Valley Flyer ready to again spread its wings

  • The Valley Flyer will revert to its pre-pandemic schedule of four trains per day next month. FILE PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 6/24/2021 9:39:50 PM

The Valley Flyer, a state-funded seven-day-a-week passenger train, will fully reopen to the public on July 26 after reducing operation in March 2020. The trains travel along the Connecticut River and make stops in Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield.

The Valley Flyer opened with four trains in August 2019. However, at the beginning of the pandemic, two of those trains were removed from the rotation “as members of the public were quarantining and traveling less frequently,” according to Amtrak.

With vaccination rates rising in the state, the Department of Transportation and Amtrak decided that it would be safe to resume full operation.

The full reopening means that, on weekdays, there will be another morning train departing from Greenfield to New Haven, Connecticut, and a late train arriving in Greenfield at 12:38 a.m., in addition to the one which arrives at 10:23 p.m.

The additional trains give riders more flexibility in deciding when to leave the Valley and when to return.

Passengers on the Valley Flyer can transfer to other service lines in New Haven and continue on to New York, Washington D.C. or Philadelphia.

“The beauty of this service is to allow Pioneer Valley residents to get to New York and back in a day. Prior to the Valley Flyer, a Valley resident would have had to drive or take a bus to Springfield,” said Dana Roscoe, principal planner and communications director at Pioneer Valley Planning Commission in Springfield.

The Valley Flyer is part of a DOT and Amtrak pilot program, which means that its funding depends on its ridership. PVPC hopes to get ridership back up as Massachusetts reopens.

“It’s important to have as many car-free options for Pioneer Valley residents as we can. The more ridership, the more opportunity we have to expand the service,” Roscoe said.

One of the ways that the commission plans to improve ridership is with an advertising campaign. The PVPC hired the advertising firm in March 2020, but held off on running any ads because of the pandemic. They plan to begin advertising in the fall.

Amtrak is also reopening three other trains which offer service between New Haven and Springfield, as well as the “Vermonter,” which connects St. Albans, Vermont, to Washington D.C.

Valley Flyer trains offer the same amenities as all other Amtrak trains. Passengers will be able to use free Wi-Fi, bring two personal items and two carry-on bags and use their electronic devices throughout the trip.

All passengers are still required to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. However, Amtrak is no longer limiting capacity on their trains.

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