Via Rail to repair northern New Brunswick rail line, Halifax route to Montreal saved

The Canadian Press
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FREDERICTON – Via Rail has tentatively agreed to spend $10.2 million to repair tracks in northern New Brunswick used to provide passenger rail service to the Maritimes, federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced Monday.

The Via Rail station is seen in Halifax on June 13, 2013. Via Rail has named a new chief executive officer little more than a week after a senior federal cabinet minister called for new leadership at the Crown corporation. Yves Desjardins-Siciliano is taking over from Steve Del Bosco, who had been doing the job on an interim basis since the start of this year.

The deal would see repairs to a 70-kilometre stretch of track between Miramichi and Bathurst.

Raitt said the funding means passenger service from Montreal to Halifax can continue three days a week in each direction.

“The continuity of Via Rail’s Ocean service on this rail line in northern New Brunswick is excellent news as it will not only benefit the users, but also each community along the route by maintaining jobs and supporting the local economy,” Raitt said in a statement.

The agreement needs to be ratified by the boards of both Via Rail and CN, which owns the track.

CN was planning on abandoning the line and Via Rail had previously said it couldn’t afford to buy or maintain the stretch of track.

Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector union, welcomed the announcement Monday after leading a months-long campaign to save the line.

“The effects of abandoning this section of track would have had a devastating impact on so many communities along the Ocean route,” said national president Jerry Dias.

“It would have had a terrible impact on Via Rail workers and their families, so we are pleased to see that the government has recognized the value of this service.”

The New Brunswick government previously announced it would provide $25 million to improve rail infrastructure in northern New Brunswick, while CN agreed to spend a comparable amount to maintain and operate its freight line for a 15-year period. But the stretch of track between Miramichi and Bathurst was not included that deal.

Via Rail spokesman Jacques Gagnon said the company’s board will likely ratify the agreement at a meeting later this month.

Gagnon said the repairs will include levelling the stretch of track so that trains can travel at higher speeds.

He said the company hopes the investment will increase ridership.

“And eventually, increase the frequency, if Canadians ride more and more the (Ocean line) on that segment,” Gagnon said in an interview.

CN did not respond to a request for comment.

Organizations: Via Rail, CN

Geographic location: New Brunswick, Halifax, Montreal Miramichi Canada

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  • Hiawatha Pete
    May 13, 2014 - 18:53

    Other modes of transportation require far more extensive subsidies from the taxpayer than passenger rail does. Government spending on air transport is 903 million dollars/year. Heavy traffic – most notably bus traffic, is a major factor in the life of a street and the average EMPTY bus is equivalent to nearly 3,000 cars in terms of damage imparted to the pavement infrastructure. Canadian Government spending on roads is 20.868 billion dollars/year. By contrast VIA Rail’s operating subsidies are only $200 million/yr – LESS THAN 1% OF WHAT ROADS RECEIVE! Yet for less than 1% of the subsidies given to roads, VIA Rail carries over 4 million passengers/yr – the equivalent of 12% of the population of Canada! And unlike flights, trains have the ability to serve multiple cities on one route. A flight from Chicago to LA, for example only serves the two endpoint cities. Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, by contrast serves 31 intermediate stops, or 528 city pairs, on one route, vastly improving public mobility. For more info see my website at