09.December, Montpelier VT – At a meeting with the Vermont Rail Council, Vermont Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn emphasized the state’s commitment to Amtrak service, despite the current CoVid suspension.
Flynn reflected on the seriousness of the virus and the rapidity of its spread as justification for the suspension and as an indication that the train can resume when numbers improve.
“I don’t think there is a person on this call that wishes the situation was different,” Flynn said. “We believe that the decision back in late march was a sound decision when we look at the risk scenario.”
Flynn declined to offer a hard date or criteria, but did say “I think at the end of march or early April we will be in a different posture regarding the vaccinations of Vermonters and the region. The region is very important. … It’s likely at least April before we re-start. Certainly if something changes in the science and the data no one would like to move things up forward like we do.”
“We are very sensitive to all the ramifications of the current suspension,” Flynn said. “The first thing we have to be sensitive to public safety and public health.”
“As you know anyone who enters Vermont is expected to quarantine for 14 days, or 7 days with a negative test,” Flynn noted. “Introducing more travelers simply increases the risk that somebody is not following the rules, and that is not to say anything negative for train travelers.”
Another factor that could presage a return to service could be a reduced positivity rate, Flynn said while taking pains to note that the decision is up to Health Commissioner Dr Levine and the Governor.
It is unclear how quickly the service could resume, once the state gives the ok. “I think we had a letter from Amtrak back from late October that indicated that anything past January could mean 60 days,” Flynn said while nothing that if congress approves CoVid relief funds it could include money to keep crews available sooner.
Christopher has 15 years of railroad experience, starting as a Conductor on Cape Cod and 15 years of public policy advocacy and outreach work. Christopher is Executive Director of Vermont Rail Action Network, communicating the vision of better trains to elected and government officials, community leaders and the public. Christopher is a consultant for freight and passenger planning and development projects including operating planning, federal grant applications, marketing, and public outreach.