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An Amtrak train travels through the city of Plattsburgh. (Courtesy photo — Richard Frost/Press-Republican)

PLATTSBURGH – Amtrak service to Montreal is now delayed even further.

Service between Saratoga and Montreal was originally scheduled to be suspended for six weeks until the end of June, but local authorities have learned that it will be suspended until early September.

The suspension of operations is due to work CN Rail will do on tracks north of the border to address heat problems on the tracks that hampered operations last summer, said Garry Douglas, president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce.

“The old frustration speech about ‘what a way to run a railway’ referred to this ridiculous situation,” said Douglas.

“You shut down a rail service for three years during the pandemic and beyond, but you don’t use that time to improve conditions. Then you restart service in April 2023, only to discover a few months later what appears to be a heat-related problem with the rail service that led to the shutdown last summer.

“Then you wait almost until the summer of 2024 to make a repair agreement, and now you find out that it will take three months to complete instead of the six weeks announced.”

Charlie Brown and Lucy

Douglas said that unfortunately the Northland could only accept this. “Comedy of mismanagement” and hope that the goal of a solution at the beginning of September is realistic this time.

“Tourists, students and others keep showing that they are ready to return to worship and miss it, but it’s like Charlie Brown with Lucy and football. And so we lose another summer that clearly didn’t have to happen,” he said.

Douglas said North Carolina Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer have stood firm on the issue, and he hopes they can gain some accountability.

Clinton County Legislature Chairman Mark Henry (R-Area 3, Chazy) shared Douglas’ frustration.

“The congresswoman, the senator, the chamber, we have all been very vocal about this, but they (Amtrak) seem to be operating on their own schedule,” he said.

“It’s disappointing.”

Strike averted

While news of further delays at Amtrak was troubling, news that a possible strike by Canadian customs officials had been postponed was welcomed as good news.

“We thank the Canadian government and Canadian border officials for their agreement to continue mediation and to postpone the start of any industrial action,” said Douglas.

“Our partners in Canada have been actively working to avoid border disruptions and we know that the Canadian government is fully aware of the economic costs to Canada that would result. We support an agreement that ends the strikes now looming in the interests of both countries and travel and trade in the coming weeks.”

With two important Canadian holidays approaching, St. Jean Baptiste Day on June 24 and Canada Day on July 1, smooth traffic at the border is desirable, said Henry.

“We have had a lot of problems with borders, with COVID and trains not running in recent years and that is frustrating,” Said Henry.

“Hopefully we can find a permanent solution for this soon.”



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