Return of Vermont-to-Montreal passenger rail service takes big step

Posted on March 18, 2015

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) says years of work on the goal of restoring passenger rail service between Vermont and Montreal took a major step forward as the U.S. and Canada signed a long-awaited agreement designed to improve cross border travel and security between the two countries.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Canadian Minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney signed a new pre-clearance agreement in Washington that was negotiated under the Beyond the Border Action Plan approved earlier by President Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Pre-clearance facilities allow travelers to pass through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspections prior to traveling, permitting them to quickly move along to their destinations upon arrival in the U.S.

A new agreement has been needed before discussions and work on creating a pre-clearance facility at Montreal’s Central Station — and re-establishing train service between Vermont and Montreal — could happen. The agreement is also a positive step for improving the travel experience on the air service between Burlington International Airport and Toronto City Airport.

Amtrak’s Montrealer line used to run service between Washington, D.C., and Montreal, Quebec, serving nine Vermont stations along the way. That cross-border service ended in 1995, when St. Albans became the terminus for the new Vermonter train. Sen, Leahy has long worked to restore this service, and Gov. Peter Shumlin has made it one of his administration’s top priorities.

A key to restoring Amtrak service between Vermont and Montreal is the creation of a preclearance facility in Montreal’s Central Station. This would eliminate the need for the train to stop at the U.S. border to allow CBP officers to inspect passengers, a process that currently takes about an hour on the Amtrak’s Adirondack Line in New York.

Today, air travelers from Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport to Burlington International Airport must deplane and pass through customs at a separate facility before re-boarding the plane to be transported to the airport terminal. Sen. Leahy continues to work with CBP on proposals to establish preclearance operations at these Canadian travel hubs.

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