People in northern New Brunswick are ramping up their efforts to save the freight rail service in their area.

Canadian National Railway (CN) has threatened to discontinue part of the Newcastle Subdivision service by March 2014 unless it can raise $50 million to repair its aging tracks.

Wayne Bushey, chairman of the Miramichi Chamber of Commerce, said the time to act is now. The loss of the railway would devastate the area, he said.

"It's a large part of economic development in Miramichi, it's a main line," he said. "Once it goes, it's never going to come back again and we just don't want it to happen."

Bushey's group has organized a call to action, urging people to contact their MLAs and demand support for the rail service.

"I feel and we feel for economic development and to move our community forward, it's going to be a real large hole from our area. It's like the main artery for our area and the cost of shipping is going to be a lot higher for firms to do economic development or to run their business," he said.

It takes hundreds of trucks to move what a freight train can, said Bushey.

Not a done deal

Campbellton Mayor Bruce MacIntosh says he's confident a solution will be found to save the railway.

But until then, the communities of northern New Brunswick are sticking together to fight the decision, he said.

"It's not done until the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed. If CN and Via think this is going away, it's certainly not. They know how important it is, we've voiced that with our representatives and we're going to continue to do that."

CN says it's incurring annual losses, due to declining traffic volumes and infrastructure costs and needs assistance to keep the 224-kilometre stretch between Catamount, just west of Moncton and Irvco, about 32 kilometres west of Bathurst, operating.

The line has been losing money since CN re-acquired it in 2008 from what was then the New Brunswick East Coast Railway, officials say.

The company has started the discontinuance process for the line under the Canada Transportation Act after working for several months with the province and customers to find solutions.