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Speed Remains An Issue
In Restoration of Trains


Updated



PORTLAND, Maine, Nov.17(AP) - A dispute over the speed at which passenger trains can operate between Boston and Portland has threatened to further delay the service, which has already been held up five years. State transportation officials want the trains to go 79 mph so they will attract enough customers to make the service worthwhile.


Guilford Transportation Industries, which owns much of the rail, wants the trains to go slower because it says tracks the state wants installed along the route can't handle high-speed trains. The matter is going to a federal arbitrator by year's end. A ruling against the state could limit the trains to 59 mph.

Trainriders Northeast, a rail advocacy group, has said trains must travel at speeds approaching 80 mph to compete with cars and buses. Otherwise, the service is doomed to failure, the group contends.

The state says 115-pound-per-yard rail would be sufficient for the route, but Guilford wants to use 132-pound rail, which would add about $7 million to the $50 million to $60 million project.

Amtrak, which is contracted to operate the rail service between Portland and Boston, operates trains at 79 mph on other lines around the country using 115-pound rail. Guilford Executive Vice President David Fink said safety standards now require the heavier rails. One of the lines using 115-pound rails runs between Springfield, Mass., and New Haven, Conn.

Jonathan Carter, chairman of the board of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, said that if the trains are limited to 59 mph, the state could reduce travel time by running express trains and skipping some of the half dozen stations along the route.

``It's really very frustrating,'' said Carter. ``This has been going on so long.'' Trains were supposed to start running in 1993. If construction of the tracks begins in the spring, trains could start running in the fall of 2000 at the earliest.

Copyright 1998 Boston Globe Electronic Publishing, Inc. Reprint Permission Pending

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====>>>>TEXT OF LETTER FROM SENATORS


Last Updated 11/18/98 22:30 hrs. EST



INDEX OF RECENT UPDATES

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Week of 7/30/98 (609M)

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Week of 0701/98

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