June 14, 2018

Hartford Rail Line steams ahead Saturday

PHOTO | Contributed
PHOTO | Contributed
The CTrail Hartford line.
PHOTO | CTrail Hartford Line
Tickets are free during the opening weekend of the CTrail Hartford Line.

Connecticut's first new train service in 20 years is on track for its grand opening Saturday.

The highly anticipated launch of the $769 million CTrail Hartford Line will transport riders to eight stops between its final destinations along the Interstate 91 corridor in Springfield and New Haven.

Tickets are free during the opening weekend of the long-awaited commuter rail, which includes stops in Windsor Locks, Windsor, Hartford, Berlin, Meriden and Wallingford.

With trains moving up to 110 mph on the 62-mile track, a ride from Springfield to New Haven will take about 81 minutes, according to the Department of Transportation.

Trains are available at 45-minute intervals during peak hours and roughly every 90 minutes during off-peak hours.

Check out HBJ's past coverage of the Hartford rail line service: Redeker to lead state's launch of new Hartford Rail Line and Expanded rail line aims to broaden talent pool for regional employers

During weekday peak hours, 17 trains will travel between New Haven and Hartford each day and 12 will continue through to Springfield. At least 14 trains will run between Springfield and New Haven on weekends and holidays.

The rail line will also provide connecting service to New York City, Boston and Vermont.

Meantime, the rail line has a variety of tickets for one-way, weekly, 10-day or monthly travels.

Riders 13 years and older will pay $12.95 for a one-way ticket from New Haven to Springfield, and the child rate is $1 per child for up to four children ages 2 to 12 traveling with an adult. Additional children will be charged half the adult rate. Children under the age of 5 ride free.

Seniors 65 and older and those with disabilities pay half the rate of one-way tickets.

On-board passes come at no additional cost at the Windsor Locks and Windsor stations, which currently lack ticket kiosks. One-way tickets purchased on board at the remaining stations cost an additional $3.

Weekly passes peak at $83 for trips between New Haven and Springfield and the monthly fare for that distance is $267.75.

In roughly 40-minute commutes to Hartford, the first weekday train departs Springfield at 5:23 a.m. and the first northbound rail departs from New Haven at 4:50 a.m. Hartford's first northbound train leaves at 5:35 a.m. and the southbound at 5:56 a.m.

On weekdays, Springfield's last train departs at 9:50 p.m. and the last train from New Haven leaves at 10:59 p.m.

Tough to “go”

One early issue with the service launch is that half the trains' restrooms will be closed until early 2019, when they are scheduled to be upgraded to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, following an order from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

For now, five portable restrooms will be placed at locations without them: Windsor Locks, Windsor, Berlin, Meriden and Wallingford. Stations will also post signage identifying rail cars without restrooms.

DOT Commissioner James P. Redeker hopes the FRA will reverse its decision in the coming months, but said his department is still "thrilled" about the rail line becoming a "game-changer for Connecticut's transit options… ."

Meantime, construction work is ongoing at stations in Windsor Locks and Windsor and significant upgrades at Berlin, Meriden and Wallingford will be completed in future years.

New stops

On Tuesday, Connecticut rail line officials welcomed new partners in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and other Bay State officials announced an agreement with Connecticut's DOT to pilot a passenger rail service between Springfield and Greenfield in spring 2019.

Under the deal, Massachusetts will pay for the Amtrak-operated pilot service, concluding in fall 2021.

Baker said the limited service includes two trips a day with stops at stations in Greenfield, Northampton, Holyoke and Springfield. Southbound rides will begin in the morning and northbound trips in the evening.

Meantime, on Friday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and other officials will inaugurate the rail opening during a ribbon cutting at the New Haven Union Station. The group will board the northboard train at 10:30 a.m.

For more information visit the rail line's website here.

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