CN has issued a go-slow order to trains travelling in northern New Brunswick. ((Allison Northcott/CBC))

CN Rail has cut the maximum speed for passenger trains on its northern New Brunswick railway between Campbellton and Miramichi because its tracks need upgrading.

The northern train tracks would require costly upgrades to be able to maintain higher speeds. But Julie Senécal, a CN spokesperson, said there is not enough traffic on the line to make the upgrades worth it.

For passengers travelling on VIA Rail's Montreal-to-Halifax train The Ocean, the journey will take nearly an hour longer than it would have a couple of months ago because of the "go-slow" order.

CN Rail has issued go-slow orders between Campbellton and Miramichi where passenger trains can't go more than 48 kilometres per hour about half the speed they normally travel at.

"The track would require significant investment to bring it back to the previous higher speed, and the overall traffic levels do not justify that investment at this time," Senécal said.

With the closure of paper mills and other industries in northern New Brunswick, Senécal said traffic on the line has dwindled.

She said CN is working with the provincial government to attract new customers.

Southern help


The New Brunswick government is in negotiations with CN to improve the rail lines in the province's north, similar to a project funded last year in southern New Brunswick. ((Allison Northcott/CBC))

The provincial government announced a $9-million investment in New Brunswick Southern Railway, which is owned by J.D. Irving Ltd. last year.

The plan was to increase the line's weight capacity to match that of railways in the United States.

Bruce MacFarlane, a spokesman with the province's Regional Development Corp., said a similar plan could be in store for CN in northern New Brunswick.

"We're looking at this an opportunity to increase capacity for the north so we would be able to be in a position to do something similar that was done in the south," MacFarlane nsaid.

"It would have to take all levels of government and the private sector to make this happen."

MacFarlane said provincial officials have met with CN and are negotiating a similar plan.

Senécal confirmed the rail company is working with the provincial government to try to attract new customers and more traffic.

"The government has a plan in order to try to support the economic development of that region and CN is working with them in order to attract businesses in that region of New Brunswick," she said

Tough decisions

CN has faced other tough decisions on its rail lines in northern New Brunswick because of the declining number of customers.

CN announced in June 2009 that it was looking to sell the rail line through the northern town of Dalhousie.

A CN spokesperson said at the time the closure of a paper mill and chemical plant in 2008 eliminated the rail line's only customers in Dalhousie.

If the line is not purchased by 2012, the tracks that have run through the northern town since 1883 will be dismantled.