VANCOUVER, B.C. -- A plan by the U.S. Customs Service to begin stopping passenger trains between Vancouver and Seattle has been temporarily halted, the Canadian Press reports.

Customs wanted to stop the trains at the border for at least 15 minutes so agents could search for drugs and other contraband.

But the plan, which was to have been implemented Jan. 8, has been put on hold until at least Friday, when officials are to meet with Amtrak, U.S. Customs spokesman Dean Boyd said Tuesday. He wouldn't comment on why U.S. Customs was making this move and didn't have any figures available concerning the number of seizures made on the passenger rail line.

Amtrak wants the customs service to continue the present system of so-called rolling inspections, under which an agent boards the train at the Canada-U.S. border and checks passengers while the train is en route to Bellingham, Wash. Anyone being detained is removed from the train at Bellingham.

"We all know once the train is stopped, the 15 minutes can easily become half an hour or 45 minutes," Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham said Tuesday. "They have said safety is their main issue, but they also feel they're not able to do a thorough inspection with a rolling inspection."

Passengers entering Canada via Amtrak are checked by Canada Customs when the train reaches Vancouver.

Ms. Graham said ridership on the route between Vancouver and Seattle has been increasing steadily since the service resumed in 1995, with nearly 100,000 passengers carried last year.

"But if this is implemented, we're talking about lost revenue because customers will find it quicker to drive than take the train," she said. She said it now takes under four hours now to travel by rail between the two cities.

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January 17, 2001


2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers