Work continues on the Housatonic (Berkshire) Line during COVID-19 crisis, 17 April 2020. Photo taken in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

While we’re sheltering in place, and flattening the curve, there’s a lot going on that suggests a bright future for rail, for our region, and for the planet. (By the way, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day is on Wednesday 22 April, and you’ll find a lot of online activity at

You’ll find a letter below from transport specialist Andrew Jennings with some history of the Housatonic Line, and a reminder to write to your Washington DC legislators. Because the stimulus funding will be coming in stages, with the immediate focus being healthcare and basic support, it’s important that we continue to tell our legislators how important passenger rail is. Please ask your friends and family around the United States to write to their legislators, too.

We’re not alone in wanting restored and improved passenger rail. An article this week in the Rail Gazette International explains that “A report published by UBS Research suggests that many travellers will switch from air to high speed rail in the post Covid-19 period.”

The report found that consumers and governments were becoming ‘more climate aware’, with the Covid-19 outbreak revealing in industrialised countries ‘what clean air means’. Using data from the European Union, aviation represented about 2∙5% to 3% of global emissions, but around 15% of transport-related emissions, the authors said. In 2017, transport generated 4 483 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, with road transport responsible for 73% of greenhouse gas emissions, aviation generating 14%, maritime 13∙5% and rail about 0∙5%. Noting that most governments in developed countries had set targets for net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 or 2050, the authors ‘therefore expect an acceleration in the shift from planes to high speed rail in both Europe and China’.

The Phase 3 recovery legislation met or exceeded the national Rail Passengers Association’s COVID19 request. Trains and public transit are getting substantial funding allocations because legislators see that these projects will get people back to work. The list of projects includes East-West Rail in Massachusetts Boston to Pittsfield) and the Housatonic Line in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York (Pittsfield to New York City).