Amtrak may cut 2nd Vancouver-Seattle train
The second daily Amtrak train between Vancouver and Seattle and Portland could be cancelled because the Canadian government will soon start charging for the extra shift of border guards required to inspect the late-night train.
Amtrak expanded the once-a-day service in August 2009 to include two trains a day, in order to make the rail connection more attractive to travelers during the run-up to the Olympics in Vancouver. At the time, the federal government agreed to waive the fee temporarily.
Officials in Washington state, however, say that exemption will run out at the end of October, and that will mean the second run will be shut down unless the federal government reconsiders.
"British Columbia and Washington are so disappointed by this news," said Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond in a statement released on Monday.
"The economic benefits for Vancouver and Washington are clear as travellers shop, eat and stay in local hotels. 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. Does it really make sense for $550,000 in annual border inspection fees to be the reason the service ends?"
"We proved that the ridership demand was there, during the Olympics and after," said Hammond. "We have no money to cover this added cost, and we will not ask Washington travellers to pay more for their tickets, when customers traveling into Washington don't have to pay a U.S. customs fee."
NDP tourism critic Spencer Chandra Herbert says the provincial government should to put more pressure on the federal government to keep the service alive.
"We're hoping the government will focus on this issue, but we're concerned they're involved in too much inner turmoil, given the HST deception and all the other issues, and they may drop the ball and we may lose this train, as Washington State have stated in the news today," said Herbert.
Washington state officials say about 26,000 people have traveled on the second run during its seven months of operation.