PHILADELPHIA – Customers on SEPTA’s Regional Rail R5 Paoli-Thorndale Line and Amtrak’s Keystone Service will soon enjoy a smoother ride as Amtrak embarks on a major trackwork project between Paoli and Philadelphia.
Scheduled to begin May 7 and continue through mid-November, the trackwork will cause adjustments to the schedules of trains that travel through the area, but in the end will result in more reliable service.
During the project, SEPTA passengers will get a sneak peak at what the trackwork means to their daily commute as trains will operate over tracks that have already been upgraded. The trackwork, which is being funded by SEPTA, calls for the installation of concrete ties and continuous-welded rail on tracks 1 and 4, which serve the numerous commuter rail stations between Paoli and Overbrook.
These new tracks provide a quieter ride over smoother rail, and once the trackwork is complete, both SEPTA and Amtrak passengers will see increased speeds and faster trip times.
The first phase of the project begins May 7 and continues through mid-August with the reconstruction of eastbound track 1 between Paoli and Overbrook. The second phase, the reconstruction of westbound track 4 between Overbrook and Paoli, will run from mid-August through mid-November.
SEPTA and Amtrak train schedules will be adjusted on May 6 and May 7 respectively and again in August to accommodate the project. New R5 Paoli-Thorndale schedules effective May 6 are available now at stations and online to view or print at www.septa.org. New Amtrak schedules for the Keystone Service are available onboard trains and online at www.amtrak.com.
The upgrade will mean better service for SEPTA’s Paoli/Thorndale riders. The regional rail route is SEPTA’s busiest, with riders taking more than 22,000 daily trips on the line. All SEPTA stations between Thorndale and Overbrook will be affected by the schedule changes associated with the improvement project.
“This trackwork is necessary to ensure the future of rail service between Paoli and Philadelphia,” said Jay McArthur, principal officer for state contracts for Amtrak. “We know this may be inconvenient for some, and we apologize for that, but the importance of maintaining our infrastructure is vital to maintaining rail service for the thousands of commuters who travel the route daily.”
Working together, Amtrak and SEPTA will minimize the effect of the trackwork on passengers. In addition to the change in train schedules, some passengers may have to board their regular trains from different platforms during the course of the project. Shuttle bus service may also be operated between specific SEPTA stations during some weekday offpeak periods due to the construction.
Amtrak and SEPTA will strive to communicate these changes to passengers as early as possible. Information on the project will be available at the affected stations and onboard trains as well as on the SEPTA website at www.septa.org. Once the project begins, riders can call SEPTA Customer Service at (215) 580-7800 for general information about train service while the status of a specific SEPTA train may be attained through Train View on the SEPTA website. The status of specific Amtrak trains may be checked at online at www.amtrak.com and via “Julie,” Amtrak’s automated, voice-activated agent available by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
During the project, crews will install 80,000 concrete ties and 60 miles of continuous-welded rail to complete the restoration of the quadruple track along the railroad between Paoli and Philadelphia. A crew of more than 140 will be working around-the-clock to complete the work as quickly as possible.
The trackwork project is a continuation of the upgrade of the Keystone Corridor that began in 2002. Through a partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Amtrak introduced new all-electric service with increased speeds along the corridor in October, 2006.
The Keystone Corridor is one of Amtrak’s most popular rail routes. Ridership has grown 17 percent since the new service was introduced last fall. Last month alone 70,930 passengers traveled on Amtrak’s Keystone Service, making it the 4th busiest corridor service in the Amtrak system behind only the Northeast Corridor (Washington – Boston), the Pacific Surfliners (Paso Robles – Los Angeles – San Diego), and the Capitols (San Francisco – Sacramento – Auburn).