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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Amtrak Cascades might drop second Vancouver train due to Canadian border fees


The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and congressional members are holding discussions with British Columbia officials about Canada’s decision to impose border fees that would result in the cancellation of the second daily Amtrak Cascades passenger train to Vancouver.

Last week, the Canadian government determined it would require WSDOT to pay about $550,000 annually for border-clearance services. The monies would cover additional staffing by the Canada Border Services Agency for the second train, which arrives at 10:50 p.m.

“The second train has brought an estimated $11.8 million in economic benefits to British Columbia during the year it has been allowed to operate,” said Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond in a prepared statement. “Does it really make sense for $550,000 in annual border inspection fees to be the reason the service ends?”

The second Amtrak Cascades train has been operating as a pilot project since Aug. 19, 2009, while the Canadian government evaluated traffic levels and determined whether additional fees would be necessary for ongoing customs services. In March, after the 2010 Winter Olympics were held in Vancouver, the trial period was extended through Sept. 30 to provide the government additional time to assess the second train.

Total ridership on the second train between Portland, Ore., and Vancouver has grown steadily in its first year of operation, carrying about 245,000 passengers, according to WSDOT. More than 26,000 of the riders have traveled across the U.S./Canadian border into Vancouver.

Operated by Amtrak in partnership with WSDOT, Amtrak Cascades operates three daily round trips between Portland and Seattle; one daily round trip between Seattle and Vancouver; and one between Portland and Vancouver. Amtrak Cascades also provides daily service between Eugene, Ore., and Seattle via Portland.