AP

Advocates make push for Montreal-to-Boston passenger rail

Sep 12, 2022, 6:09 AM

FILE: passenger train...

FILE: passenger train

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Rail advocates are dusting off a proposal for passenger train service between Montreal and Boston, riding a renewed interest in train travel to bolster a concept that has been around for more than a decade.

“It’s not a hard sell at all. A lot of people want this,” said Francois Rebello, a former national assembly member in Quebec and a consultant on the project.

Hundreds of travelers would ride a privately operated, overnight train each day if obstacles can be overcome to make the service a reality in coming years, according to a ridership study.

It wouldn’t be a high-speed affair. Promoters envision a different experience — a relaxed ride with a meal and sleep before arriving bright-eyed at the destination. The 14-hour ride would travel through Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Quebec.

The proposal comes against a backdrop of a rail revival, and more than $100 billion in railway infrastructure funding approved by Congress.

Maine State Sen. Richard Bennett, a Republican who lives in a district where the train would pass, said there’s much work to be done.

“I’m both excited and skeptical,” he said. “I certainly support the concept and I think it has a lot of promise. I think this can be done.”

A market study suggests about 4,000 people travel daily between Montreal and Boston, and about 1,000 of them would opt for rail service if it’s available, Rebello said. The service would be profitable with only 200 riders, he said.

But the proposal is in the early stages and the obstacles are many.

The track on the Canadian side of the border requires more than $100 million in upgrades and repairs. The track is in good shape through northern New England but the speed is limited to about 35 mph (56 kph) for a long stretch, and there’s little hope of securing additional funding to boost the speed.

Operators would have to negotiate agreements with several private owners of the rail — the Saint Lawrence and Atlantic, CSX and others — and there could be multiple crews required for the train. Then there’s the question of clearing customs with people coming and going at multiple train stops, and finding scarce equipment.

The idea for restoring Montreal-to-Boston passenger rail service for the first time since the 1960s has been bounced around for more than a decade, and several different rail routes have been floated over the years.

This time, the proposed route would follow Canadian Pacific Railway track from Montreal to Sherbrooke, Quebec, and then the St. Lawrence and Atlantic across Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, where a CSX-owned rail passes through Old Orchard Beach, a popular Maine tourist destination for Canadians. The final stretch is operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority.

Carl Fowler, a member of the Vermont Rail Advisory Council, is a rail advocate who likes the idea of expanded passenger rail service. But he said people have to be realistic about the proposal’s challenges.

“There are a lot of loose ends to be resolved,” he said.

Proponents have engaged with the Canadian Pacific Railway and the corporate parent of St. Lawrence and Atlantic, and the Canadian government already has considered investing in railway upgrades, Rebello said. Montreal real estate entrepreneur Nikolai Ray has signed on an investor.

About 60 rail advocates, legislators, tourism officials and others gathered recently in Coaticook, Quebec, to discuss the vision promoted by Montreal-based Fondation Trains De Nuit, or Night Train Foundation, and view a proposed map. Notably absent were state transportation officials from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

But the project won’t start anytime soon. The most optimistic view is that the project would need at least two years to become a reality, he said. However, it could take longer to secure funding and rail agreements.

A motorist could get from Boston to Montreal twice as fast but rail advocates say riders would get there in style. People could have dinner, be entertained and sleep in a comfortable bed, proponents say. They’d also be spared the cost of a hotel fee, since they’d be sleeping and showering on the train, supporters said.

The project holds appeal both for older riders who are nostalgic about trains and a younger generation that’s less enthralled with cars, Rebello said.

Rail enthusiast Sarah LeBaron von Baeyer, who lives outside Boston and doesn’t drive, said she “wholeheartedly” embraces mass transit that would allow her to visit family and friends in Canada several times a year.

“I love train travel. I lived in Japan for many years. It was absolutely the best way to get around,” she said.

KSL 5 TV Live

AP

(Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)...

Associated Press

Toyota recalls 280,000 pickups and SUVs because transmissions can deliver power even when in neutral

The recall is to fix a transmission problem that can let the vehicles creep forward while in neutral.

6 hours ago

Members of HM Coastguard Search and Rescue gather after homes were evacuated when a suspected Secon...

Pan Pylas

A World War II bomb prompted an evacuation in England before being taken to sea to be blown up

An unexploded World War II bomb has been safely transported through the eerily empty streets of the southwestern English port city of Plymouth.

15 hours ago

FILE: The University of Wyoming campus sign with the Wyoming Union in the background Friday March 2...

Mead Gruver

Highway crash in Colorado kills three University of Wyoming swimmers

A single-vehicle wreck on a highway in northern Colorado killed three members of the University of Wyoming swimming and diving team.

19 hours ago

This image provided by the Denver Police Department shows Miles Harford. Denver police are asking f...

Associated Press

Denver police search a former funeral home owner who kept the cremated remains of at least 30 people

Denver police are asking for the public's help in finding a former funeral home owner who they say kept a woman's body in a hearse for two years and also kept the cremated remains of at least 30 people.

1 day ago

FILE...

Gene Johnson, Associated Press

Seattle officer who struck and killed graduate student from India won’t face felony charges

Prosecutors in Washington state said Wednesday they will not file felony charges against a Seattle police officer who struck and killed a graduate student from India while responding to an overdose call.

2 days ago

In this screen grab from lapel camera video provided by the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office, movie...

Associated Press

Jury selection begins for trial of ‘Rust’ armorer in fatal 2021 shooting by Alec Baldwin

Prosecutors are pursuing accountability in the 2021 death of a cinematographer who was shot by actor Alec Baldwin during a rehearsal for the Western movie “Rust."

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Advocates make push for Montreal-to-Boston passenger rail