Amtrak has announced a new Washington-Kentucky passenger train service called the "Hill-topper," via Richmond and roanoke, to begin operations June 1.
But the train looks suspiciously like the "Mountaineer," an Amtrak money-loser that is being discontinued the previous day.
There are significant differences in routing that Amtrak officials believe will make the new train appealing to more riders, however, and a smaller annual loss is being projected.
Most important, perhaps, Amtrak's decision continues the daily train's service through West Virginia - the home state of Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd, who made it clear in recent months that he wanted the train kept alive, no matter it's name.
The ill-fated Mountaineer was a two-year experimental train that ran between Norfolk and Cincinnati, with through connections to Chicago. But in fiscal 1976 the train had a loss of $3.8 million and carried an average of only 35 riders a train - the lowest patronage of any Amtrak intercity train.
For Tidewater residents losing daily train service to the west, Amtrak will provide bus connections from Norfolk and Suffolk to Petersburg. Hilltopper stops will include Alexandria, Quantico, Fredericksburg and other cities between Richmond and Roanoke, three stops in West Virginia, and a destination at Cattettsburg, Ky., where connections will be available to Cincinnati and Chicago.
With the new train, Amtrak will be operating six trains daily in each direction between Washington and Richmond - double the service of a year ago. The train will depart Union Station at 2:30 p.m., arrive in Richmond at 4:35 p.m., and Catlettsburg at 6:25 a.m. Trains from Kentucky depart at 12:48 a.m. for arrival here at 5:10 p.m.