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 [St. Albans to the international border], and Canadian National Railway (CN) [from the border into 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 preclearance facility in the station. When this will happen, we do not know.
March 31, 1995 | Amtrak cancels its overnight train the Montrealer which had provided daily service between Washington, DC and Montreal. The train is replaced with a daytime train, the Vermonter, that provides service as far north as St. Albans, VT.
2009 | Amtrak prepares a preliminary design for a Preclearance facility to be located adjacent to track 23 at Montreal Central Station.
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.
2014 | The Quebec Ministry of Transportation publishes a report titled, “Study of CP and CN’s Rail Network between Montreal and the U.S. Border.”
2015 | The Phase I planning study, part of a multi-jurisdictional effort by NYSDOT, the Vermont Agency of Transportation, MTQ, and Amtrak, to develop a passenger preclearance/clearance facility for use by both Amtrak’s Adirondack and Vermonter trains inside Montreal Central Station, was completed.
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.
September 2019 | Amtrak issues a letter of intent to the states of New York and Vermont, and the Province of Quebec, to expedite the effort to establish a preclearance facility at Montreal Central Station and related infrastructure improvements between the border and Montreal.
March 2020 | At a meeting of the Empire State Passengers Association an Amtrak representative announced that the parties involved with this project are now updating the previous study work (related to rail preclearance at Central Station) and that the environmental and other review processes would be completed in 2020. Construction of the preclearance facility is expected to start in 2021.
“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 | VTDigger.com | August 15, 2019
“New pact seen speeding cross-border train service”
By Eric Anderson | Albany Times-Union | August 21, 2019
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
Last Update: June 25, 2020
Last Reviewed: June 27, 2017