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VRAN: "Extend Amtrak service to Burlington!"

A group that is fighting to save Amtrak's Ethan Allen Express passenger train wants to extend rail service from Rutland to Burlington, according to a statement e-mailed to news outlets by organizers of the Vermont Rail Network (VRAN) Jan. 28.

The fate of the Ethsn Allen train may be decided as early as the end of this week, according to an Amtrak source.

VRAN members and other Rutland-area train enthusiasts were skeptical about the plan, proposed by the Douglas administration, to use a passenger bus in place of the popular - but pricey - train.

"It has been my experience that if you substitute a bus for a train, 50 percent less people will be riding the bus," said Christopher Parker, executive director of VRAN.

In the e-mailed statement, VRAN member Tom Donahue said: "We are promoting extending the train daily to Burlington effective immediately with a complete track upgrade this construction season."

Donahue went on to say that he planned to meet face-to-face with Gov. Jim Douglas before the end of the week.

The e-mail went on to note that, "There are numerous unanswered questions and points regarding the VTrans (Vermont Agency of Transportation)... bus that should be raised with the governor and legislators."

Donahue's message also reiterated a statement heard loudly by attendees of the downtown rally Jan. 19: "The Rutland County delegation is unified in its opposition to the administration's proposal and understands the economic importance of the train."

VRAN listed several points in the e-mail statement - too detailed to be included below - that it said its members want Rutland County legislators to present at a planned state house transportation hearing in Montpelier.

A synopsis includes:

• The Douglas administration is promoting the bus as an improvement to the train in Rutland. "When asked recently, Amtrak passengers appeared to disagree," VRAN said.

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