Rally to save Via Rail Ocean line
MONCTON – People against cuts to passenger service in the Maritimes gathered at train stops along the Ocean Route as a show of solidarity Sunday.
VIA Rail’s Ocean Route left Halifax around 10 a.m. with stops in Moncton, Miramichi, Bathurst and Campbellton, N.B.
Green Party MP Bruce Hyer boarded the train in Halifax and addressed people about the cuts at the stops.
“We need Via Rail. Everybody in this room knows it. Canada needs it, the environment needs it,” he said during a stop in Moncton.
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The Ocean line links people from Halifax to Montreal. However, its service has been dwindling for years and the link could soon be severed.
People who gathered in Moncton say there’s still an important place for rail service in Canada.
“I think the rail line can play a vital role of transportation, especially in the maritime provinces,” said Ron Batt.
CN owns and manages the line. However, it’s trying to sell off a portion of track between Miramichi and Bathurst.
The company says the section of track is too expensive to maintain. It also says there’s not enough freight traffic to justify keeping it.
A union representing rail line workers is also worried about jobs associated with the cuts.
“You’re essentially isolating communities and strong-minded communities like Miramichi and Bathurst. There is talks of re-opening the mines and you’re really not talking business development in regards to that,” said Patrick Murray a spokesman for Unifior.
VIA Rail is the small section’s biggest customer. People like seven-year-old Marshall Dunn take it to visit his grandparents in Quebec. “We don’t have to drive and we can spend time with our parents,” he said.
Other supporters say it’s up to the federal government to step in and save the line.
“Our Canada includes passenger trains and there’s a very strong risk there will be no passenger service east of Quebec City if the federal government doesn’t step up to the plate in the next few weeks,” said Ted Bartlett, a spokesman for Transport Action Atlantic.
If no one shows interest in the section of track, it could be abandoned by the summer.
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