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Thousands Ride Lynchburg's Amtrak Trains

Lynchburg exceeds Amtrak's expectations

August 11, 2010|Karen Kiley | Reporter
  • Amtrak officials say the new train service from Lynchburg's station exceeded expectations for ridership and revenue.
Amtrak officials say the new train service from Lynchburg's station exceeded expectations for ridership and revenue.

LYNCHBURG; Va. — In the worst economy in 80 years, business is booming for Amtrak and riders in Lynchburg are playing a role.

Amtrak says 2008 was its best year for riders and revenue; 2010 is on track to be even better.

Amtrak added the Northeast Regional Service at the Lynchburg train station on Kemper Street last October and ticket sales have been so good, Amtrak officials almost giddy.

At Lynchburg's Chamber of Commerce breakfast Wednesday morning, Amtrak officials gave an update on the Lynchburg train.

In under one year, since opening in October, the Lynchburg station saw more than 100,000 riders. That's 163 percent higher than projected. The station also took in $6.3 million in revenue. That is 151 percent higher than projected.

"It is kind of taxing on our staff because of the number of passengers we service on a daily basis, but it's a good kind of problem to have and we are excited about it!" said Amtrak station manager Michael Jerew.

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The success of Lynchburg's station is welcome news but not a complete surprise, since nation-wide Amtrak is on track for one of its best years ever, said Amtrak representatives.

"The economy is one factor and gas prices are another, for sure. Amtrak tries to provide a good service for an affordable price and I think that's a big reason why we are having such a success in these times, for sure," said Jerew.

Amtrak says high gas prices draw in new customers and the experience keeps them coming back.

"The convenience of rail travel. It's an easy way to travel. It is relaxing. We go to center of cities. The new service in Lynchburg has been very reliable, so people are responding. It's a good time for inner city rail," said Jeff Mann, Amtrak Senior Director for Policy and Development.

Lynchburg's success is also good news for future rail travel in the area.

"If Lynchburg had bombed there'd be little incentive to add more passenger rail, but because Lynchburg is almost doubling the projections for ridership and income, it makes it a much easier sell for other jurisdictions or localities," said Mark Peeke, with the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

But getting the trails to Roanoke, Richmond, or Bristol is not a simple process. The department of Rail and Public Transportation in Virginia is evaluating several routes, but those are still years away.

"Clearly there is a lot of excitement. A lot of folks like rail service and that's a good thing and we look forward to looking at it," said Mann.

The most popular route from Lynchburg is to Washington D.C.

Amtrak also has a new program to make its trips even more budget-friendly. College students can sign up for a rewards card to get 15 percent off select trips.

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