Press Release | January 5, 2018

Rail Advocates Advance Innovative Vision for Passenger Rail Network

Richmond, Virginia – Virginians for High Speed Rail, the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Hampton Roads Chamber, and New River Valley Rail 2020 coalition have jointly released their vision for expanded regional train service throughout the Commonwealth in a new report entitled Virginia’s Passenger Trains: Building on Success. 

The Commonwealth’s passenger rail network continues to experience growth, with ridership increas-ing 1.9 percent in 2017 compared to 2016. In fact, ridership increased 75 percent between 2006 and 2017 with 675,000 more annual rail trips taken than a decade ago. Additionally, our passenger trains now reach 80.5 percent of Virginians and 84.4 percent of our jobs, as well as 48 institutions of higher education, which enroll 87.6 percent of our college students, and nearly 10 percent of our nation’s armed forces. 

This report outlines a vision for the next generation of steps to improve passenger rail in the Common-wealth, with goals to triple the amount of passenger rail service we have, reduce trip times by up to 35 percent, increase on-time reliability to more than 90 percent, and expand passenger rail service to reach 85 percent of Virginians. 

“Expanded rail service to the New River Valley (NRV) is vital for the future of our region,” stated Diane Akers, President of the Blacksburg Partnership. “This vision will not only improve connectivity for southwest Virginia, but better connect the thousands of college students who are being educated at the colleges and universities in the NRV. With nearly a quarter of millennials in Virginia not possessing a driver’s license, this offers our young citizens and students better transportation options. ” 

“Virginia will never manage to pave its way out of congestion, nor can we afford the cost to taxpayers or the environment of attempting to do so,” said Trip Pollard, Director of the Land and Community Program of the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Our vision will help remove nearly a billion passenger miles from our roads, prevent the release of 696 million pounds of carbon pollution, and eliminate the need to burn 35 million gallons of fuel each year.” 

“The citizens of today, and the companies of tomorrow, both want better passenger rail service because it strengthens our economy and better connects our communities to new economic opportunities,” stated Danny Plaugher, executive director of Virginians for High Speed Rail. “We have to look no further than the Amazon HQ2 RFP to see the role that passenger rail and public transportation will play in the future decisions that companies make on where to grow their businesses. The incremental investments that we envision will generate an estimated $3.2 billion in annual economic benefits, which will create or sustain nearly 33,000 jobs. ” 

This report includes facts and data pertaining to Virginia’s current passenger rail service, discusses the economic, environmental, and social benefits of this service, and outlines the next steps that should be taken to further grow passenger rail service across Virginia. 

The report maybe found here: 


The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environ-ment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of nearly 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use. 


Virginians for High Speed Rail is a non-profit coalition of citizens, businesses, localities, community organizations, and economic development agencies that educate and advocate for the expansion of fast, frequent, and reliable rail service connecting our com-munities to increase the economic potential of the Commonwealth. We were founded in 1994 as a partnership between the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce and the Future of Hampton Roads. More information on VHSR can be found at


The Hampton Roads Chamber is a vigorous advocate for the economic success of its nearly 2,000 member businesses, which em-ploy 280,000 men and women in southeastern Virginia. The Chamber promotes Hampton Roads’ healthy business climate through economic development, public policy initiatives, services, and benefits to members. The Chamber is dedicated to creating economic opportunity and enhancing the quality of life in Hampton Roads. 


New River Valley Rail 2020 is a coalition of the Blacksburg Partnership, the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, the New River Valley Economic Development Alliance, the New River Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization, the New River Valley Re-gional Commission, Radford University, Virginia Tech University, Virginia Tech Foundation, and the localities of Montgomery County, Pulaski County, Town of Radford, Town of Blacksburg, Town of Christiansburg, and Town of Pulaski. 

Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.

Press Contacts

Trip Pollard

Senior Attorney and Leader of the Land and Community Program

Phone: 804-343-1090