Status: In Planning
Planning is underway to extend Amtrak’s Vermonter service north to Montréal.
As part of this project, new joint customs and immigration facility is to be built at Central Station in Montréal, Quebec for both the Canada Border Security Agency and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
This facility would allow Amtrak passengers departing from Montréal on the Vermonter and Adirondack to clear U.S. customs and immigration processes prior to boarding the train – a process that is known as preclearance.
In the reverse direction, passengers on these two trains would clear Canadian customs and immigration upon arrival in Montréal.
This setup would be similar to the way that passengers on flights to/from the United States are processed at airports in Canada today.
The Vermonter would travel from St. Albans, Vt. to Montréal over 71 miles of existing track owned by New England Central Railroad (btw. St. Albans and the international border), and Canadian National Railway ( btw. the border and Central Station in Montréal.)
As of August 2019 all of the necessary agreements are in place between Canada and the United States so that per-clearance can legally take place at Central Station in Montreal.
The next step is for the Ministère des Transports du Québec, the Government of Canada, and the owners of Montreal Central Station to develop a site plan and operation agreement for the planned in the station. In all likelihood though nothing will now happen until after the Federal election in Canada on October 21, 2019.
When will the Vermonter return to Montreal? The best case scenario at this stage would seem to be some time in 2021.
2012-2014 | The 18.8 mile stretch of railroad track between St. Albans, Vt. and the U.S.-Canadian border was upgraded to allow future passenger trains on this stretch of track to operate at a maximum speed of 59 miles per hour.
March 16, 2015 | The United States and Canada signed the “Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine, and Air Transport Preclearance Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Canada.” The agreement, among other things, allows for the establishment of a preclearance facility in Central Station.
June 17, 2016 | Introduction and First Reading of the “Preclearance Act, 2016” in the House of Commons, in Canada.
December 2016 | The U.S. Congress passed H.R. 6431, the “Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act of 2016”, which will help to facilitate the expansion of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection pre-clearance facilities in Canada. This bill was signed by President Obama on December 16, 2016.
July 18, 2017 | Amtrak operated a special trip in conjunction with New England Central, CN and various government officials from the US and Canada, to inspect the route from St. Albans, Vermont to Montreal, Quebec.
December 12, 2017 | The Canadian government passed into law Bill C-23, the “Preclearance Act, 2016″ which allows for the establishment of U.S. Customs and Border Protection preclearance facilities in Montreal Central Station.
September 2018 | At a meeting of the Eastern Border Transportation Coalition (EBTC) it was reported that Canada is working to complete the necessary “rail mode” regulations for Land, Rail, and Marine Transport Preclearance by 2020. [Ref: Presentation by Public Safety Canada to the EBTC (PDF) ]
August 15, 2019 | The Government of Canada announced that Canada and the U.S. have brought into force the Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine, and Air Transport Preclearance between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America.
Amtrak International Operations to Canada (PDF)
Eastern Border Transportation Coalition | September 11, 2012
Cross Border Passenger Rail Service Progress Report (PPT) [archived]
Transportation Border Working Group | April 23, 2013
International Rail Passenger Update (PDF) [archived]
Transportation Border Working Group | March 4, 2015
“The Vermontrealer? It’s a long way back for passenger rail to Montreal”
By C. B. Hall | VTDigger.org | May 24, 2015
“Pre-clearance deal advances Montrealer train”
By Jasper Craven | VTDigger.com | January 16, 2017
“Preclearance issues extend wait for rail service to Montreal”
By Alexandre Silberman | VVTDigger.com | August 15, 2019
“New pact seen speeding cross-border train service”
By Eric Anderson | Albany Times-Union | August 21, 2019
Last Update: August 25, 2019
Last Reviewed: June 27, 2017