Rail Updates to Begin on “Knowledge Corridor” Line

With $17 million now secured for for the renovation of Springfield’s Union Station, more frequent passenger rail service through Western Massachusetts is on the horizon. And travel times on north-south rail lines may soon see improvement.

Plans to rehabilitate what officials call the “Knowledge Corridor” have been in the works for several years. And according to Timothy Brennan, director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, renovations on a line which will run through Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton, and Greenfield, are finally set to begin next month. He says the new route for Amtrak’s Vermonter service, which will bypass Amherst, hasn’t carried passenger trains since 1989.

“The condition of the track is so poor that Amtrak refused to run passenger trains over it, and the speed limit was reduced to 10 miles per hour.”

Brennan says that thanks to $73 million in federal stimulus funds, trains on the new line will reach speeds of 70 to 100 miles per hour by 2014. For passengers like Debbie Delmer of New York, who waited for a southbound train in 95 degree heat at the Amherst Amtrak station,  faster trains would be a welcome adjustment.

“It would be wonderful, I wish it would happen all over the country. I think trains all over the world don’t operate efficiently without federal subsidies.”

But passenger Rebecca Gold, also of New York, says that frequent Amtrak delays are the biggest problem.

“It doesn’t matter how fast the train’s capable of going, what matters is the various obstacles in the way.”
Wednesday’s southbound Vermonter train arrived in Amherst nearly an hour late. Brennan says once the north-south improvements are done, planners will look to revive east-west lines through Springfield, Worcester, and Boston.