The Virginia Railway Express Operations Board approved a reduction in the commuter service’s step-up fare for select Amtrak trains -- a move VRE officials said should help alleviate overcrowding on VRE trains.

The VRE Operations Board voted Friday to lower the step-up fee from $10 to $5 for riders who wish to board select Amtrak trains that stop at VRE stations. VRE Chief Executive Officer Dale Zehner said lowering the fare would shift about 60,000 riders annually to Amtrak,  roughly twice the number that rode in fiscal 2010.

 On the Fredericksburg line, Amtrak trains 86 and 174, which arrive at Union Station at 8:15 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., respectively, have open seats and can help alleviate congestion on trains 308 and 312, Zehner said, noting that there is an average of 236 standees on 308 daily.

 In the evening, Amtrak trains 95, 125 and 93/83 can pick up some of the roughly 900-plus Fredericksburg-line standees, VRE officials said.

 On the Manassas line, the evening Amtrak train 171, which departs Union Station at 4:50 p.m., can take some of the roughly 100 VRE standees, officials said.

 Also at the meeting, the board voted to eliminate VRE’s group fare discount program. Groups of 10 or more used to get a  50 percent discount on each single-ride ticket. Zehner said he wanted to cut the program because daily riders have complained about losing seats to one-time riders who paid half the price.