Vendors eye Rockland rail service
Rail service between Brunswick and Rockland remains a hot topic among state and regional transportation officials.
Maine Eastern Railroad — an “excursion train" railroad servicing Brunswick, Bath, Wiscasset and Rockland — recently announced it would cut back its passenger service this summer. But state officials are negotiating with the company to sign a one-year deal that would keep it operating even as it entertains interest from other vendors.
Maine Eastern Railroad has had a contract with the Maine Department of Transportation to run freight from Brunswick to Rockland, but the contract does not cover passenger service.
The state owns the railroad tracks, the Rockland terminal and the engine house.
State officials have approached Maine Eastern’s parent company — Morristown & Erie Railway — offering a one-year combined contract for freight and passenger service until the end of 2014.
DOT spokesman Nate Moulton said numerous other vendors have inquired about the route.
Moulton said Maine DOT was not ready to bring in a new operator, waiting instead to analyze a full year of passenger data on the Amtrak Downeaster from Boston to Brunswick to see if there is sufficient interest in continuing passenger service further up the coast.
In particular, Moulton said the state is interested in seeing whether people using the Downeaster are coming here for same-day trips, or whether they are staying or have interest in attractions further up the Maine coast.
Moulton said the other vendors run the gamut of interest and credibility, but that it is unlikely Amtrak would be interested in extending the Downeaster to Rockland currently.