NORFOLK By the end of this year, you could ride on a passenger rail train to and from Norfolk.

On Wednesday, after a Commonwealth Transportation Board meeting, Governor Bob McDonnell announced the start date of the rail service will be 10 months earlier than first projected. McDonnell said the Amtrak Virginia extension to and from Norfolk will begin by December 31, 2012.

'This service will provide immediate relief to road weary travelers between two of the state's most congested regions' said Governor McDonnell. 'This service is long overdue and I congratulate our partners and commend their cooperation in moving up the scheduled start date.'

The round-trip train will bring intercity passenger rail service to Norfolk for the first time since 1977 and will link Norfolk with a single-seat ride to Richmond, Washington, D.C. and cities as far north as Boston.

The trip to D.C. should take about three hours, according to Kim Kovac with the Department of Rail and Public Transportation. She told 13News the route from Norfolk to D.C. would include stops in Petersburg, Ashland, and Richmond. She said trains to and from Newport News to D.C. usually take about four hours, partly because the route has more stops.

The Commonwealth's Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), CSX, Norfolk Southern and the City of Norfolk have been working to make the necessary upgrades for the service.

'This service is a win-win for Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia. The economies of these two regions are intertwined and getting this service operating will strengthen them both,' said Thelma Drake, Director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

Virginia is the 15th state to partner with Amtrak for intercity passenger rail service.

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