Editorial: The slooow route from Boston to Montreal
As rail enthusiasts in Concord dream of the day the city will once again be connected by passenger rail to Boston, they may get beaten to the punch by Berlin, of all places. But while Capitol Corridor advocates imagine a modern, high-speed train line, the Berlin plan is decidedly more old-fashioned.
Berlin, New Hampshire’s northernmost city, is actually just a stop along the way for a train proposal that would link Boston and Montreal. It’s the brainchild of a Canadian entrepreneur, who, according to the Portland Press-Herald, envisions a route with stops in Berlin, interior Maine, Portland, Old Orchard Beach, and then on to Boston through southern New Hampshire. His plan would be less costly than others because he proposes a sloooooow route that passengers would travel at night. The leisurely, 12-hour trip would not necessitate upgrading existing tracks. He’s hoping to work out an agreement with the freight railroads that own the route in order to start service by summer.
Would 21st-century passengers really go for something that moves at a 19th-century pace? Advocates describe a service – some are calling it a hotel train – in which passengers would board in Boston or Montreal at dinner time, have a meal, relax in a lounge, sleep in a sleeper car and arrive at their destination in the morning. Along the way: a border stop that could last more than an hour, as bags are inspected and passengers interviewed. Cost of a one-way fare: $150.
It’s easy to imagine trying the train once – as a lark. But would travelers really use it in great numbers? Advocates suggest that Canadian tourists looking for a way to get to the Maine beaches in the summer would become regulars.
The great part about this fanciful scheme: It’s private. Because the tracks won’t need upgrading, the backers aren’t asking for public money. Which makes it that much easier to cheer. Why not try it?