A DOWNEASTER train set, as seen in Brunswick in 2016. A pilot program would have extended service north from its current Brunswick terminus to Rockland, with stops in several Midcoast communities, including Bath and Wiscasset. Those plans appear to be on hold.

A DOWNEASTER train set, as seen in Brunswick in 2016. A pilot program would have extended service north from its current Brunswick terminus to Rockland, with stops in several Midcoast communities, including Bath and Wiscasset. Those plans appear to be on hold.

BATH

A pilot program that would have extended Downeaster passenger rail service from Brunswick to Rockland this summer has been canceled.

Amtrak was unable to complete a risk assessment of the railroad from Brunswick to Rockland in time to launch the pilot program this summer, according to Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.

“One of the caveats of moving forward with the service this summer was that Amtrak would be able to complete what they are calling a risk assessment of the railroad line,” she said Tuesday. “We were notified yesterday that due to some of their other priorities and other deadlines that they have, they’re not going to be able to complete that this spring in timely enough fashion for us to be able to get crew qualified and operate services this summer.”

As proposed, the coastal extension would have added stops in Bath, Wiscasset and Newcastle, before arriving in Rockland. The service would run for about 10 weekends from June through September. The rail authority voted in favor of the extension in February, and the communities with stops along the tracks voiced their approval.

The purpose of the pilot program was to determine whether there was enough interest from passengers to make the extension a more permanent one.

“The public support was overwhelming. There’s a lot of energy,” said Quinn. “I think it just showed there’s really a strong desire for such a service.”

Although the service was unable to run this summer, she added that the rail authority was likely to pursue a similar pilot program in the summer of 2019.

“I think what we’re thinking about next year would be much like what we started off proposing this year,” said Quinn. “We’re hopeful we can get the resources and the support that we need going forward such that we can offer a good service in 2019.”

Bath City Manager Peter Owen expressed disappointment in the cancellation of the new service for 2018.

“We had a lot of hope about being able to provide an opportunity for new people to come into Bath,” he said. “But it was always the case that it was not a done deal. Hopefully it will take place in another year.”

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