PLANS to create a 100 km rail corridor linking Philadelphia and Reading were approved by the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority board on June 21, and by the neighbouring Berks Area Reading Transportation Authority board five days later. The decisions pave the way for the start of engineering design, and enable an application for 80% federal funding towards the $1·4bn Schuylkill Valley Metrorail. Pennsylvania has allocated $300m for design and construction. Septa Assistant General Manager Bernard Cohen hopes work will start in 2003, with opening planned for 2007.

New tracks will run from Norristown to Reading, with a branch to the King of Prussia shopping centre, serving 13 new stations. The line will parallel Norfolk Southern’s busy ex-Conrail main line, but there will be no shared running, due to the volume of existing freight traffic. The line would be electrified at 25 kV 60Hz, rather than the 11 kV 25Hz used on the existing Septa regional network.

Dual-system trains will run from Philadelphia to Reading, taking over Septa route R6 to Norristown. Journey times will be 83min from 30th Street to Reading, and 43min from Market East to King of Prussia. A basic half-hourly service is planned, increasing to every 15 min at peak times.