Bus users worried about service cuts in N.B.

Acadian Coach Lines' proposal to eliminate some bus routes in New Brunswick and reduce others has people in a number of affected communities worried.

Proposed cuts to bus service in New Brunswick have some passengers and civic leaders worried.

Acadian Coach Lines wants to eliminate the route between Saint John and Bangor, Maine, which would leave much of the southwestern part of the province without service.

Nathan Armstrong, who was sitting at the nearly full waiting area of the Saint John bus terminal Sunday afternoon, said he relies on the bus to get home to St. Stephen and isn't sure how else he'd get around.

"I don't know what would fill in that void," he said. "I don't know what the back-up plan is for that, so I don't know."

Terry James, the mayor of Black's Harbour, which is about an hour outside Saint John, says the proposed cuts would be a serious blow to her community, particularly for students, who are away at universities and colleges and have no other way to get home.

"And I'm also told by small business owners in the area that they use the service regularly for small freight movement," she said.

"If the service is indeed being used by many people for different reasons, then why would they cut out routes?

"I'd like to know the numbers. If it is indeed a case of not using the service well, then so be it, we lose it, but from my own personal perspective, I have three… extended family members who use the service regularly."

Acadian has also applied to cut its Fredericton to Miramichi route, which stops in communities along Route 8, and reduce the number of trips between Fredericton and Rivière-du-Loup, Que., from three buses a day to two.

The bus company wants to focus on ramping up service between Halifax, Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton, increasing daily service between New Brunswick's three largest cities to four times a day.

Users will have say

New Brunswick's Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) has to approve the cuts. It has asked Acadian for detailed information about ridership and costs on the routes it proposes to drop.

The Black's Harbour town council has written to the EUB to voice its concerns, James said.

EUB officials have said New Brunswickers will have an opportunity to have their say about the proposed cuts.

A hearing date has not yet been set. The EUB is considering Acadian's request for a joint hearing with the Nova Scotia regulator.

Acadian has applied to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board to eliminate daily service between Kentville and Digby and to cut one daily trip between Sydney and Halifax.

Quebec-based Groupe Orléans Express Inc., which bought Acadian Lines five years ago, has estimated the company has lost approximately 100,000 passengers and $1.6 million since then.