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Amtrak service delayed until September

An Amtrak train is seen pulling through the city of Plattsburgh. (Provided photo — Richard Frost/Press-Republican)

PLATTSBURGH — Amtrak service to Montreal has been delayed even longer now.

Service between Saratoga and Montreal was slated to be suspended for six weeks until late June, but local officials have learned that it will be out until early September.

The suspension of service is due to work CN Rail will carry out on tracks north of the border in order to solve track heat issues that hampered service last summer, North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said.

“The old line of frustration about ‘what a way to run a railroad,’ was meant for this ludicrous situation,” Douglas said.

“A rail service is shut down for three years during and well beyond the pandemic, but you don’t use that time to address conditions. Then you restart in April 2023 only to seemingly just discover a heat related rail issue a few months later leading to last summer’s shutdown.

“Then you wait until almost summer 2024 to reach a repair agreement that now you find will take three months instead of the announced six weeks to be carried out.”

Charlie Brown and Lucy

Douglas said that unfortunately, all the North Country can do is accept this “comedy of mismanagement” and hope that this time the early September target for resolution is real.

“Tourists, students and others keep showing they’re ready to return to the service and miss it, but it’s like Charlie Brown with Lucy and the football. and so we lose another summer which clearly didn’t need to happen,” he said.

Douglas said that North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer have been steadfast on this issue, and he hoped they can obtain some accountability.

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

“The congresswoman, the senator, the chamber, we’ve all been very vocal about it, but they (Amtrak) seem to be operating on their own time frame,” he said.

“It is disappointing.”

Strike averted

While news of Amtrak’s further delay was unsettling, news that a potential strike by Canadian customs agents has been put off was heralded as good news.

“We thank the Canadian government and the Canadian border officers for agreeing to continued mediation and postponement of the start of any labor action,” Douglas said.

“Our partners in Canada have been advocating actively for avoidance of border disruption and we know the Canadian government fully appreciates the economic cost to Canada that would result. We encourage an agreement that will end the strike actions which now loom, in the interest of both countries and of travel and commerce in the coming weeks.”

With two major Canadian holidays nearing with St-Jean Baptiste Day on June 24, and Canada Day on July 1, smooth traffic at the border will be welcome, Henry said.

“We’ve been through a lot with border issues the past few years with COVID and trains not running, and it is frustrating,” Henry said.

“Hopefully we can get a permanent solution to this soon.”

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