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2023 The Year of Passenger Rail

2024 has been one of the best years for passenger rail ever in the United States and the Southeast . The SEPRI has been honored to be a part of such a momentous year. Our mission is to educate on the benefits of rail with the goal of building support to create one of the world's best rail systems. We thoroughly believe that if enough people want something, we will get it. Judging of the success of this year, it is evident that the people of the Southeast demand high quality passenger rail. 


Here are just some of the major things that we at the SEPRI were able to report on in 2023. 



Brightline

Brightline is just crushing all expectations. With the opening of their new line to Orlando international airport, the Southeast has one of the fastest trains in the country topping out at 130 mph.In addition to Orlando, new stations have been opened in Aventura and Boca Raton.  Since the service started Brightline has seen record ridership throughout the year. Running off of this success, Brightline is now looking at opening another station in Cocoa Beach and Ft. Pierce, with the eventual extension to Tampa via the new Sunshine corridor. 


Amtrak

This has  been arguably the biggest years for Amtrak since its founding in 1971. Starting out Amtrak’s Connect US plan was announced which will connect millions of passengers. The plan will create dozens of new routes connecting cities such as Nashiville, Macom, Bristol, Chattanooga, and Montgomery for the first time since the last century. As part of the plan, Amtrak will be increasing frequency  on many routes: including Charlotte to Atlanta, Ralegh to Richmond, and Sanantonio to Dallas, just to name a few. The goal is to have all these new routes and services operating by 2035. 


New Trains 

As part of the massive modernization program, Amtrak has ordered new Ario Train Sets which will be used on the Virgina Services, Carolinian, and Palmetto. These new sets will replace the 30+ year old Amfleets and provide modern amenities( and greater speeds to thousands of riders. According to Amtrack These new cars and locomotives will be gracing southern rail by 2030.


In addition to the new Airos,  Amtrak has also put out a request for information on new long distance sleeper trains to replace the Viewliners.


New Routes 


Gulf Coast States

The year started with an agreement and funding that began to survive between Mobile and New Orleans. Although this service is delayed, progress is ongoing and we should see full trains riding along the rails very soon. 


Staying in Louisiana, a new line is now under study to connect Baton Rouge ;to the network with four intermittent stations including the airport. This will make it the sixth airport connected by heavy rail and the third by a regional oriented service. 


Up north the I -20 Corridor is moving forward. Once complete this new route will provide the south with a new East west connection allowing a direct trip from Dallas to Atlanta. 


Virginia

In Virginia, a new East to West route is in the works, bypassing the need to go all the way to Alexandria and change trains. There are also plans to extend the Roanoke line all the way to Bristol, TN.


North Carolina

Funding has been acquired to begin the new “high speed Corridor” between Raleigh and Richmond. Once completed this will make the trip between these two cities comparable with driving. 


In addition to the Richmond route, six additional routes are now under study which will connect cities such as Wilmington, Asheville, Kings MT, Winston Salem, and Goldsboro to the network. 


Tennessee 

As part of the Corridor ID Project, Tennessee is now studying a new east to west line connecting three out of the four biggest metros in the state: Nashville, Memphis, and Chattanooga.


Georgia

As part of the Connect US Plan, Atlanta will be a hub for Amtrak's southern services. In recent news, new lines to Savannah, Chattanooga, Montgomery, and a new high speed line to Charlotte have all been given funding to be studied. 


Texas

Despite a tumultuous beginning of the year. Texas Central won a significant court victory allowing them to acquire the land needed to create a new high speed line between Dallas and Houston. With the addition, funding provided as a part of the infrastructure bill this route is moving closer to reality. 


Local and Regional Rail. 

Here are some of the dozens of local rail projects that have made progress this year.

Dallas: The new Silver Line has debuted its new Stadler strain sets (which looks fantastic) Service is still on track to begin in 2025.


NOVA: DC Metro Silver Line extension opened this year. After many delays and millions over budget. The extension  now connects Dulles International Airport to high frequency rail. 

Charlotte: The infamous Red Line to Mooresville is back on the table. Norfolk Southern, who owns the track, previously nixed the project but has recently changed its mind and is open to working with CATS.


Charlotte: Test trains have entered Charlotte’s Gateway station for the first time! Construction of the platforms has been completed and once the passenger facilities are built, the new multimodal facility will eventually connect intercity, regional rail, light rail, streetcar, and bus service in a new downtown station.


Miami: Tri Rail has begun to run test trains into Miami Central station. Service is set to begin in 2024. 


Atlanta. Marta has introduced new Stadler train sets to replace their aging fleet.


Orlando: Sunrail opened discussion with Brightline for use of the future Sunshine Corridor, which will create a new east west line and connect the regional rail operator to the Airport, Universal Studios and Disney. 


Jacksonville: The North Coast Regional Rail project has outlined its stations and is moving forward in the planning process, connecting St Augustine to Jacksonville. 


Record Ridership


2023 has been an incredible year for breaking ridership records. Coming off of the pandemic Amtrak services in Virginia and North Carolina have been breaking monthly ridership records month after month as well as breaking their yearly ridership records. 


SEPRI


This has been a great year for the SEPRI as an organization. We have doubled our following on our social media accounts, as well as our email list. We started the US 74 Corridor project to bring regional rail to Southern NC. We have been featured on podcasts, posts, and articles across the Southeast. With that being said 2023 is just the starting point. In 2024, we have some big plans to continue our mission and expand passenger rail within the Southeast. 




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