Published on : Tuesday, January 14, 2020
At the Niagara Falls International Railway Station, Amtrak trains bring passengers on the short trip across the Niagara Gorge into Canada. While the distance travelled is only a few football fields wide, the time it takes can be more than an hour.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, says that’s partly because of customs and security inspections. Right now, trains are inspected by both U.S. and Canadian officials, once on each side of the border. Schumer is calling on the Canadian government to help make it quicker through a pre-clearance plan to do it in one stop.He says laws are already in place in both countries to make it possible, but the Canadians have to get on board with implementing it.
Schumer said that the logical gateway from Toronto to America is Niagara Falls and if we had pre-clearance, that gateway could be used a lot more easily. Once the pre-clearance process is in place, Canadian customs officials would come to the American side for their inspections, allowing passengers to avoid having to get off the train again after they cross the border. The Niagara Falls train station, opened in 2016, is already equipped for such an operation, officials say.
Thomas Desantis, City of Niagara Falls director of planning and development says that the hour-plus time that the railroads allow now for trains to clear on each side of the border could probably be cut in half. Schumer and leaders in the Falls say that decrease in travel time could lead to an increase in travelers and tourism, a boon for the economy across the region.
Niagara University has many students who go back and forth to Canada. The school also leads the Niagara Global Tourism Institute. Tom Burns, Niagara University associate Vice President, Public Relations said that it could be exponential in terms of the economy here for all the new hotels that are in the Falls on this side of the border and the activities, that could be incredible.
Right now, about 100 passengers use the international train through Niagara Falls each day, Desantis said. That number could grow, according to Schumer, with a goal of adding commuter rail service between Western New York and Toronto. The Canada Border Services agency says it is exploring the potential for pre-clearance operations.