SOUTH BEND — Business travelers and other early risers will be able to enjoy a new convenience next month when the South Shore railroad starts running a weekday express train between South Bend and Chicago.

The service, beginning March 16, will leave South Bend International Airport at 6 a.m. and arrive at Millennium Station in downtown Chicago just 1 hour and 55 minutes later. That’s more than 40 minutes faster than the existing early morning train, and it’s competitive with the time it takes to drive to downtown Chicago and park there.

It might also be a peek at further improvements to come on the South Shore line. The ultimate goal is to cut the travel time between South Bend and Chicago down to 90 minutes.

“Our growth as a railroad will depend on reducing travel times to Chicago, and that starts in South Bend and goes all the way to the city,” said Michael Noland, general manager of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which operates the South Shore railroad. “This type of service really is the wave of the future for the South Shore.”

The express service is expected to be particularly attractive to local residents who make business trips to Chicago.

Currently, the first South Shore train out of South Bend on weekday mornings departs the airport at 6:32 a.m., and it stops at as many as 14 stations before reaching its Chicago terminus 2 hours and 36 minutes later. As a result, the train arrives after the business day has already begun in Chicago. Only 30 to 40 people board that early morning train in South Bend on an average weekday.

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