Here my thoughts about electrification:
– overhead wire and substations are expensive. The capital cost for electrification is about double an ordinary track. The benefits are large enough to make up for that (though not to Wall Street), however it works best when the electrification cost is spread out over a density of many trains (split the cost up among many services, and the flip side: many trains benefit from lower operating costs of electrification). We don’t have that advantage in Vermont and would not under any scenario. I support electrification, but more densely populated and served areas are higher priorities and would provide much more emissions reduction.
– Battery and hydrogen technology is coming on strong. The cost of delivering electricity this way will probably be much lower, at least in our context. (Though there are real uncertainties, especially with hydrogen). The first battery and fuel cell locomotives and rail cars have been built, but are only prototypes, really. The technology will need to develop. Genesee & Wyoming, which owns New England Central Railroad along the river has agreed to partner with the manufacturer for testing battery locomotives, so maybe that will happen in time.
– Another way to “reduce” the cost of electrification: use the poles along the tracks to carry high-transmission lines with hydro-Quebec power going to Massachusetts. Sharing infrastructure this way could reduce the cost of electrification in half. I don’t think anyone in the railroad industry is thinking along these lines though. I’m not even sure where to start (and that is IF it is even a good idea to power Massachusetts via hydro-Quebec, which is far from certain).
– The “first step” in electrifying the line to Vermont would be to electrify between New Haven and Springfield, which the state of Connecticut would like to do if they can get funding. There are 18 passenger trains and 2 freights each way, so it makes sense.