According to Washington State Department of Transportation, the Canadian Border Services Agency has decided to impose an annual fee of $500,000 to recover the costs of border inspection for the second train. This will kill the second train which has been very popular since it was first introduced last year. Amtrak and WSDOT have refused to pay the fee and rightly so, as there is no corresponding fee for the train to enter the USA. Not only does Canada not pay any of the operating costs of the Amtrak service which equally benefits both countries, but they insist on recovering the costs of border inspection.
I wonder if this is a pilot project to try to recover costs at automobile crossings and at airports? If this is a way to try to balance the federal budget, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. The impacts to trade and tourism are large, as shown below in the news release from WSDOT. It also seems like a case of modal bias against passenger rail.
Washington state working to keep second Amtrak Cascades train service to Vancouver, B.C.
Canadian federal government imposes nearly $550,000 in annual fees for border-clearance services
OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) said today it and members of Congress are having discussions with British Columbia officials about Canada’s decision to impose border fees that will force the cancellation of the second daily Amtrak Cascades train to Vancouver, B.C.
The Canadian federal government late last week said it would require WSDOT to pay nearly $550,000 a year for border-clearance services. This money would cover additional staffing by the Canada Border Services Agency for the 10:50 p.m. second-train arrival.
“British Columbia and Washington are so disappointed by this news,” said Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond. “The economic benefits for Vancouver and Washington are clear as travelers shop, eat and stay in local hotels. The second train has brought an estimated $11.8 million in economic benefits to British Columbia during the year it has been allowed to operate. Does it really make sense for $550,000 in annual border inspection fees to be the reason the service ends?”
“We proved that the ridership demand was there, during the Olympics and after,” Hammond said. “We have no money to cover this added cost and we will not ask Washington travelers to pay more for their tickets, when customers traveling into Washington don’t have to pay a U.S. customs fee.”
The Canadian government decided that the additional fee is necessary because of fiscal concerns. It did so after reviewing the pilot program over the past year and considering the staffing costs for the late evening arrival of the second Amtrak Cascades train into Vancouver, B.C.
“I am extremely disappointed that Canada has taken this counterproductive and harmful action against Washington state passengers,” said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray. “This new fee will hurt our state and it will reduce cross-border economic activity that helps both countries. I will be monitoring this situation closely and I urge Canada to reconsider this decision.”
Congressman Rick Larsen, 2nd Congressional District, said the second Amtrak Cascades train offers a clear economic benefit for communities on both sides of the border. “I urge the Canadian government to work with Washington so this service can continue to help enhance cross-border travel for people traveling and commuting in this region.”