Skip to content

Go to sleep in Boston, wake up in Montreal: How proposed train service could work

Sept. 06, 2022
7 min read
train tracks
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Picture this: You’re in Boston, and it’s early evening. You head to a rail station and board a train. Once it leaves the station, you visit the dining car for dinner before heading to your sleeper car to turn in for the night. After a full night’s sleep, you’re rested for a day’s worth of sightseeing or business meetings when the train arrives at 8 a.m. in the Canadian city of Montreal.

It's a concept a group of rail advocates and politicians are studying with increasing intensity, after meeting in a small town just over the Canadian border in Quebec last week.

Their proposal would mean direct, overnight rail service between Boston and Montreal, with a number of stops — including on the Maine coast — along the way.

It's not a trip you can buy tickets for tomorrow. There's a long way to go before this could become a reality.

But it’s an idea some believe has real potential.

For more TPG news delivered to your mailbox each morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

The Montreal skyline. ROBERTO ANANIA/EYEEM/GETTY IMAGES

A Boston to Montreal overnight train

The itinerary for this would-be overnight train is one that might make even the most significant rail enthusiasts scratch their heads a bit.

The proposal calls for a departure from Boston at approximately 6 p.m. each night, with arrival in Montreal at 8 a.m. the next morning.

There would be another train from Montreal to Boston simultaneously running on the same schedule.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

To be clear, it doesn’t take 14 hours to drive between the two cities. In fact, a quick check of Google Maps suggests the drive would take around five hours, which means the train ride would take nearly triple the time of the drive.

However, advocates for the route argue there’s more to efficiency than sheer time.

“Those eight hours of sleeping are time we need to spend somewhere,” former Quebec assembly member Francois Rebello said in an interview with TPG on Sunday.

Now a lobbyist for the proposed project, Rebello argues it would present an alternative for travelers between the two cities. Essentially, the idea here is maximizing your sleeping hours while avoiding sitting in Boston traffic (which could stretch the five-hour drive to six hours or more) and minimizing nights spent in hotels.

The proposal calls for 120 beds in three sleeper cars, along with two dining cars, one lounge car and 70 seats in coach on each train.

A graphic shared by Canadian advocates for the project shows the proposed map and accommodations. IMAGE FROM FRANCOIS REBELLO

Between Boston and Montreal, the train would make a stop in Durham, New Hampshire, then four stops in Maine: Old Orchard Beach and Portland on the coast, followed by Auburn and Bethel.

The final three stops in the U.S. would be in Gorham and Berlin, New Hampshire and Island Pond, Vermont before the train crosses into Canada and makes another seven stops before arriving in Montreal.

As the 14-hour itinerary suggests, the train would be slow-moving, which Rebello said would be ideal for sleeping.

A complicated process

The train’s proposed route means there would be opportunities not just for trips between Boston and Montreal, but to travel from both cities to some key New England coastal destinations — a route popular among Canadian travelers.

“Working not only to meet our climate goals, but to enhance and build a strong economy,” Maine state representative Lori Gramlich posted on Facebook after attending a meeting with dozens of other leaders and project advocates in rural Coaticook, Quebec on Sept. 1.

Maine leaders met with Canadian officials in Coaticook, Quebec to discuss the potential project. SEN. RICK BENNETT/FACEBOOK

There, the group charted a path forward.

While there would need to be “a lot of money” invested in the Canadian-side tracks, Rebello told TPG, it’s not a matter of building the infrastructure along the proposed route from scratch.

“You already have track connecting Montreal to Boston at the kind of speed we need,” Rebello said.

Rather, the challenge stems from who controls the tracks, which are owned by a number of private companies. Rebello said it would require an agreement with those companies, which would be the next step in the process.

“You need to find a way to make them accept this service,” he said. “For them, it’s not an easy thing because they already have freight trains running a lot during the night.”

If officials can clear that hurdle, they could begin the process of finding and renovating trains for the route.

Rebello expects, at best, that each of those steps could take a year.

Is there a demand for the service?

Sunrise over the pier at Old Orchard Beach, Maine. SHOBEIR ANSARI/MOMENT/GETTY IMAGES

Service between a major northeast U.S. city and Canada is certainly not unprecedented.

Just this summer, Amtrak re-started service between New York and Toronto for the first time since before the pandemic, which offers 12-plus hour rides between Manhattan and Ontario’s largest city.

When it comes to the proposed 14-hour ride between New England and Quebec’s largest city, Rebello cites the type of train service seen in Europe as support for his belief that this is something passengers want. The alternative, he noted, would be the challenges associated with early morning flights, waits at security, flight disruptions and extra night(s) spent at a hotel.

How much would it cost?

So what would a ride on this train cost?

The proposal calls for $160 fares one-way for the trip between Boston and Montreal. That would mean $320 round trip.

For comparison, looking at mid-week October flights between the two cities, I found prices tended to sit at around $250.

GOOGLE.COM/FLIGHTS

Advocates of this rail service counter the price argument by saying could drastically cut down on the money spent at hotels while at one’s destination. (Of course, hotel costs aren’t necessarily multiplied when there’s a second, third or fourth member of a traveling party.)

A study conducted by the Canadian organization advocating for the project shows demand — and therefore revenue — for the service ultimately “would be there,” Rebello said.

Jim Mathews, President & CEO of the Rail Passengers Association, is a fan of the idea, despite the longer itinerary.

“Overnight trains have an attractiveness which goes beyond simple trip-time competitiveness,” he told TPG, noting the ability of travelers to get a meal, rest, and a full night of sleep before a day of sightseeing or business meetings — not to mention the benefit for travelers who are not able to drive.

He also believes the fact that a single train and crew would be used along the route, with its many stops, makes it all the more feasible.

“This is a fairly efficient use of resources,” he said.

Maine state senator Rick Bennett, who was also in the group that met in Quebec last week, shared his perspective on the project in a social media post last week.

“It’s a good time to re-start the conversation [over the rail service] with the end of COVID and changes in ownership of the rails,” Bennett wrote.

Bottom line

The skyline in Boston. JOHN COLETTI/THE IMAGE BANK/GETTY IMAGES

Talk about establishing slow-moving, overnight train service between Boston and Montreal seems to be picking up steam.

A lot would have to happen before you could go to sleep after a meal on a train in New England and wake up in Quebec, but it’s worth watching what happens in the coming months — and, indeed, years — to see if these ideas keep rolling forward.

Read more

Featured image by GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023