HD37 - Status of the TransDominion Express Passenger Rail Service

Executive Summary:
The study of potential rail service to Bristol was initiated in 1996 with funding provided by the General Assembly. As a result of several studies by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) and Norfolk Southern Corporation (NS), a general concept for passenger rail service to Central and Southwestern Virginia has been developed. This service, which has come to be known as the TransDominion Express (TDX), includes two round trip trains per day serving 19 stations along a route from Bristol to Washington, D.C. with connecting service from Richmond to Lynchburg. Norfolk Southern has studied the proposed service and stands by its capital investment estimate of $120 million to implement the full TDX service. Additional capital funding will also be needed for station improvements and grade crossing upgrades. Analysis of operating costs indicates that the annual operating subsidy required for the full TDX service is approximately $14 million.

Other plans are currently under consideration to expand the capacity of NS’s routes through Central and Southwestern Virginia. Strategic improvements to NS’s rail network are needed to provide additional capacity to support the diversion of freight traffic from I-81 to the railroad. In addition, there are capacity issues on NS lines in Northern Virginia that restrict expansion of the commuter rail service provided by the Virginia Railway Express (VRE). Many of the capital improvements proposed on Norfolk Southern lines have a potential to provide for the expansion of freight service, intercity passenger service and commuter passenger service throughout Virginia. By addressing all of these improvements as part of a package, DRPT can ensure that public funds are directed to those projects that will have the maximum positive impact.

The Department of Rail and Public Transportation, advocates for the TDX service, and Norfolk Southern are looking for a responsible way to move this proposed service forward to implementation. The parties have agreed on four steps that will bring this service closer to reality:

1. The parties have agreed to develop an implementation plan for demonstration rail service in the proposed corridor.

2. DRPT is exercising an option to purchase five passenger cars from the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) for demonstration service use.

3. The parties are committed to developing a financial plan that reduces the gap between the projected capital and annual operating expenses and the anticipated service revenues.

4. The parties are working together to identify options and make recommendations as to the most appropriate governance structure required to manage and operate the service.