Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

New Seattle-Vancouver train delayed by CBSA cash grab?

with 12 comments

Transport 2000 in Ottawa puts out a web based news service and the following story is copied entire

I have nothing further to add

According to Jon Calon, Transport 2000 Western Newsletter editor: “It is a sad thing” the (passing) siding near Colebrook Road that was paid for out of funding from the government (and) has been installed quite some time ago … still does not host the second Seattle – Vancouver Amtrak train.”

This week Vickie Sheehan of Washington DoT, the train’s sponsor, told Transport 2000: “At this time we do not have a firm date on the start of the second train service to Vancouver, BC. We are still awaiting clearance from the CANADIAN BORDER SECURITY AGENCY (emphasis added) and until this issue is resolved, our second train service is delayed”.

Further probing led to the discovery that the CBSA views the second train as a “new facility” and demands to be paid for screening its passengers. Pearson and Vancouver International Airports are grandfathered, new flights (facilities) attract no new bills. The treatment of the second Amtrak train is a case of modal discrimination with the State of Washington being held up to ransom. The rumour is CBSA wants $1,500 a day!

Written by Stephen Rees

July 27, 2008 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Transportation

Tagged with ,

12 Responses

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  1. I’ve been waiting and wondering why this train isn’t on track…now I know why. Where should the blame be placed?

    Tim V.

    July 27, 2008 at 6:06 pm

  2. Very frustrating news. The last time I came up on the train the conductor went on at length explaining to me about the added service that would begin in August or September. According to this conductor the second train would connect with a southbound train to Portland. Actually I think he indicated it would be a through train with a stop in Seattle. I think it was also to be a through train northbound but I stand to be corrected. I’ve been anxiously waiting for the new service as I’d go to Portland more often on an improved schedule.
    People who haven’t ridden this train probably don’t realize how spectacular the scenery is. The southbound trip in the winter would be after dark on the present schedule. The times of the existing service leave something to be desired, even so, I wouldn’t consider travelling to Seattle any other way.
    In typical fashion the bureaucracy throws up roadblocks to another measure which would go a long way toward helping individuals reduce their carbon footprint. I’ll be sending an email to a couple of MPs and the PM. I would think the tourism sector on both sides of the line would be screaming blue murder over this. On the one hand, tourism is way down due to high gas prices and on the other CSBA reckons they can hold Amtrak to ransom over a service they are supposed to provide. If tourism is down I would have thought there would be agents standing around picking their noses. This could provide work for people who might have become redundant in time. As always, I’d like to see the calculations to back up the $1500. figure. When the southbound train crosses the line I think only two customs officials come aboard. Let’s say it takes two Canadian customs officials to do the work of one American official. It takes about 20 minutes to go through the train but let’s give them an hour because I’m no good at arithmetic. Four officials for one hour a day, comes to $375.00 an hour at $1500.00 a day. If I were Amtrak I’d hold out for a better deal.

    By the way, the train fare is the bargain of the century, about $40.00.


    July 27, 2008 at 6:10 pm

  3. Another embarrassment for Canada. What a bunch of inept twits our bureaucracy has become. Harpo and &Co. should fire the lot of them!

    Malcolm J.

    July 27, 2008 at 7:11 pm

  4. Every time I go visit my brother in Portland and this train doesn’t exist, I have to arrange for an overnight stay in Seattle or a miserable wait at the border on the bus.

    Whom can I complain to to get this this thing moving?


    July 28, 2008 at 1:45 am

  5. talking of amtrack, anybody know the latest about UK train operators buying it


    July 28, 2008 at 12:19 pm

  6. If the California high-speed rail project ever gets started, maybe someone will get smart and think of extending it all the way to Vancouver. It will probably take $300/barrel oil for that to happen, though.


    July 28, 2008 at 12:46 pm

  7. I’m also waiting for this train to get started so I can make a trip to Portland. I realize it’s a federal issue (border services) but why isn’t Kevin Falcon doing something about this? Does he not realize that there’s more to the Ministry of Transportation than highways?


    July 28, 2008 at 6:42 pm

  8. Matthew

    That is purely a rhetorical question, I take it

    Stephen Rees

    July 28, 2008 at 7:19 pm

  9. High speed rail is somewhat of a misnomer. In the USA, Federal law prohibits passenger trains to travel faster than 89 mph, except for special routes, such as the East Coast Corridor.

    In the USA, high speed rail, must travel on a totally segregated rights-of-way. Very expensive!

    In Europe, most mainline passenger routes can accommodate 125 mph passenger trains. In the UK, the HST 125 trains travelled on the former Great Western (Gods Wonderful Railway) route and portions of the East & West Coast Rail routes. For higher speeds, specialized rail routes are needed.

    In Europe TGV and ICE travel at their maximum allowed speeds on their specialized routes but do operate at about 125 mph on regular mainline Railway routes.

    Let us not jump the gun, let us operate trains at 125 mph on existing railway rights-of-ways first, then build high-speed train routes in the region. One must learn to walk before one can run!

    Malcolm J.

    July 28, 2008 at 8:17 pm

  10. FYI:

    Washington State Long Range Plan for Amtrak Cascades dated February 2006 (cover letter dated Sept 2007):

    Click to access LongRangePlanforAmtrakCascades.pdf

    Ron C.

    July 29, 2008 at 12:40 am

  11. an extract from a blog post of the bbc’s Justin Webb:

    A postscript though: a friend of mine who is a director of a British private rail company tells me he is looking for similar companies to buy in the US.

    In fact, he is toying currently with buying a major suburban system which is up for sale soon, he tells me, with a view to pouncing if Amtrak is broken up.

    from ATW Daily news web site:

    In the U.S., ridership on Amtrak is breaking records. The House of Representatives has passed and sent H.R. 6003, a bill that authorizes $14.9 billion over 2009 to 2013 for rail programs administered by Amtrak, the states and the Department of Transportation, to the Senate. In Europe, where rail is much more of a transportation staple, Air France-KLM is considering getting into the high-speed rail business. And everywhere, rail and airline operators are not just looking at ways to compete with each other; they are exploring new ways in which they can cooperate.

    it seems rail is the thing


    July 29, 2008 at 11:07 am

  12. Nobody, in the UK or elsewhere, is going to be buying Amtrak unless Congress votes a massive increase in the subsidy, enough to eke out a “profit.” The current increase doesn’t count as massive. Amtrak asks for $1.8 billion every year. Every year until now, they’ve gotten this cut back to $1.2-1.4 billion, and defer $400-600 million worth of maintenance. The recent bill increased Amtrak funding to $2 billion a year. That’s fine, but now Amtrak has to dig through decades of deferred maintenance.

    What many people don’t realize is that all the “profitable” European rail serivces are subsidized, to a much larger extent than Amtrak. The only difference is, they split their rail services into operations and infrastructure. Operations companies are private and make a “profit,” while infrastructure companies are massively subsidized to a multiple of the “profit.” Well, if you don’t play accounting games, that’s a loss.

    On the other hand, if this is the accounting fiction that we need to play to get better rail service, then fine, let’s go for it.


    August 8, 2008 at 7:16 am

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