New Legislation Moves Toward Restored Rail Service Between Vermont And Montreal

Dec 20, 2016

A new federal law will bring Vermont one step closer to the resumption of rail service to and from Montreal, Canada.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act, sponsored by Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy.

Carl Fowler, a longtime passenger rail advocate and a member of the Vermont Rail Advisory Council, spoke to Vermont Edition on Tuesday. Fowler said that the law will allow for pre-clearance facilities at Central Station in Montreal.

"With the legislation that's just passed, we'll have something similar to what's existed, actually, for the last decade at the major Canadian airports, and also actually at the Amtrak station in Vancouver, British Columbia,” Fowler said.

"There [in Vancouver], there is a platform assigned strictly to the American train. It's actually got a chain link fence around it. When you arrive at the station, you are greeted by U.S. Customs agents at the station if you're heading south, or Canadian agents if you're going north, and the formalities are simply cleared there."

Back when the Montrealer train was running, Fowler says, the rail trip from St. Albans to Montreal could take about three hours. With this new plan, he says the goal would be to condense that travel time down to about 90 minutes.

Parallel legislation will have to be passed by the Canadian Parliament for the project to move forward.

After that, Fowler said other next steps would include some track upgrades, facility construction and developing staffing plans.

Listen to the interview with Vermont Edition above.

Correction 9:15 a.m. Dec. 21, 2016 An earlier version of this post stated that the Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act still needed to be signed by President Obama; it was signed on December 16.