- Virginia Railway Express
Infobox SG rail
railroad_name=Virginia Railway Express
logo_filename=Virginia Railway Express Logo.png
Alexandria, VirginiaThe Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is a commuter rail service that connects the Northern Virginiaarea with Washington, DC. VRE is a transportation partnership of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission(NVTC) and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission(PRTC).
The VRE operates on two lines, the Fredericksburg line, which starts from
Fredericksburg, Virginia, and the Manassas line, which starts from Broad Run/Airport station in Bristow, Virginia. Both lines end at Union Station in Washington, DC. Fredericksburg is considered the southernmost suburb of Washington. Service to Manassas began on June 22, 1992; service to Fredericksburg began on July 20, 1992.
Organization and operations
The VRE Operations Board oversees all operating aspects of the VRE. It has seven commissioners - the Director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT), three commissioners from NVTC, and three commissioners from PRTC. The VRE Operations Group, which reports to the Board, handles the daily operations of the VRE.
The fare structure is distance-based, with stations grouped into nine zones. Unlike some other commuter rail services around the country, such as
Caltrainand MBTA Commuter Rail, VRE does not operate on weekends. Service is suspended or reduced on select holidays.
Through a [http://www.vre.org/service/marc.htm cross-honoring agreement,] VRE and MARC allow passengers to transfer to a train on the other system provided that it is going in the opposite direction of the rush-hour commuters (for example., heading away from Washington, DC in the morning).
VRE does not own its own track. Its trains operate on a collection of lines owned and maintained by Amtrak,
Norfolk Southern, and CSX Transportation. In the summer of 2005, VRE began to slow trains so operators could detect bends that occur when steel tracks absorb too much heat. CSX, which owns VRE's Fredericksburg line, places heat restrictions on the tracks it shares with VRE when temperatures hit the mid- to high 80s Fahrenheit (approximately 30 °C and up). Each delay can add up 10 to 20 minutes in total trip time. In the summer of 2007, CSX changed its policies on heat restrictions affecting train speeds; Fredericksburg Line trains were on time 86 percent of the time in June, and 87 percent in July. [Kelly Hannon, [http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-167710634.html "Virginia Railway Express has improved on-time record"] , "Free Lance-Star" (Fredericksburg, VA), August 16, 2007]
Ridership on VRE increased an average of 13 percent each year from 2000 to 2005. But in the fiscal year from July 1, 2005 through June 30, 2005, ridership fell two percent compared to the prior year. VRE said the decrease was because passengers affected by delays due to track maintenance and heat restrictions were taking other forms of transportation. [http://www.wtopnews.com/?nid=25&sid=860350 "Virginia Railway Express Sees Decline in Ridership"] , WTOP news, July 25, 2006] The trend reversed itself the summer of 2007, with ridership up nearly 2 percent in June and 4 percent in July compared with the corresponding months in 2006. [Dan Genz, [http://www.examiner.com/a-881814~VRE_ridership_up__commuters_likely_to_ask_for_later_trains.html "VRE ridership up; commuters likely to ask for later trains"] , "Washington Examiner", August 15, 2007]
VRE trains are limited to seven passenger cars because of the limits on what locomotives can pull and the platform lengths at VRE stations. VRE has two eight car train sets, one each line, to relive crowding. In early 2008, the Virginia Department of Transportation proposed using highway toll revenues to extend train platforms in Fredericksburg.Eric M. Weiss, [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/22/AR2008032202088.html Toll-Lane Revenue Proposal Gets a Rewrite in Richmond: State Plan Diverts Funding From Regional Projects"] , "Washington Post", March 23, 2008]
VRE operations began in the mid-1992. In its first year of operation, it had an average daily ridership of about 3,500, with fares paid by passengers ("farebox recovery ratio") just above 50% of costs.Vantuono, William C., [http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-13656600.html "VRE: a model commuter road", "Railway Age"] , April 1, 1993]
January 5, 2006, at 6:45am, VRE's Fredericksburg line train #304 bound for Washington, D.C., derailed at Possum Point just north of the Quantico section of Prince William County. Four people, including one conductor suffered minor injuries and were treated and released by medical personnel. The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the derailment was an excessively worn and chipped switch point, which caused the lead truck of the fourth passenger car to derail. Contributing to the accident was CSX’s delay in replacing a switch point that had been repeatedly identified as deteriorating. [ [http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/2006/RAB0606.htm "Railroad Accident Brief - Derailment of Virginia Railway Express train near Quantico, Virginia, January 5, 2006"] , National Transportation Safety Board report NTSB/RAB-06/06 (includes link to pdf document with full report), retrieved March 22, 2008]
The Fredericksburg Line runs north-south along trackage owned by
CSX Transportation. This track was at one time the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad. Amtrak service to Richmond, Virginiaand points south also uses this line.
The Manassas Line runs east-west along trackage owned by
Norfolk Southern. Amtrak's "Crescent" to Atlanta and New Orleansalso uses this line.
List of Washington, DC railroads
List of United States railroads
* [http://www.vre.org/ Virginia Railway Express] Official site
* [http://thenexttrain.com/at/vre/ VRE Schedule (unofficial)]
* [http://www.vre.org/service/systmmp.htm System Map]
* [http://railfanning.org/profiles/vre.htm Railfanning.org: VRE Profile]
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