Last updated: December 29. 2013 1:36PM - 1508 Views
By BRIAN BRUS The Journal Record

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — For the first time in 50 years, Oklahoma will have passenger train service between the Tulsa and Oklahoma City metro areas, officials announced recently.

That’s true for at least for a few trips in February, anyway. Plans beyond will depend on whether the route attracts enough passengers, Iowa Pacific spokeswoman Angela Arias said.

Iowa Pacific is working in conjunction with Stillwater Central Railroad to provide round trips between boarding stations in Sapulpa and Midwest City on Feb. 9, 15 and 23 on Iowa Pacific-owned Eastern Flyer first-class passenger cars.

Arias said passengers purchasing diamond class and coach-with-dining tickets will be treated to breakfast and dinner service on either a vista dome car or a classic railroad dining car. The former cars provide a wide view of the passing countryside. Arias said the dining car provides a hot breakfast and an elegant dining experience.

Arias said the three dates are intended to initially test the market for leisure travelers from Tulsa to Oklahoma City in the morning and from Oklahoma City to Tulsa in the evening. The most obvious goals will be Bricktown shopping trips and Thunder basketball games in Oklahoma City, she told The Journal Record.

“We firmly believe there is a market for passenger service in the corridor,” she said. “This is our first pass to demonstrate that there is a need and desire, and to get people to experience again the pleasure of rail travel between cities.”

The test benchmark ridership will be 180 passengers per station departure, she said. Depending on feedback, the line might develop to accommodate business travelers, she said, but further market research is needed.

Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer connects Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, Texas, with five stops between. From Fort Worth, connecting lines with the Texas Eagle take passengers east as well as farther south to connect with the Sunset Limited lines.

The Kansas state officials and the municipality of Wichita have been seeking federal money to extend the Heartland Flyer north out of Oklahoma City. That line is still in the planning phase, backed by about $12.7 million in grants.

Oklahoma officials are considering two possible routes: north through Wichita or northeast through Tulsa. A private study group in Tulsa this year said it is examining the possibility of private passenger trains on the northeast route through their city.

Arias said there have been no efforts to schedule Eastern Flyer routes with the Heartland Flyer departures; the two operations have no working relationship, she said.

She also said Iowa Pacific and Stillwater Central are heavily promoting the offerings via multiple media, including online social networking and traditional radio.

Packages and fares start at $70 per adult and $64 per child and are available online at www.easternflyer.com or calling (877) 726-7245. Tickets went on sale Monday.

Chicago-based Iowa Pacific is an independently-owned operator of first-class passenger service on both the Amtrak scheduled network and on several non-Amtrak routes. Iowa Pacific’s nationwide group of passenger train services is branded as the Premier Rail Collection.

Stillwater Central has operated the Eastern Flyer route for more than a decade, investing over $16 million in improvements to the State-owned line. A subsidiary of Watco Cos. LLC, Stillwater Central provides freight service to more than 20 customers, handling more than 29,000 annual carloads.

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