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Border agency gives green light to extra Amtrak train

VANCOUVER - A second daily Amtrak train is set to roll between Vancouver to Seattle as a pilot project beginning next month.

The Canada Border Services Agency announced today the necessary clearance for the train to run through the 2010 Olympics next February.

“We are showing our commitment to the free flow of legitimate goods and people across the shared border with the United States, by providing the flexibility necessary for the Canada Border Services Agency and Amtrak to process increased demand for their services,” said Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan in a press release.

Amtrak has been lobbying for a second train from Vancouver for years.

In March 2007, the B.C. government agreed to pitch in for the necessary minimum track upgrade to build a new rail siding in Delta.

The project was completed last year and a second train was expected to be running in August 2008.

But CBSA then demanded Amtrak reimburse the $1500 daily cost it said would be required for extra custom services. Plans for the second train sat idle when Amtrak said they wouldn’t pay.

Today the border agency announced the fee will be waived for the duration of the pilot project.

Agency officials will evaluate the service after the Olympics to determine if the traffic volume justifies the increased custom services.

Government officials emphasized the economic benefits as a major part of their decision to waive the fee for the second train.

“This announcement clearly demonstrates this government’s commitment to tourism, and the economic prosperity of Canada,” said Van Loan.

Garrett Zehr reports for The Tyee.

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