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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / Amtrak to debut new western Massachusetts service in June NEWSWIRE

Amtrak to debut new western Massachusetts service in June NEWSWIRE

By Bob Johnston | February 4, 2019

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Amtrak train on bridge crossing river
Amtrak’s northbound Vermonter crosses a canal in Holyoke, Mass., on Aug. 30, 2018. Plans for additional service will increase frequency on this corridor from one to three round trips daily.
Scott A. Hartley

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The upgrade of former Boston & Maine Railroad trackage that allowed the Vermonter to be rerouted via Greenfield, Mass., will begin paying additional dividends this summer, with two more Amtrak round trips to Greenfield.

The new service is made possible by a $73-million, stimulus-funded infrastructure project that allows the Vermonter to serve Massachusetts’ “Knowledge Corridor” communities of Holyoke, Northampton, and Greenfield. That route entered service in August 2015 on former Pan Am Railways trackage. It is far more direct than the prior path on CSX Transportation and New England Central via Palmer and Amherst, Mass. [See “Rebuilding the ‘Vermonter’ route,” “Passenger,” Trains, February 2015.] reports that Pioneer Valley Planning Commissioner Timothy W. Brennan confirmed with Massachusetts DOT officials that the service might start as early June, pending completion of high-level Platform C at Springfield Union Station and tie replacement and bridge repairs on the route. A firm start date and schedules have not been finalized, but Brennan says there will be both morning and afternoon round trips.

A fare structure hasn’t been set either, although Brennan was told by state officials that the fares will not be subsidized the way Connecticut is on CTRail and Amtrak’s joint New Haven-Springfield operation. The St. Albans, Vt. ,to Washington, D.C. Vermonter’s cheapest Greenfield-Springfield “walk-up” one-way fare is $18; a two-week-in-advance fare is $14, but neither of these might work for daily commuters the route hopes to attract. Because the fares are yield-managed, those prices could fluctuate depending upon demand. Though the Vermonter operates through the New Haven-Springfield corridor, the Connecticut-sponsored flat $12 adult fares between those cities are not honored on it.

Additional trains were always part of Massachusetts’ plan to re-establish stations at Holyoke, Northampton, and Greenfield along with a $1 million operating grant. The new stations’ tiny platforms skirted the Federal Railroad Administration’s full length (of train) accessibility preferences but do offer level boarding.

However, Massachusetts’ commitment is only for a two-year pilot project. It isn’t clear what criteria will be used to determine whether the operation is deemed “a success.”

The state purchased the tracks from Pan Am Railways for $17 million in 2015, paving the way for already-planned capacity-expanding trackwork and signaling. Pan Am retains trackage rights.

8 thoughts on “Amtrak to debut new western Massachusetts service in June NEWSWIRE

  1. Yet can’t get direct Amtrak service between…

    Denver-El Paso
    Milwaukee-St Louis
    New Orleans-Jacksonville

    No need to continue…

  2. Robert McGuire,

    When was the last time you rode coach on an Amtrak train that serves a college/university destination or has one along the route? I’m pretty sure the service in Illinois to Champaign-Urbana is filled with college students during the school year. You’d be surprised how many university/college students actually travel by train, or at least they do when the ticket prices aren’t counterintuitive.

  3. Braden Kayganich, not only that, we lost service in Florida to just about everywhere West of the I-95 corridor. We used to be able to go from Miami to Tampa and return the same day with lunch in Tampa. Miami to Winter Park with lunch in Winter Park and return. Miami to NOLA. Orlando to NOLA. Now to get to Birmingham would require either going to DC, Alexandria,VA or Raleigh instead of the faster way by way of NOLA. Private car move would only be by way of DC. We also lost Miami direct to Indy and Chicago. Ohio lost service to Columbus by way of Parkersburg, WV. Which meant I lost Miami to Parkersburg with only one train change in DC. To get there now requires the train change on only certain days and an overnight stay in Charleston, WV and a 90 minute bus ride the next day because the Amtrak bus from Pittsburgh to Columbus does not make a stop in Cambridge, OH where it could connect with the SB bus to Charleston.

  4. The criteria for success will be based on ridership. Essentially, the expectation is that ridership will roughly double or triple (I forget) over existing Vermonter ridership. This seems attainable to me – expanded service attracts additional riders.

  5. Another government waste of $73 million dollars. How many people do you think want to travel by train from Greenfield to Springfield? Yeah there are some colleges located in or near these communities but college students either are rich enough to afford their own vehicles or they bum a ride from friends. Very few will take the train. From what I understand the new casino in Springfield is a big flop and most jobs have moved to the suburbs to say nothing of shopping. Forbes and Wallace and A. U. Steiger and Co. are long gone. These people planning this service should look at the failed Brunswick Extension of the Downeaster as an example of what happens when you try to connect two locations without the population density needed to maintain the service. My prediction is that failure will be evident a few weeks into the service and it won’t even make the end of the two year pilot program.

  6. This isn’t about Springfield to Greenfield. This is about giving more options for persons north of Springfield access to everything south without having to drive/park in Springfield and probably at very low cost to Amtrak to operate.

  7. And if the powers-that-be are smart, in with this service extension will be a station stop at South Deerfield, Mass., which is a short walk from the Yankee Candle Factory outlet store. I’m sure a lot of folks from CT and even NYC would enjoy day trips to/from there without dealing with Superslab traffic most of the way …

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