Proposed passenger train service from Montreal to Boston envisions overnight service

A proposed passenger train service between Boston and Montreal is gaining momentum.

Once it became clear the funding wasn’t there to provide high-speed rail service between the two cities, project consultant and former Quebec politician Francois Rebello said he started thinking about a slower and more luxurious night train service.

“Could I make a plan where I could sleep on the train and arrive in the morning?” said Rebel. “And in this train there would be comfortable private rooms, as well as a dining car and a bar, as before.”

“When you watch films from the 60s and 70s, you have the dining car and the lounge, and if it was possible then, why not today?” added the former member of the National Assembly of Quebec.

The train would pass through Montreal, Quebec, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Boston, where it would connect to Gare du Nord, but challenges remain around funding and the need to negotiate usage with multiple rail operators.

If the proposal goes ahead, travelers can expect to wait at least two years before the service becomes available.

Funding of $100 million for track improvements that would allow for a high-speed rail component between Montreal and Sherbrooke, Quebec, is being discussed with the Canadian government.

The rest of the trip would be more of a low-speed affair, but pick up the pace a bit in Portland, where rail speeds are similar to freeway limits.

At 2 p.m., the trip would take twice as long as driving between the two cities. A one-way ticket would cost $160 for passengers with a room and $80 for those traveling by coach.

Market research found that 1,000 of the 4,000 daily commuters between Montreal and Boston would opt for rail service, but Rebello envisions a train with 190 passengers, split between 120 rooms and 70 coach seats.

The last time passenger rail service was offered between Montreal and Boston was in the 1960s, a concept that began to die out as airplanes and cars gained popularity.

However, interest in trains is picking up steam as leaders in major cities, including Boston, continue to press for ways to ease traffic congestion.

To that end, Congress has approved more than $100 billion in rail infrastructure funding.

Rail advocates, lawmakers and tourism officials met recently in Coaticook, Que., to discuss the concept, which is promoted by the Montreal Night Train Foundation.

Rebello, the foundation’s director, said he has a meeting in two weeks with Genesee and Wyoming, which owns St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad, the track operator along the proposed route in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Promoters have also discussed with the Canadian Pacific Railway for the Montreal-Sherbrooke connection. In Maine, the CSX-owned railroad passes through Old Orchard Beach, which is popular among Canadians.

Rebello said the group is seeking to secure G&W’s right-of-way to the lane between Sherbrooke and Portland before discussions with the MBTA regarding the Boston connection take place.

“We hope it works out,” Rebello said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jose P. Rogers