On March 11, trains between the Massachusetts-Vermont border near Brattleboro and White River Junction, Vermont – a trip of about 75 miles -- will travel at speeds of up to 79 miles per hour. That’s faster than ever before. This is the result of improvements made to the tracks. By April, the trip on Amtrak from Brattleboro to Burlington will be about 24 minutes faster. The trip will take 3 hours and 10 minutes and cost $26 on Amtrak. By car, the same journey takes about 2 hours and 23 minutes.
Meanwhile, work is underway to change Amtrak’s route from Springfield, Massachusetts to Brattleboro. Now the train goes via Amherst. By June 2014, the train will stop going to Amherst and will instead stop in Greenfield and Northampton on improved tracks. This will make the trip from Brattleboro to Springfield much faster. The trip will take about an hour on Amtrak. That’s how long it takes by car too.
In October 2012, government officials announced they would invest $121 million to make trains go much faster and much more frequently between Springfield, Massachusetts and New Haven, Connecticut. Starting in 2016, the new trains will travel at up to 110 miles per hour and will depart every 30 minutes during rush hour, and hourly the rest of the day. From New Haven, there is frequent, cheap train service to New York City on MetroNorth, and expensive, very fast service on Amtrak to Boston, New York City and Washington, DC.
Vermont governor Peter Shumlin has vowed to restore train service from Burlington to Montreal. He’s working with the Canadian government on the project, which will include making the border crossing document checks much faster. In the past, these checks have added hours to the trip.
Dan Delabruere is Vermont’s top train official. He works for the state’s transportation agency. He told the Valley Post on February 17, that the governments of Canada and the U.S. are negotiating a treaty that would allow ID checks to happen at the train station in Montreal, instead of at the border. This would mean people whose documents are OK could leave the station right away, rather than the current system for Amtrak trains from New York to Montreal that requires all passengers to wait when any passenger has a problem with their ID. Delabruere said the treaty should be signed about a year from now.
The National Association of Railroad Passengers www.narprail.org lobbies the U.S. government to improve Amtrak and commuter rail lines like MetroNorth.
More information about trains in the Valley is at www.ValleyPost.org/node/135.