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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?

Legacy Comments9

Equating rail with horse and buggy technology show a basic lack of knowledge relevant to the topic. As far as safety, rail is second behind air travel as the safest mode of transport when it comes to fatalities. The biggest draw back to train travel is time and infrastructure costs. Most of the rail lines in Mass and NH are freight only and thus are not built for high speed travel, which today's - "even my microwave is to slow" crowd requires. So while we as a nation have lagged behind the rest of the industrialized nations in high speed rail use, we do still manage to move 40% the countries freight tonnage by rail. This does not mean that I advocate rail travel as proposed for NH. It would make those who commute to Boston happier as well as the true train enthusiasts, but would never be economically viable because of limited numbers. So it's one thing to disapprove of the various proposals to bring rail to NH, but at least do it without made up facts.

An interesting alternative until we get the political will to put a high-speed rail link between Boston and Montreal. Too bad we get the usual naysayers that distract this debate with out-of-context preposterous claims, such as claiming rail service somehow inherently "unsafe" when all reliable statistics, including those from the US government show that rail service is nearly 40 times safer than driving in a car. So, if we are serious in acknowledging our nation's transportation system is broken and needs a major overhaul and part of that overhaul in admitting that one of the most cost-efficient and environmentally friendlily ways to move people is not by private auto or even air service, but by rail service. But to do this we need first to have people who are willing to have a serious discussion about our nation's transportation needs and this will not happen so long as we allow naysayers like "ItsaRepublic" to dominate or distract this important discussion. Because, long ago people like "ItsaRepublic" decided the only thing they have to "contribute" to any important local, regional or national discussion is the nihilism that comes from non sequiturs and non-solutions. So until serious people take charge of this discussion our national's transportation system will remain more "horse and buggy" rather than a real 21st century transportation system.

I suggest you look at the Amtrak System Nashua Mike. Look at the money poured into it and the fact it is filled with waste & fraud. Oh, the profit margin is also worth looking at.

Woo-woo, ALL ABOARD, take a ride on the Reading, do not pass go do not collect $200. I posted the link to train disasters, about 25 of which happened in the world in 2013. I have taken the train from Boston to New York and Philadelphia many, many times. It is dirty, fraught with delays and of course has derailed and had accidents many times. The food service on board is poor and honestly it is like herding people in to a cattle car. Yes, the executve car is much better, but honestly, trains may work in the Northeast but the infrastructure to build a train system all over the United States makes no sense. Yes, progressives want their subsidized ride and have other people pay for their transport to urban cultural centers but all in all, it loses money, year after year. You talk about "cost efficient" but for who? Here is the solution. Unbridled harvesting of our natural resources for 10 years, that would create jobs. Leave income taxes where they are but millions more will be working paying more taxes and the infrastructure will be taken care of. Right now millions of people are out of the workforce and fewer of us are paying in. If you are a mechanic or a part time librarian or a waitress or a seasonal tax preparer can you really afford more in taxes.

Why is it the progressives want this. the progressives want that for every argument out of your keyboard? There is a reason passenger travel between Mass and NY is dirty. Due to the age of the city of Boston and it's concentration of low RR bridges none of the new double decker passenger cars can be used. Once you hit NY and board modern passenger cars with all the amenities it's a night and day change. Unfortunately rail travel while being a more quaint and relaxing way to travel fails to meet today's need for speed. I have traveled cross country by rail with a 5 and 8 year olds and it was worth the extra time. It cost the same as air travel but took 2 days longer, not many would embrace that.. BTW the rail food service was lacking? Have you seen much food service on today's airlines that would be better. I vote no on continuous subsidies and have been called many left wing names, guess maybe blanket assumptions are not worth much.

If it is "one of the most cost-efficient" ways then why does private business not build it. They can keep all the profits for themselves. What private business wants is to control the rail line but have the tax payers pay for the building cost and then subsidize it every year to make it "profitable" for “them” to run it. Not even Amtrak in NYC where millions of passengers use it, is it actual profitable. Some freight rail lines are profitable because they can move huge numbers of items packed into containers, not 50 people in a car with windows for viewing out of with an additional dining car and then a sleeping car. If some private company wants to build it, I might even use it – ONCE...... The only possible reason you want all this discussion is to bring tax dollars into it. Private companies don’t have public discussion on what they will do with their private money, the only time the discussion becomes public is when they want tax dollars or tax credits (tax money). .

Rail entusiasts? Trains and windmills are the cornerstone for the progressive agenda. Let's bring back the horse and buggy, although PETA would probably not like that. Trains are dangerous compared to other modes of transportation and you are herded on board like cattle. Thirteen derailments of passenger and freight trains in the United States in 2013. Here is a list of worldwide derailments:

Yeah, I read an article the other day about how the EPA was going to give windmills a pass on killing bald eagles.

Interesting editorial. I foresee this proposed train to be nothing more than an excursion type train. I doubt business folks would use it. I also don't foresee much traffic from New Hampshireites taking this train. In order to get a really viable train from Boston to Montreal we would need it to go thru Nashua, Manchester, Concord and on-up thru VT. This way to would be a much higher ridership. I would take this type of service up to BTV for sure.

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