ALBANY, N.Y. — Amtrak’s long-idle New York-Montreal Adirondack service — the only train still not running after being suspended by the passenger operator at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — will resume operation in April, according to New York’s two U.S. senators.
U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand made the announcement Friday afternoon, the Albany Times-Union reports. Schumer wrote on Twitter that Amtrak will restore full service “as soon as April 3.”
Last May, an Amtrak spokesman told Trains News Wire that “ongoing challenges with operations, border facilities, security and staffing” had prevented resumption of service to Montreal, while “servicing, staffing and train operations challenges” kept Amtrak from running the U.S. portion of the route as far north as Plattsburgh, N.Y. [see “Delayed return of ‘Cascades’ to Canada …,” News Wire, May 19, 2022].
The train’s lengthy suspension attracted bipartisan attention from New York’s congressional delegation, with the two Democratic senators and Republican U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, who represents an upstate district north of Albany, questioning Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner about the train’s status in correspondence last summer [see “Adirondack’s uncertain return …,” News Wire, July 21, 2022]. Schumer said Friday return of service is “finally restarting this vital economic engine for the North Country and Capital Region.”
Stefanik welcomed the news, North Country Public Radio reports, saying in a statement that “families throughout Upstate New York and the North Country rely on the Adirondack line for transportation, and it serves as a significant economic driver … to our region.” Schumer said the
Requalification runs on the Canadian portion of the route began last October [see “News photo: Preparing for Amtrak’s return …,” News Wire, Oct. 20, 2022], but no resumption date was ever announced.
The Montreal Gazette notes the train’s return is expected to boost Montreal tourism, given that New York state is one of the city’s biggest sources of U.S. tourists. It reports that the province of Quebec set aside $1 million in its budget last year to study and plan for a customs center at Montreal’s Central Station, a move that could eliminate the Adirondack’s long stop at the Canada-U.S. border and cut an hour or more from the train’s travel time.
9 thoughts on “Amtrak to resume Adirondack service in April, U.S. senators say”
I received an update this morning from a source at Amtrak on the status of efforts to improve the running time of the ADIRONDACK north of the border and the news is genuinely good, but not yet ideal. This is a summary of the information from Amtrak and historical operating data.
There will remain severe speed restriction across the switch at Cantic, five miles north of the border, where the line joins the route to Vermont/St. Albans that the VERMONTER will eventually take and it’s still 10mph through St. Jean sur Richlieu. At present these are the only 10mph sections. Much of the line will be traversed at 30mph. A few stretches are still at the former 50mph standard.
I have not gotten an actual estimated timetable. A CN Employee Timetable as recent as 2005 showed 50mph speeds over the line except in a very few spots.
To put this in context, the CN, in the days of its own passenger service, used to run the daylight Ambassador the 40.3 miles from Montreal to the junction at Cantic in 70 minutes in the summer 1960 schedule. In 2017 Amtrak managed 95 minutes Montreal to Rouses Point–which is 5 miles further than Cantic (the Ambassador took the Vermont route at Cantic). Recall the overall speed limit historically was 50mph on this line. Now it appears to be mostly 30mph, a bit 50mph and a bit 10mph.
So we await anxiously the release of the actual schedule. Anything much over two hours, combined with the inevitable 60-90 minute border delay for Customs/Immigration will have a very negative effect on ridership.
But Amtrak is fully aware of this situation and assures me they are trying for better running times. Let us hope they succeed.
April 3 is only days away and still we can not book seats on the train. I assume the unknown schedule is the cause? This situation must be fixed quickly.
The good news that the ADIRONDACK will resume service to Montreal on April 3 is clouded by the bad news that the portion of the trip in Canada will be so slow that you might ride a bike from Rouses Point to Montreal in the less time.
The head of NYDOT’s rail section was present at the joint ESPA/Regional New England Rail Passengers Meeting in Albany on March 11 and confirmed that the CN line north of the border is subject to extreme slow orders. In addition the Customs and Immigration checks of course must remain at the border for now (as the new facility in Central Station is not built), which means as always a 60-90 minute pause in both directions.
But much worse is that the CN has NOT done any track work yet to restore traditional passenger speed limits north of the border. The Rouses Point Subdivision is currently a mix of 10mph and 25mph track. Pre-COVID this was generally 50mph. This downgraded track classification means at least 2.5 hours running time for the ADIRONDACK from the border to the junction with the main line near St. Lambert (and almost at Montreal). Pre-COVID, with the line mostly at 50mph, this run took 1 hour 35 minutes.
Bottom line is that the last 49 miles from Rouses Point to Montreal after April 3 will consume–with the border checks–3 1/2 to 4 hours.
The highly articulate and Amtrak supportive US Congressman (D) Paul Tonko, who represents the south end of the ADIRONDACK route around Saratoga Springs, was at the meeting and very graciously listened to my plea for him to appeal, in a bi-partisan coalition with (also very supportive of the train) Representative Elise Stefanik (R) and both New York Senators (D) in a plea for funds ASAP to resolve this debacle. Obviously Quebec politicians who care about regaining US rail business to Montreal should be involved as well. But there is no time to send in the consultants and Amtrak can not force the CN in Canada to do the work as it might here.
In a perfect world Quebec and or the Canadian government would resolve this issue. But as there can be no local stops in Canada, and given that they will (hopefully) be contributing to the cost of the eventual border facility inside Central Station, that immediate Canadian/Quebec fiscal support is unlikely now.
CN has little incentive to act–as they can use the line for their daily freight to the US as it is (plus they have been pissed off with Amtrak since Richard Anderson began giving them a bad score on his on-time “Report Card” system).
Bottom line; this long and absurdly slow crawl from Montreal to/from the US border will disastrously impact, at a minimum, repeat ridership on the ADIRONDACK. Particularly northbound, non-railfan riders will be truly upset as they consume 150-180 minutes crawling 45 miles at 10-25mph while on the CN. They will be “so near yet so far”! I can hear passenger cries of “Never again” already!
I am thrilled to see the ADIRONDACK back and we aren’t talking rocket science here. Whether or not CN arbitrarily produced this situation, what is needed to fix it is ties, ballast and rail surfacing done now and longer term probably some welded rail. This can’t happen as a “blitz” until the snow and ground melt, but it must be done then.
But this was basically a 50mph railroad in 2020. We don’t need studies here. We need firm political support on both sides of the border to get this fixed NOW.
It would seem to be the best option to take the Adirondack to Plattsburgh to see the scenery and rent a car from there and drive to Montreal. You would be in your hotel hours before the train arrives. Of course, if you don’t care about the scenery your best option would be to fly all the way. But I have taken this train several times and the scenery is nice but I’m not going to spend 4 hours going from Plattsburgh to Montreal. And don’t try and take the ferry transfer from Port Kent to Burlington as that the ferry hasn’t run since the beginning of the pandemic and is likely gone for good.
They’ve scrapped both ferries on that run, including the Adirondack that was 110 years old. So yeah, it’s not coming back.
Your Lie in April has now became Your Resumption in April.
Tourist railroads and special trains such as dinner trains, murder mystery trains and holiday excursion trains are still doing a booming business. Trains such as the Rocky Moutaineer are always sold out and draw big crowds to ride it. Tourist railroads like Cumbres and Toltec railroad as well as many narrow gauge scenic railroads in the West always have healty ridership. Let us not forget the Alaska Railroad either where for most of the population the train is their lifeline to the rest of the world. Air travel may be a necessity and the popular choice to get somewhere but for pleasure and sightseeing and exploring, and for a fun filled vacation experience the train is still number one and a great travel experience.
Joseph C. Markfelder
Mr. Landey..comment please. Do you think Delta would allow for it to get with lack of equipment to not maximise revenue?
No way! Amtrak is disfunctional.
Delta (or its Canadian affiliate WestJet with a Delta code) has flights from all over Canada to all over USA. (I’m talking pre-COVID, I don’t know how many have been restored.) Air Canada adds to that number.
Amtrak and VIA Rail between them don’t count for much of anything as to crossing the border.
As between 9/11, COVID, Amtrak’s dysfunction, and VIA Rail’s silliness, you can pretty well forget what used to be common: travel by rail across the border.
The Adirrondack for many years carried the title of one of America’s favorite train rides and a very scenic one as well especially in the autumn months when riders could take in the beautiful fall foliage and of course the great breath taking views of the Hudson River. Good to see that train service is coming back with the restoration of many trains that had been annuled or canceled. Now Amtrak must address the equipment shortages and failures as well as increasing service on many lines from just one daily train to two or possibly more trains. As quoted from a famius movie “If you build it, they will come” Well let us papraphrase say to say “If you increase service, thry will ride the train”
Joseph C. Markfelder