Greater City Providence

And you want a train, and you want a train…

New London

Amtrak train at New London Station. Photo (cc) mjpeacecorps

The Day of New London editorialized this week about our new train service to Wickford Junction. The gist of the editorial being they like more trains and want even more. Currently, New London is stuck in a bit of a train void, Shore Line East service to New London does not run on weekends, and at this point neither does MBTA service to Wickford Junction. Nonetheless, a weekday drive from New London to Wickford Junction, parking in the garage, and a ticket to Boston cost less than either driving straight through, or paying for direct Amtrak service from Boston to New London.

New Londoners seem pleased that at the Wickford Junction ground breaking, MBTA officials expressed optimism for extending service further south the Westerly, which would put MBTA commuter rail service within 15 miles of New London. At the same time, weekend Shore Line East service to New Haven from New London is set to start in a year (putting Westerly within 15 miles of commuter rail service to New Haven and New York).

Meanwhile, The Herald News of Fall River reports that officials in Bristol County, Massachusetts are a little miffed that we’re getting commuter rail service built deeper into Rhode Island while Fall River, Taunton, and New Bedford still lack commuter rail service. Though Mass. State Sen. Michael Rodrigues is realistic about the issues involved.

“It’s a shame that we have infrastructure in place to South County, R.I., but not to the SouthCoast,” […] But the senator also called himself “a realist” when it comes to a rail connection to Boston going to southern Rhode Island before Fall River or New Bedford, also citing the much higher rail upgrade costs needed in Massachusetts.

Indeed, the Rhode Island extensions are being built on active Amtrak lines with the majority of costs going towards the stations themselves and sidings, as well as operational costs. The lines to Taunton, New Bedford, and Fall River need to be largely rebuilt to accommodate commuter rail service at speeds to make it worthwhile to run the service.

The good news seems to be that, regionally, people want rail service, and it seems New London and Fall River are getting a little jealous of ours.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • As a New Bedford area resident I can certainly sympathize with the people of New London and I share their envy. However, that envy is balanced by excitement. I’ve been thrilled with the TF Green stop (even some of the nation’s largest airports lack rail connection to the urban centers) and am glad to see Wickford Junction opening. Hopefully we’ll see some real service increases in the near future.

  • Yes, the rebuilding of the train line through RI allowed MBTA to just use the same tracks. In fact today I watched as an MBTA train sped toward Warwick, and about 30 minutes later I saw the Amtrak regional moving south too. So cool!

    Speaking of trains, I note I haven’t heard ANYTHING about streetcars in Providence. Not a peep. So I guess it isn’t going to happen. It is really a shame.

  • Not sure why the New london folks would want to drive up 95, have to take exit 8 onto Route 2 south, then to Division street, then south to Route 4 to Wickford Junction. They would more likely just stay on 95 to TF Green.

    Either way, I am a huge fan of mass transit and am loving the expanding service and connecting options via rail and bus.

  • It seems to me the short-term rail improvement priority should be “infill” stations where the trains are already passing such as East Greenwich, Cranston, and especially, Pawtucket. Extensions on the relatively lightly populated Wickford-Wesytely-New London would seem less of a priority. Improved RIPTA service would be a more practical way to serve South County, and indeed there are already about 28 buses each way between southern RI and Providence on just the #66 line, and for only $2 or less. Much better service than a decade or so ago.

    As for Amtrak, keep in mind its future is very much in doubt, it is targeted for elimiantion by Mitt Romney.

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