With the expected fall surge in Covid cases, VTRANS has now gone on the record in saying that the Vermonter and Ethan Allen trains will not likely be returning to the state in 2020. A winter return had been hoped for by riders and advocates, however a surge in Covid cases is prompting further delays in restarting the state-funded service.
VTRANS Secretary Joe Flynn said last week that the state will be waiting until the beginning of 2021 to look at restarting Amtrak. He said that it has nothing to do with the train or the service, rather the folks arriving from out of state who may be asymptomatic but still carrying the virus.
Amtrak has placed the reservation system on hold for both services, citing it will not open reservations before May of 2021 in an effort to keep from having bookings and then having to refund if the state opts not restart the service. This is completely in the State of Vermont/VTRANS hands and has nothing to do with the availability of Amtrak crews or trains, however Amtrak did state publicly that state routes would be in jeopardy if they did not receive the Federal bailout funding requested. At this point, that funding has not been received, however there’s been no official position made on state-funded routes.
There has been finger pointing that the state is allowing Greyhound and the airlines to continue to flow in and out of Vermont, however as Flynn points out, VTRAINS does not subsidize or pay any portion of those services and is out of the state’s control.
Vermont Governor Scott had earlier stated in an interview that he did not believe the service would be returning in 2020 and said that there was no timeline in place to restart it. His main concern was the safety of Vermont residents and if that could mean a push well into 2021 before Amtrak returns.
Additionally, New York’s Adirondack service remains suspended as the route to Montreal remains blocked by a continued Canadian border closure, as Canada is seeing its own surge in Covid cases.