NY: Amtrak, CN Railway reach deal on repairs for Montreal service

May 21, 2024
The improvements are to allow for service to run more smoothly and regularly.

May 17—ALBANY — Upcoming track work in Canada is expected to mitigate long-standing issues that have plagued the passenger rail service between Saratoga Springs and Montreal, following an agreement between Amtrak and CN Railway.

"After years of waiting, we will soon be able to say 'full steam ahead' for fully restoring this vital for the Capital Region and North Country economies," U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said in a statement.

The agreement "paves the way for the track work that will improve safety and efficiency along the Adirondack route," Schumer said. The improvements are to allow for service to run more smoothly and regularly, he said.

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, House Republican conference chair, also commented on the agreement. "I am proud to announce that following my advocacy, Amtrak and CN have reached an agreement that will allow them to continue serving upstate New York and North Country communities that rely on the Adirondack Line for transportation. This result will allow tourism to flourish through the summer months, strengthening economic development in the region and our partnership with our Canadian neighbors."

A settlement payment by Amtrak to CN Railway is expected to be used by the Canadian rail operator toward track work on its Rouses Point subdivision, according to the two rail services.

"This track work will help mitigate, but not eliminate heat slow order speed limits going forward," Amtrak and CN Railway said in a joint statement Friday, referring to concerns about high temperatures affecting the tracks.

Earlier this month, the Amtrak service between Saratoga Springs and Montreal was expected to be suspended between May 20 and June 30 for repairs, according to passenger rail advocates. On Friday, Amtrak and CN Railways said that the Adirondack service "may be modified on a short-term basis in the coming weeks to ensure completion of the track."

Passenger rail advocates called for the government to subsidize bus services to fill the temporary train service void.

Empire State Passengers Association previously said it expected to see a 25-mile segment of the track north of the northern border to be repaired. Last summer, CN Railway slowed service to 10 mph, leading to further Amtrak interruptions. The advocacy group said last week on Facebook it believed the work should prevent future widespread speed restrictions and service suspensions.

The service to Canada was suspended during the pandemic and carried on for three years.

In a December 2022 letter to Amtrak, Stefanik said it should commit to a timeline instead of "continued ambiguity" on the future of the service.

Last year, Amtrak announced the service would resume, which came to the delight of advocates and area politicians. The Adirondack route between Rensselaer and Montreal includes stops in Saratoga Springs, Fort Edward, Whitehall, Ticonderoga, Port Henry, Westport, Port Kent, Plattsburgh and Rouses Point. But three months later the service was again halted.

"I am disappointed," Assemblyman Billy Jones, D- Chateaugay Lake, said in June. "We were just getting back to normalcy at our borders and now it feels like we are moving backwards."

By September, the service was back up and running. Amtrak officials cited at the time concerns with warm temperatures that it said could lead to warped tracks under the weight of the trains.

The resumed service carried on until earlier this month when Amtrak again announced a stop in service, although public officials are now bullish that the upcoming repairs will help resolve the long-standing issues.

"While the journey to a favorable conclusion has seemed longer than the railway itself, we welcome the finalization of an agreement between Amtrak and CN that will avoid another summer long shutdown," Garry Douglas, president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement issued by Stefanik's office.


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