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Impact on potential passenger service uncertain

Canadian Pacific to buy rail company that runs Rockland branch

By Stephen Betts | Nov 26, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts An Amtrak passenger train made a test run Aug. 14, to the railroad roundhouse off Park Street in Rockland.

Rockland — A Canadian railroad company that stretches from the Pacific to Atlantic has reached an agreement to buy the company that operates the rail line from Rockland to Brunswick.

Canadian Pacific announced Nov. 20 in a news release that it reached an agreement to buy Central Maine & Quebec Railway. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Central Maine and Quebec had a lease with the Maine Department of Transportation since Jan. 1, 2016 to operate the 56-mile long railroad branch that ends in Rockland. Central Maine & Quebec was awarded the lease over Maine Eastern Railroad which had operated the Rockland line for the previous 12 years.

Nathan Moulton, the director of the freight transportation division for MDOT, said Monday, Nov. 26 that the Central Maine & Quebec lease runs through 2025. MDOT owns the line.

"It is assumed the [Canadian Pacific] will assume the lease," Moulton said. "We have not discussed it yet. This may or may not have any effect on passenger service. There are many things to be worked out."

Paul Merrill, the public information officer for MDOT, said Monday that Central Maine & Quebec and the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority have been negotiating with Amtrak to have passenger service.

Amtrak, in partnership with the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, Maine Department of Transportation and the Central Maine & Quebec Railroad, conducted an inspection trip of the Rockland branch Aug. 14.

The 56-mile Rockland branch is owned by DOT and currently supports freight service provided by Central Maine and Quebec.

The rail authority has proposed a pilot program to offer seasonal weekend passenger service on the Rockland branch by expanding the operation of the Amtrak Downeaster to connect the communities of Bath, Wiscasset, Newcastle and Rockland with the 12 communities currently served between Brunswick and Boston.

The trip was conducted to evaluate the condition of track and to help determine scheduled travel times, as well as any improvements which may be needed to support the operation of passenger trains, Rail Authority Executive Director Patricia Quinn said in August.

The pilot program has been considered for the past two years, but the rail inspection had not been done.

The train station in Rockland is owned by DOT, but Rockland would be responsible for installing lighting outside the station, as well as maintaining the platform for passengers to get on and off the trains.

Central Maine & Quebec owns 481 miles of rail lines, primarily in Quebec and Maine.

“This strategic acquisition gives CP a true coast-to-coast network across Canada and an increased presence in the eastern U.S.,” Canadian Pacific President and Chief Executive Officer Keith Creel said in the news release. “With additional port access, more dots on the map and our proven Precision Scheduled Railroading operating model, we are confident this transaction will bring benefits to all stakeholders moving forward.”

Canadian Pacific will gain access to ports in Searsport and Saint John, New Brunswick with the acquisition.

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Comments (8)
Posted by: Amy Files | Dec 01, 2019 10:29

Valerie - I own a home on the tracks. Yes, we knew there were tracks behind our home and the passenger service was running when we purchased our home. It wasn’t a problem in the beginning. What we didn’t know is that there are ZERO protections or rights for Maine residents to ensure they aren’t being exposed to **unecessary** pollution. For example - the antique train that was running would drop off passengers then back out so not to sit idling in our neighborhood ( something NEPRA has so far refused to commit to doing with the new service )... then a couple of years later - perhaps management changed - the train began idling behind our home - after about 10 minutes or so diesel fumes would begin to fill our home ( a new and not regular occurrence for us ). When we tried to contact the company we were told - and I am paraphrasing - that they can essentially do whatever they want and didn’t need to follow any rules. Flash forward to now - when they tested the Amtrak train a couple of years ago and rolled a massive train into the center of town - the noise was at a level that would never be allowed in any residential zone and then I looked into the type of trains they are using to find that they run some of the dirtiest and oldest trains in our state. That they could - if required - invest even a minimal amount into those trains so that they don’t need to idle - but they won’t because no one requires them to.

The problem with your suggestion about not purchasing a home near the tracks is that it’s classist. We would have loved to purchase a home on a quieter street or in the fancier/historic neighborhood but we couldn’t afford that. People don’t purchase homes next to tracks or busy streets because they want to - people purchase what they can afford. And then the rest of the town looks at areas near train tracks and deems them less worthy of protection even though they are zoned for residential living. Myself and my neighbors have a right to live in our homes without being exposed to toxic fumes and pollution (the particulate pollution coming out of these train stacks causes cancer, emphysema, and a slew of serious and deadly health issues) or extreme noise just like any other taxpayer who owns a residentially-zoned home in this town.

We would love to see a train come to Rockland — but the company who runs it should be asked to invest in at least minimal upgrades to ensure they are not dumping a bunch of very avoidable fumes and pollution into our neighborhoods - they should be asked to avoid exposing neighborhoods to unnecessary noise ( did you know the passenger service they’ve discussed will be pulling into town at 10:30 at night? Our neighbors have 5 young children - do they have less of a right to be protected by late night noise so that they can sleep in their own home  ? ).

And we should also expect a company that is operating with the budget that Amtrak does to spend their own money on platform upgrades — Rockland shouldn’t be funding their “test” without some assurances that the outcome will be more successful than the last passenger service.

What we should do - if we were serious about train service - is advocate for investment in the tracks and a legitimate station that is located back near the Round House and not in the middle of our densely populated downtown. Amtrak trains are large and not the same as the antique trains they were running. In urban areas their tracks are built underground and surrounded by concrete walls to protect surrounding residents from not only noise but pretty serious movement/shaking of homes.

Our home is almost 200 years old and existed before the tracks were here. Stick built historic homes and Amtrak trains don’t mix — no contemporary urban planner would suggest the train should terminate so close to the South End residential neighborhood. At the very least, we can ask the company to operate as cleanly and quietly as they can.

 



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Nov 27, 2019 20:17

Amy,

People up and down the tracks bought their houses knowing that they are by a railroad.  If your that concerned, I would approach the current buyer (s) and ask them.  Ain't gonna git you  no where just complaining on he'a.



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Nov 27, 2019 10:01

Amy you have such a lovely pair of rose colored glasses.  If only our world could be what so many of us see.  Unfortunately so much going on around us is out of our control.  We are like the group of little mice screeming at the elephant to move.  The Trumps, The Blumbergs, the bezos are the ringmasters.  We can only watch this circus.  Those that own the rails care nothing about what you or I think and instead only focus on profits.  If the rebel alliance is to succeed over the empire we need to elect more powerful leaders with vision like AOC, Betsey Sweet and others.  This is the project ahead.



Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Nov 27, 2019 07:50

My mother always warned us not to play on the tracks, a train may come down the tracks. When you buy a house bordering the tracks, there is a strong possibility the train may arrive.



Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Nov 26, 2019 12:33

This seems familiar. Same old story of what "if's". Society is at the mercy of the big conglomerate. I agree with Amy but if wishes were true then so would Santa be....

 



Posted by: Amy Files | Nov 26, 2019 10:42

Would be great if this new company might also invest in updating the dirty trains they run in our state, or require that Amtrak does. Because of old standards, they are allowed to run some of the oldest/dirtiest trains in Maine -- the air emissions are only allowed under an exception to the rules made by the EPA back in 1985. By contrast, the trains running in California are almost 100% cleaner -- Tier 5/6 emission standards vs. the Tier 0 (tier ZERO) standards they need to meet in Maine. It would not cost them a lot to upgrade their current trains with a retrofit but because companies like this always threaten to not come to our town if we ask for anything in return (which is why Rockland also needs to pay for thousands of dollars of upgrades to our platform just so they can "test" their service out) it will never happen unless someone puts their foot down and says it's time to upgrade your dirty polluting trains. That our local reps, or our state reps won't step up and advocate for some simple retrofits to these trains to make them even a tiny bit cleaner, is very frustrating. In a state with one of the highest rates of lung cancer in the country, you'd think we'd make this more of a priority. People living up and down the tracks should not be huffing diesel fumes and deadly particulate pollution even during a "test run" of service that could otherwise be avoided. We deserve clean trains in Maine.



Posted by: Randy Scott | Nov 26, 2019 10:01

I have for years thought about how , if possible,  a commuter train connection with stops between Rockland,and Brunswick could help alleviate much of the commuter traffic, and parking issues for hundreds of Bath Iron work employees, especially  if it could be scheduled to  coincide with the work schedules of people that would be using it.

 



Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Nov 26, 2019 08:13

Wouldn't it be great if there was passenger rail service from Rockland to Brunswick and return?



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