Thursday, June 20, 2013
PORTLAND — After years of planning and increased ridership, the Amtrak Downeaster will start providing daily passenger train service to Freeport and Brunswick on Nov. 1.
The Amtrak Downeaster passenger train travels through Portland in this 2011 file photo. The rail line will add service to Freeport and Brunswick on Nov. 1.
SEE THE SCHEDULE
Download the full schedule, effective Nov. 1: Amtrak Downeaster schedule
The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority announced Wednesday that two of the five round trips that run daily from Boston to Portland will be extended north to the Freeport and Brunswick stops. One trip will arrive and depart Brunswick around 7 a.m., the other around 6 p.m.
One-way fares between Brunswick and Boston will cost less than $30 per person. Tickets for travel to Freeport and Brunswick will go on sale Oct. 1.
The extension of the Downeaster service comes several years later than anticipated by rail officials, said Patricia Quinn, director of the authority.
"When we inaugurated the service in 2001, it was supposed to happen in a couple of years," Quinn said. "To make it finally happen is pretty exciting."
The start of service to Freeport and Brunswick was timed, in part, to coincide with holiday travel and shopping demand, connecting riders to L.L. Bean and other attractions.
"It will improve connectivity to midcoast Maine, increase tourism and continue to stimulate economic development in the region," said the authority's board chairman, Martin Eisenstein.
The service expansion follows a $38.3 million upgrade of 36 railroad crossings and 30 miles of track owned primarily by Pan Am Railways. The work took two years and was funded by the American Recovery and Rehabilitation Act.
The expansion "allows for greater transportation options for New England rail passengers and coincides with record ridership demand on both the Downeaster and rail travel throughout the country," Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman said in a prepared statement.
Downeaster ridership has more than doubled since 2005, exceeding 528,000 riders in fiscal 2011-12, rail officials said. Ridership in fiscal 2012-13 is up 9 percent over the same period last year, and the service to Freeport and Brunswick is expected to attract more than 30,000 new riders annually.
Towns from Falmouth to Brunswick have addressed anticipated train noise, speed, safety and maintenance issues in recent months.
Several communities are planning or considering additional railroad crossing upgrades that would allow "quiet zones," where train whistles would be blown only in emergencies.
A planned train storage and maintenance facility in Brunswick has raised controversy because it would be near residential neighborhoods.
The Downeaster makes eight stops between Portland and Boston: Old Orchard Beach (spring to fall), Saco and Wells in Maine; Dover, Durham and Exeter, N.H.; and Haverhill and Woburn, Mass.
Beginning Nov. 1, southbound riders will be able to leave Brunswick at 7:05 a.m. daily and arrive in Boston at 10:30 a.m., then catch a northbound train at 5 p.m. on weekdays and return to Brunswick at 8:25 p.m.
Northbound riders will be able to depart Boston at 9:05 a.m. on weekdays, arriving in Brunswick at 12:25 p.m., then catch a 5:50 p.m. southbound train, returning to Boston at 9:15 p.m.
There also will be an early-morning and late-evening trip between Brunswick and Portland, where trains are stored and maintained.
Weekend and holiday schedules will vary slightly. Multi-ride passes, including the College 6-TIX, will be available.
Passengers can make reservations for travel to and from Freeport and Brunswick beginning Oct. 1. (For more information, visit amtrakdowneaster.com.)
The new schedule includes changes to the Portland-to-Boston stretch that will take effect Oct. 15.
On weekdays, the first southbound departure from Portland will be 20 minutes earlier, to help commuters get to work in Boston earlier. The 5:40 p.m. departure from Boston will be changed temporarily to 6:45 p.m., and the last southbound departure from Portland will be one hour earlier, at 6:45 p.m.
On weekends, the northbound 6:45 p.m. departure will be changed to 8 p.m. Seasonal service to Old Orchard Beach will end Oct. 14 and resume next spring.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:
click image to enlarge
The new station and tracks in Brunswick, which will become the new northern terminus for Amtrak's Downeaster passenger train in November.