Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Second daily Amtrak train planned for Pittsburgh-New York route

An Amtrak train
Matt Rourke
FILE - An Amtrak train departs 30th Street Station in Philadelphia on Oct. 27, 2021.

The state Department of Transportation has finalized an agreement to add a second daily round-trip train between New York City and Pittsburgh, with stops in Lancaster city and Elizabethtown.

PennDOT will pay $200 million for Norfolk Southern to make infrastructure and safety improvements on Norfolk Southern-owned tracks between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh that are used by trains on Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian Line. PennDOT plans to seek federal funds to help pay for the improvements.

Amtrak trains make the round trip between New York and Harrisburg 14 times per day. Of those, only one eastbound and one westbound train also serve Pittsburgh. Its stops include Philadelphia, Lancaster city and Elizabethtown.

The additional train trips are scheduled to begin in 2026, according to a PennDOT spokesperson.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation Mike Carroll said in a statement announcing the agreement that it lays the groundwork to expand rail service and preserve a critical freight corridor.

“Ensuring more Pennsylvanians have access to safe and reliable transportation to Western PA will reduce commute times, help connect hundreds of thousands of residents, and boost local economies,” Carroll said in the statement.

WESA Inbox Edition Newsletter

Start your morning with today's news on Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania.

The train between Lancaster city and Pittsburgh takes about six hours one way, two hours longer than it takes by car. A one-way coach ticket costs $59 for a trip between Lancaster city and Pittsburgh, and $56 for a trip between Elizabethtown and Pittsburgh. Business class tickets cost about $30 more per trip.

Pittsburgh-bound trains currently stop in Lancaster city daily at 1:52 p.m. and Elizabethtown at 2:05 p.m. Trains from Pittsburgh arrive daily in Lancaster city at 1:40 p.m. and Elizabethtown at 1:22 p.m.

Mount Joy Borough, the third Amtrak station in Lancaster County, is not a stop on the Pennsylvanian.

The track upgrades will be constructed and maintained by Norfolk Southern. The changes will not increase the speed of a trip between Lancaster city and Pittsburgh, according to PennDOT.

A feasibility study by Norfolk Southern in 2020 concluded that the existing Keystone corridor between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh could not accommodate an additional train without creating unacceptable delays for freight and Amtrak trains.

The study identified upgrades that would reduce the delays caused by the additional train, and accommodate future growth in freight traffic. They include upgraded rail lines, sidings and communications infrastructure.

In a statement, Norfolk Southern called the agreement a win-win for passenger and freight rail in the state.

“Norfolk Southern is excited to build upon our partnership with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by increasing passenger rail options for the citizens of Pennsylvania while improving the resilience of our infrastructure for the shippers in the Commonwealth,” Mike McClellan, Norfolk Southern senior vice president and chief strategy officer, said in the statement.

The last time Amtrak had two trains from Lancaster city to Pittsburgh was 2005, before the Three Rivers train from Philadelphia to Chicago was canceled.

The Keystone line, which runs between New York and Harrisburg with stops in Lancaster city, Mount Joy Borough and Elizabethtown, has 13 trains in each direction per day. Amtrak owns the Keystone Corridor line between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, and the Northeast Corridor, which includes the tracks between Philadelphia and New York.

Lancaster Airport currently has nonstop flights to Pittsburgh, operated by Southern Airways Express. There are two round trip flights per day, with one-way tickets starting at $61.

Norfolk Southern’s feasibility study suggested that the two Pittsburgh-bound trains leaving Lancaster city at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Trains from Pittsburgh would arrive in Lancaster at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Read more from our partners, WITF.