Virginia’s leaders, seeking some relief from what had become an “all day rush hour,” looked to rail to provide an alternative to expanding I-95 which would cost billions and be obsolete before it was even completed.  Those efforts resulted in the creation of the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA) in 2020 and the development of our groundbreaking initiative, Transforming Rail in Virginia (TRV).

TRV is an innovative and forward-looking plan to give Virginians an alternative to driving along our congested highways and interstates. The initiative calls for moving Virginians by using an existing rail corridor and building new infrastructure, eventually separating freight and passenger rail services.  TRV will increase state-supported Amtrak Virginia and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) service over the next decade.  Learn more about TRV.