Tender posted for commuter rail study in Halifax

Published on May 7, 2014
A Via Rail train moves through Halifax in June.
The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan

HALIFAX - The question of whether commuter rail is feasible in Halifax is one step closer to being answered.

The tender for a feasibility study on rail service from Halifax to Windsor Junction and Enfield has been posted by HRM, more than two years after it was approved by regional council.

“It’s high time we had an answer whether this is viable or not,” said Coun. Tim Outhit, one of the main crusaders for commuter rail.

The Request for Proposals, posted Monday, “is intended to provide a detailed analysis of the potential of providing a commuter rail service on the existing rail corridor, including infrastructure requirements, operational needs, and costs.”

Both Outhit and Coun. Barry Dalrymple said support has been consistently strong among Halifax residents – but especially so in Dalrymple’s district, where rail service once existed.

“My mother…living in Fall River, she went to high school in Halifax and did so every single day for three years by rail,” said Dalrymple. “So when I say people in these communities are attuned to rail, they certainly are.”

Dalrymple said rush hour traffic jams are a daily nightmare in Fall River and said residents would welcome the return of rail service, citing $10 per round trip as a reasonable price point.

“People would jump at that. You’ve got to remember you’re avoiding the bridges, the tolls, the traffic, the parking,” he said.

Outhit said it’s not clear yet whether CN, which owns the rail lines, will take part in the $250,000 study – but HRM will have access to the company’s data.

He said if the study shows commuter rail isn’t a viable option, the municipality will face some difficult decisions about public transportation to the downtown core.

“What I can’t support, and what I’m hearing is…oh well, we’ll run more buses and reduce the lanes for cars,” he said. “I think that would be the death of downtown.”