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Advocates make push for Montreal-to-Boston passenger rail – Brospar Daily News

Rail advocates are reviving proposals for passenger rail service between Montreal and Boston, reviving interest in rail travel in support of a concept that has been around for more than a decade.

“It’s not a hard sell at all. A lot of people want it,” said François Rebello, a former Quebec member of the National Assembly and adviser to the project.

If the hurdles can be overcome to make the service a reality within the next few years, hundreds of passengers will travel on private overnight trains every day, according to a ridership study.

It will not be a high-speed event. The promoters imagined a different experience – a relaxing meal and sleep before reaching your destination. The 14-hour trip will cross Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Quebec.

The proposal comes amid a railroad renaissance and more than $100 billion in rail infrastructure funding approved by Congress.

Sen. Richard Bennett of Maine, a Republican who lives in the area where the train passes, said there is still a lot of work to be done.

“I was both excited and skeptical at the same time,” he said. “I certainly support the concept, I think it has a lot of promise. I think it can be done.

Market research shows that about 4,000 people commute between Montreal and Boston each day, and about 1,000 of those would choose rail service, if available, Rebello said. He said the service could be profitable with just 200 passengers.

But the proposal is still in its infancy and the obstacles are many.

The track on the Canadian side of the border required more than $100 million in upgrades and repairs. The track through northern New England was in good condition, but for a long time the speed was limited to around 35 mph (56 km/h), and there was little hope of getting any money extra to increase the speed.

Operators will have to negotiate agreements with several private railway owners (Saint-Laurent and Atlantique, CSX, etc.) and the trains may require several crews. Then there’s the issue of people going in and out of multiple stations, going through customs, and finding rare gear.

The idea of ​​restoring passenger rail service from Montreal to Boston for the first time since the 1960s has been debated for more than a decade, and several different rail lines have sprung up over the years.

This time, the proposed route would follow the Canadian Pacific Railway from Montreal to Sherbrooke, Quebec, then through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to Saint-Laurent and the Atlantic Ocean, where the path of CSX-owned railway runs through Old Orchard Beach, which is a popular tourist destination for Maine Canadians. The final segment is operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority.

Carl Fowler, a member of the Vermont Railroad Advisory Council, is a railroad advocate who loves the idea of ​​expanding passenger rail service. But he said people needed to be realistic about the challenges of the proposal.

“There are a lot of unresolved issues that need to be resolved,” he said.

Funders have reached out to Canadian Pacific Railway and parent company St. Lawrence and Atlantic, and the Canadian government has considered investing in rail improvements, Rebello said. Montreal real estate entrepreneur Nikolai Ray has signed with investors.

About 60 railroad advocates, legislators, tourism officials and others met recently in Coticook, Quebec, to discuss the vision advocated by the Fondation Trains De Nuit de Montreal, or Night Train Foundation, and to consider the proposed card. Traffic officials from the states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont were notably absent.

But the project will not start any time soon. The most optimistic view is that the project will take at least two years to become a reality, he said. However, it may take longer to secure funding and a rail deal.

Motorists can travel from Boston to Montreal twice as fast, but rail advocates say commuters will get there in style. Proponents say people can dine, enjoy entertainment and sleep in comfortable beds. Supporters say they can also get a hotel fee waiver because they can sleep and shower on the train.

Rebello said the project will appeal both to older passengers who miss trains and a younger generation less fascinated by cars.

Sarah LeBaron von Baeyer, a railroad enthusiast who lives outside of Boston and doesn’t drive, said her “no reservations” transit membership will allow her to visit Canada’s railroads multiple times a day. year with his family and friends.

“I love train travel. I lived in Japan for many years. It’s definitely the best way to travel,” she said.

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