Rolling Through Holyoke: Residents Asked to be Cautious With Increased Amtrak Service


Zachary Baru, Faculty Advisor

For the first time in nearly half a century, Holyoke once again is connected to a busy passenger rail corridor linking to New York and Washington, D.C.  But with this increased access to transportation comes a major safety concern: ensuring that everyone knows six passenger trains a day are now rolling through our city.

The increased rail service has been welcomed by business owners and local leaders, and has already helped Holyoke’s local economy.  But are all residents of Holyoke and the neighboring communities aware of the increased number of trains coming through the area?


The Need for More Passenger Rail Service in Holyoke


In 2014, for the first time since 1966, passenger train service was restored through Holyoke thanks to local leaders such as Mayor Alex Morse, Congressman Richard Neal and Representative Aaron Vega.  The train was Amtrak’s Vermonter, with one train daily in each direction, connecting St. Albans, Vermont and Washington, D.C.

The response to the new service was immediately positive.  The State of Massachusetts quickly discovered there was a demand for more rail service between Greenfield, Northampton, Holyoke, and the other connecting cities on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.  In 2019, the Massachusetts State Legislature, with heavy support from Senator Eric Lesser, approved funding for a new Amtrak state-supported service stopping in Holyoke, this time called the Valley Flyer.  The Valley Flyer began service in August 2019 and will run on a two-year trial, with its future depending on ridership. 


Amtrak’s Valley Flyer and Vermonter Connects Holyoke to New York


The Valley Flyer will have two trains daily in each direction, serving Greenfield, Northampton and Holyoke, as well as Springfield, Hartford and New Haven.  The new Valley Flyer service combined with the Vermonter is a major economic opportunity for residents and businesses in Holyoke.  Holyoke residents will now have more access to trains into New Haven, but also opportunities to ride the train into New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

For Holyoke residents looking to directly travel to New York or points south, the Vermonter connects Holyoke to New York without the need to change trains.  For residents in Holyoke looking for additional trains to get to New York or south, they can take the Valley Flyer to New Haven and have a cross-platform transfer to Amtrak’s Northeast Regional which continues onto New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.  Passengers also can transfer in New Haven to Metro-North with hourly service into Grand Central Terminal in New York.


Safety Concerns Hits Holyoke


With passenger train service through Holyoke now increasing from two trains a day to six, the campaign for safety on the rails has already begun.  Amtrak has been communicating about rail safety to the community over the last half-year, but still the need to let residents know about the increase in service and rail safety remains a priority.  

People have been seen crossing the tracks throughout the rail line between Greenfield and Springfield.  Trains traveling throughout Holyoke can reach high speeds, and like in other areas, only blow horns around crossings.  This means that popular areas in Holyoke such as the Dinosaur Footprints will have trains passing through at a higher rate of speed without horns being blown.  The more awareness that the citizens of Holyoke can spread can greatly influence safety along the tracks, and prevent any incidents from happening.

The economic benefits of increased passenger rail play a key role in the growth of Holyoke.  In November of 2014 there had not been a passenger train stopping in Holyoke for 48 years, and now just five years later there are currently six passenger trains a day stopping in Holyoke and connecting to large cities like New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and the entire Amtrak system nationwide.  When it comes to rail, Holyoke is officially on the map, on track to a successful and bright future.

Zachary Baru teaches Journalism, Entrepreneurship, Marketing and Business Communications at Holyoke High School and is the Faculty Advisor of the Herald and Business Club.  Outside of school, he writes the and blogs. He can be reached at or his class website at