We often associate the passenger train with images of the past, but given a chance, it’s a mode of transportation that has plenty of potential for the future.
With much relief, Maritimers learned that the federal government will do its part to help see that service remains intact in this part of the country. Those involved did well to recognize that continued dismantling of the rail system is not the way to go and that Via Rail and the tracks they run on are easily as worthy of investment as other transportation infrastructure.
At stake was a 70-kilometre stretch of track between New Brunswick’s Miramichi and Bathurst, owned by CN that was no longer part of that company’s needs.
The looming gap in the rail link running from Halifax to Montreal and beyond has been on the minds of people and community leaders. But news emerged on the weekend that the federal government would provide funding for repairs on that stretch. On Monday Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced that Via Rail has agreed to put $10.2 million into the work. It’s a deal that still needs to be ratified by the boards of Via and CN.
Adding to the good news: the upgrades will mean levelling of the span allowing trains to travel at higher speeds and the overall goal of making ridership a more attractive option.
This is certainly a step in the right direction, one that mayors in the region had been calling for – a big topic at the recent Atlantic Mayors’ Congress meeting. Truro Mayor Bill Mills calls the investment a “no-brainer.”
And it’s not just that it provides a vital link for Maritimers to the rest of the nation. A look at other countries will show passenger rail service as a safe, efficient alternative to help get cars off the highways.
With adequate investment and the right promotion passenger rail service could return to its position as a comfortable, speedy, convenient choice for people to get around. It should be expanded where feasible, rather than discarded, bit by bit.