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Canadian fee may curb Amtrak rail runs

By: Tracy Sherlock
The Vancouver Sun
September 22, 2010

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A $1,500 daily inspection fee by Canada's border services agency may kill one of two daily trains between Vancouver and Seattle on Nov. 1, despite a healthy growth in ridership on the popular Amtrak Cascades route.

The CBSA fee is to pay for staff to process the train, which enters Canada at night.

The loss of the train would hurt Vancouver's taxi drivers, hotels and restaurants, said Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA for Vancouver-West End and the New Democrat transportation critic.

"It's such a small amount of money, compared to what we get in return," Herbert said. "For an investment of approximately $500,000 a year, we see returns in Vancouver and B.C. of anywhere from $11 million to $33 million."

B.C. Transportation Minister Shirley Bond told The Vancouver Sun that the provincial government is looking at all options to continue the service, including paying for the inspections.

"The return on investment is significant," Bond said. "Our focus will be to continue to have dialogue with the federal government to find a win here."

Washington state officials say they are disappointed by the news.

CBSA confirmed it will be implementing a fee as of Nov. 1.

The train facing cancellation runs a round-trip route between Portland, Ore. and Vancouver each day, arriving in Vancouver at 10:50 p.m. and departing at 6:40 a.m. The train began running in August 2009.

Another train, which will continue, runs the Seattle to Vancouver route, leaving Vancouver in the evening and Seattle in the morning.

Ridership on both trains for the second quarter of this year was up 12 per cent over 2009.

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