Montana Rail Link to give ex-NP line back to BNSF

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Siegmund

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northwestern Montana
The rumor mills in Montana are buzzing overtime with a story to this effect today. Supposedly there is to be a public announcement "soon." In the meantime, the closest we have to official confirmation is a fuzzy screenshot of an email which apparently went to MRL employees today.

It is no secret that BNSF has wished it hadn't leased the line out... and if the price is right, am sure Dennis Washington will see it as good business to end his 99-year lease 54 years early.

But I do not think this is good news for MRL employees, for MRL customers, or for the prospects of restoring passenger service across southern Montana.

A year or two ago, BNSF took back control of the Whitefish to Kalispell branch from Watco (Mission Mountain Railroad), under terms that never got published anywhere I could see them. It didn't occur to me at the time that they might actually be able to do the same with MRL.
 

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CCC1007

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I find it suspicious that the date is cut off after the 20 in 20XX for the year...

EDIT: other more clear images have been posted on Facebook. I wonder if this means that BNSF road crews will take over for all but the MRL traffic locals...
 
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neroden

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Well, BNSF management are very different people from when BNSF leased the line.

With BNSF in the hands of a top boss who thinks long-term, and is explicitly willing to accept lower-than-extreme profit margins as long as it remains a profitable operation -- namely, Warren Buffett -- I would hope this wouldn't be any particular obstruction to passenger service or local freight traffic.
 

jis

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JWM

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This line covers a lot more population centers than the E.B. route and if the full former NP route to Seattle was used the train could be split
at Pasco for Portland and Seattle. Not wanting to deprive northern Montana and North Dakota of rail passenger service, but, with better on time performance, service etc., both lines would be well patronized, I think. Time will tell.
 
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