Virginia Railway Express

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Virginia Railway Express
Virginia Railway Express.svg
Owner PRTC and NVTC
Locale Northern Virginia
Transit type Commuter rail
Number of lines2
Number of stations19 (1 planned)
Annual ridership4.683 million (2017) [1]
Increase 4.16%
Began operation1992 (1992)
Operator(s) Keolis (under contract)
Reporting marksVREX
System length90 mi (145 km)
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
System map

BSicon TRAM1.svg MARC train.svg Amtrak WMATA Metro Logo.svg
Union Station
WMATA Metro Logo.svg
WMATA Metro Logo.svg
Crystal City
Amtrak WMATA Metro Logo.svg
Backlick Road
WMATA Metro Logo.svg
Rolling Road
Northeast Regional
Burke Centre
Northeast Regional
Manassas Park
Potomac Shores
Broad Run
  Manassas Line 
Leeland Road
  Fredericksburg Line 

The Virginia Railway Express (VRE) ( reporting mark VREX) is a commuter rail service that connects outer suburbs of Northern Virginia to Union Station in Washington, D.C. It operates two lines which run during weekday rush hour only: the Fredericksburg Line from Fredericksburg, Virginia, and the Manassas Line from Broad Run station in Bristow, Virginia.

Service to Manassas began on June 22, 1992; the Fredericksburg service started on July 20, 1992.

VRE is owned by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission. The NVTC and PRTC are governmental entities that were created by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Local governments (such as counties and cities) within each commission's geographic area are members of each commission. The service will undergo expansion as the result of a December 19, 2019, deal brokered between Virginia governor Ralph Northam and rail company CSX Transportation. [2]


Discussions about commuter rail service in Northern Virginia had occurred as early as 1964 at the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, but died in the face of opposition by the freight railroads whose tracks offered ready access to core employment areas. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments eventually commissioned a regional feasibility study by R.L. Banks and Associates, Inc., and planning began in earnest for VRE in 1984. [3] In the meantime, Washington Metro extended its service to much of the inner ring of Northern Virginia, including the independent cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church and Arlington and Fairfax counties, which are members of the NVTC.

Blue and silver train engine with red and white accent lines moves closer leading a series of similarly colored passenger cars with shrubs and a sound wall in the background.
VRE RP39-2C locomotive with train outside of Fredericksburg

By 1986, it became apparent that Prince William and Stafford counties and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park could not reach agreement on how to support VRE by joining NVTC, so the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission was created for them. Legislation established a 2% motor fuels tax to support VRE expenses and other transportation investments.

By 1988, NVTC and PRTC established a VRE Operations Board, consisting of three voting members plus alternates from each of the two commissions, plus a voting representative of the Commonwealth of Virginia (currently a representative of the Director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation). The following year, the jurisdictions participating in the VRE project agreed to fund it according to a formula that weighted ridership by jurisdiction of residence with a factor of 90% and population with a factor of 10%. Arlington and Alexandria agreed to contribute to the project and have paid each year approximately what their formula share would be. The cities of Fredericksburg and Manassas Park joined PRTC in 1990 and signed the VRE Master Agreement and became participating jurisdictions in 1992. [3]

Spotsylvania County joined in February 2010 to allow construction of Spotsylvania station, which opened in November 2015. [4] [5]


Rail service operates Monday through Friday during rush hour in the peak direction, with trains traveling toward Washington in the morning and toward either Manassas or Fredericksburg in the afternoon. Service is suspended or reduced on some holidays. [6]

Through a cross-honoring agreement, VRE and the MARC Train allow passengers to transfer to trains on the other system that are going in the opposite direction of the rush-hour commuters. [7]

VRE operates on lines owned and maintained by Amtrak, Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation. Most of the Fredericksburg Line is on CSX tracks, while the portion of the Manassas Line west of Alexandria is mostly on Norfolk Southern tracks. Union Station in Washington, D.C., which is the northern terminus for most VRE trains, is owned and operated by Amtrak, including the station tracks.

VRE's trains were initially run by Amtrak. On November 5, 2009, VRE awarded a five-year, $85 million operating and maintenance contract to Keolis, a subsidiary of France's national railway. [8] [9] The change in operations took place on July 12, 2010, two weeks later than planned, to allow Keolis employees to learn how to run VRE trains. [10]

Ridership on VRE increased an average of 13% each year from 2000 to 2005, but fell 2% in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2005. VRE said passengers affected by track maintenance and heat restrictions were taking other forms of transportation. [11] The trend reversed in the summer of 2007, with ridership up nearly 2% in June and 4% in July compared with the corresponding months in 2006. [12] As of October 2016, VRE transports an average of 19,400 passengers per day. [13]

In 2015, VRE extended its contract with Keolis for five years, with an additional option for another five-year extension in 2020. [14]

Lines and stations

VRE's fares are based on distance, with the 19 stations grouped into zones. The two lines diverge at Alexandria Union Station in Alexandria.

Fredericksburg Line

The Fredericksburg Line runs north–south along trackage that was once part of the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad and is now part of CSX. Amtrak service to Richmond, Virginia, and points south (the Silver Service, Palmetto, Carolinian, and Northeast Regional runs to Hampton Roads) also uses this line. An extension to Spotsylvania opened in November 2015. [15]

Station Fare Zone Miles (km) Connections
Union Station 1 0 mi (0 km) Washington Metro, MARC, Amtrak
L'Enfant 1 2 mi (3.2 km) Washington Metro
Crystal City 2 5 mi (8.0 km) Washington Metro, Metroway
Alexandria Union Station 2 9 mi (14 km) Washington Metro, Amtrak
Franconia–Springfield 3 14 mi (23 km) Washington Metro
Lorton 4 19 mi (31 km)
Woodbridge 5 24 mi (39 km) Amtrak
Rippon 5 28 mi (45 km)
Potomac Shores (opens 2022) 31 mi (50 km)
Quantico 6 35 mi (56 km) Amtrak
Brooke 8 46 mi (74 km)
Leeland Road 8 51 mi (82 km)
Fredericksburg 9 55 mi (89 km) Amtrak
Spotsylvania 9 60 mi (97 km)

Manassas Line

The Manassas Line runs east–west along trackage owned by Norfolk Southern. Amtrak's Crescent and Cardinal, as well as Northeast Regional trains bound for Roanoke, also use this line. VRE studied an extension of the Manassas Line west to the communities of Gainesville and Haymarket, but chose instead to pursue added service on the existing line to Broad Run. [16]

Miles (km) from
Union Station
Fare Zone State Location Station Connections
0 mi (0 km) 1 DC Washington Washington Union Station Washington Metro, MARC, Amtrak
2 mi (3.2 km) L'Enfant Washington Metro
5 mi (8.0 km) 2 VA Crystal City Crystal City Washington Metro, Metroway
9 mi (14 km) Alexandria Alexandria Union Station Washington Metro, Amtrak
13 mi (21 km) 3 Springfield Backlick Road
19 mi (31 km) 4 Burke Rolling Road
21 mi (34 km) Burke Centre Burke Centre Amtrak
29 mi (47 km) 6 Manassas Park Manassas Park
32 mi (51 km) Manassas Manassas Amtrak
35 mi (56 km) Bristow Broad Run

Seasonal Station

VRE operates one seasonal station in Clifton, Virginia. The location is only open for special season events in the town.

Proposed lines and stations

Haymarket extension

Starting in 2015, VRE began a study of extending service to Haymarket via a short branch line from the Manassas Line, but found that ridership would not sufficiently increase to justify the estimated $660 million cost and ended further consideration of the line. [16]


The Virginia Railway Express commenced operations in 1992 with ten EMD RP39-2C diesel locomotives, 38 Mafersa coaches, and 21 remanufactured Budd Rail Diesel Car (RDCs) from the MBTA. Morrison-Knudsen rebuilt the locomotives from EMD GP40s at a total cost of $5.9 million. Mafersa built the coaches new at $24.7 million, or $600,000–$700,000 per car. [17] VRE sold 33 of the Mafersa coaches to the Connecticut Department of Transportation in 2004 for its Shore Line East service. [18] QIT-Fer et Titane, a Quebec mining company, purchased the remaining five cars in 2008. [3] Trains currently comprise one and on some occasions two MPI MP36PH-3C locomotives that pull their fleet of Pullman Company and Sumitomo/Nippon Sharyo double decker passenger cars. Train lengths range usually from at least four cars to a maximum of eight cars.

Locomotive fleet

Numbers Status Model Notes Photo
V1–V10 [19] retired EMD RP39-2C Rebuilt from original units by Morrison-Knudsen. All sold to other operators. [19] Lack the flared radiators of VRE's GP40s. Virginia Railway Express train.jpg
V20–V21 [19] retired EMD RP40-2C Rebuilt from original units by Morrison-Knudsen. V20 sold to Royal Gorge Scenic Railway and renumbered 728. V21 sold to the US Army. [19] VRE in Manassas.jpg
V22–V24 [19] retired EMD GP40H-2 V22 and V24 sold to US Army. V23 sold to other another operator. VRE in Northern VA.jpg
V30–V36 [19] retired EMD F40PH-2 All are former Amtrak units.

V30 sold to AMT and then LTEX renumbered 310. V31 sold to another operator. V32 sold to Metra renumber 217. V33 sold to AMT and then LTEX renumbered 330. V34-V36 sold to LTEX and V35 displayed at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina.

Locomotives at Ivy City VRE EMDF40PH-2.jpg
V50–V69 [20] active MPI MP36PH-3C Total order of 20. [21] [22] The first unit was delivered in June 2010, entered service in August 2010, and all units are currently in service. These are the first new locomotives that VRE purchased. [23] In Push Mode.jpg

VRE also operated a pair of EMD F59PHI locomotives and 18 high capacity bi-level Bombardier cars leased from Sound Transit from 2002 to 2008; they have been returned and replaced by locomotives V50–V69 and the Sumitomo bi-level cars. [19] [24]

Coach fleet

VRE7 Manassas Line train
Numbers Years Built Builder Model Seats
710–730* [20] 2006–08 Sumitomo /  Nippon Sharyo Gallery IV cab car 123
800–819*, 850–869, 870–879 [20] 2007–09 Sumitomo /  Nippon Sharyo Gallery IV trailer car 132* / 144
820–827* [20] 2014 Sumitomo /  Nippon Sharyo Gallery IV trailer car 132

* with restroom
† Eight cars ordered in February 2012 with options for 42 more. [25]

Safety and accidents

VRE derailment on January 5, 2006

On January 5, 2006, at 6:45 am, Fredericksburg line train No. 304 bound for Washington, D.C., derailed at Possum Point, just north of Quantico. Four people, including the assistant conductor, suffered minor injuries. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the derailment was intimately related to CSX's maintenance practices: a switch point had been repeatedly identified as deteriorating, but CSX failed to replace it. Eventually, the excessively worn and chipped point caused the lead truck of a passenger car to derail—the fourth car on train 304. [26]

On October 3, 2012, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell launched a review of "multiple internal control issues", including reports of corruption and favoritism, that "call into question the management of the Virginia Railway Express". For example, VRE managers disregarded warnings by a former employee, later borne out, that a train would hit the new Broad Run platform. [27]

See also


  1. ^ "Transit Ridership Report Fourth Quarter 2017" (pdf). American Public Transportation Association. March 13, 2018. Retrieved July 9, 2016 – via
  2. ^ MARTZ, MICHAEL. "Virginia has $3.7 billion deal to expand rail service between Richmond and Washington". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Taube, Richard K. (August 11, 2008). "Chronology of the Virginia Railway Express: 1964 to Present" (PDF). Virginia Railway Express. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 17, 2015. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  4. ^ HDR Engineering (August 4, 2010). "Spotsylvania County VRE Commuter Rail Station Site Screening Analysis: Final Technical Memorandum" (PDF). Spotsylvania County. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 5, 2014. Retrieved January 17, 2013.
  5. ^ Lazo, Luz (October 26, 2015). "VRE's Spotsylvania station to open next month". Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 27, 2015. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  6. ^ "VRE Schedules". VRE. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  7. ^ "Amtrak & MARC Cross Honor Agreements". VRE. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  8. ^ "Keolis in, Amtrak out at VRE". Trains Magazine. November 6, 2009. Retrieved June 10, 2010.
  9. ^ Buske, Jennifer (July 10, 2010). "Amtrak ends role as VRE operator; Keolis to start Monday". The Washington Post. ISSN  0190-8286. Archived from the original on August 1, 2015. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  10. ^ "Amtrak gets two more weeks to operate Virginia Railway Express". Trains Magazine. June 10, 2010. Retrieved June 10, 2010.
  11. ^ "Virginia Railway Express Sees Decline in Ridership" Archived October 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, WTOP news, July 25, 2006
  12. ^ Dan Genz (August 15, 2007), "VRE ridership up; commuters likely to ask for later trains" Archived September 27, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, The Washington Examiner
  13. ^ "CEO Report: December 2016". December 2016. Archived from the original on February 2, 2017.
  14. ^ Worrell, Carolina (July 14, 2015). "VRE extends contract with Keolis". Railway Age. Archived from the original on September 17, 2015. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  15. ^ Lazo, Luz (November 15, 2015). "VRE Spotsylvania station to open Monday". Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 15, 2015. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  16. ^ a b "VRE throttles back Gainesville, Haymarket expansion plans". Trains Magazine. March 21, 2017. Archived from the original on March 21, 2017. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
  17. ^ Middleton, William D. (1994). North American commuter rail 1994. Pasadena, CA: Pentrex. p. 16. OCLC  32665882.
  18. ^ "Connecticut State Rail Plan 2012-2016" (PDF). Connecticut Department of Transportation. 2012. pp. 37, 238. Archived (PDF) from the original on April 1, 2016. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g "Virginia Railway Express". The Diesel Shop. October 29, 2015. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  20. ^ a b c d e "Equipment & Train Consist". Virginia Railway Express. November 21, 2017. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  21. ^ "VRE taps MotivePower for 12 locomotives, option for 8". August 18, 2009. Archived from the original on August 22, 2009. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
  22. ^ "VRE has $5.1 million surplus". Washington Post. September 20, 2010. Archived from the original on September 19, 2010. Retrieved September 20, 2010.
  23. ^ Buske, Jennifer (August 5, 2010). "Virginia Railway Express begins adding new locomotives to its fleet". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 11, 2012. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
  24. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on December 2, 2010. Retrieved September 19, 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title ( link)
  25. ^ "Virginia Railway Express orders gallery cars". Railway Gazette International. February 17, 2012. Archived from the original on February 18, 2012. Retrieved February 18, 2012.
  26. ^ "Railroad Accident Brief – Derailment of Virginia Railway Express train near Quantico, Virginia, January 5, 2006" Archived September 15, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, National Transportation Safety Board report NTSB/RAB-06/06 (includes link to pdf document with full report), retrieved March 22, 2008
  27. ^ "Gov. McDonnell Initiates Review of VRE". November 14, 2012.

External links

Route map:

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