Passenger rail returns to Roanoke

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) Roanoke celebrated the return of passenger rail Monday, as the inaugural train arrived at the platform in downtown Roanoke.

A large crowd greeted the train, which will begin regular Amtrak service on Tuesday morning.

Monday's trip carried invited guests from Lynchburg to Roanoke, but starting Tuesday, the daily Northeast Regional service will carry passengers to Washington, D.C,. and points north.

"And I want to say, All Aboard Roanoke," Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea told the crowd that gathered for Monday's ribbon-cutting ceremony.

It's been a long time coming.

It took eight years to secure the funding and complete the major rail improvements that were needed to bring passenger trains back to Roanoke.

The large crowd that turned out for the inaugural run, included many people who been looking forward to this day for years.

"It's a very exciting time for Roanoke and I think for us," said Rudolph Bush, "We retired down here from Washington and we have two of our children's families in that area."

"We've been looking forward to this for many years," said Katherine Overholser. "And we're so excited, we're going to ride the train tomorrow, Halloween Day to Washington DC. with quite a few of our friends and we are ecstatic."

Many in the crowd are also hoping that Roanoke won't be the end of the line for passenger rail expansion in western Virginia. It will depend on many factors including state funding and negotiations with Norfolk Southern, but with planning money in place, leaders say they are optimistic they can build a case for expanded service in the next few years.