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Maritime Bus is seeking more time to show whether a new route in northern New Brunswick is viable.

Maritime Bus has struggled to meet ridership goals for its pilot project in northern New Brunswick and is asking for more time to prove the new route is financially viable.

The route runs between Campbellton and Moncton, and needs to carry 20 passengers each way to make money. It's been operating since August, but it took until last week to hit that passenger number for the first time.

The bus company needs to get more people on board to get a permanent licence to operate from the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board. The temporary licence expired last month and the company has sought an extension.

One key could be the future of Via Rail passenger service in the Maritimes. CN Rail is planning to abandon a 70-kilometre stretch of rail line between Bathurst and Miramichi.

If Via Rail ends service in the Maritimes, that could help bump up ridership for the bus route.

"We have to be marketing the service, and we have to be there when the decision comes down this July for Via Rail," Maritime Bus owner Mike Cassidy said.

Losing Via Rail would be a blow to non-drivers, like Sharon Young. She said something needs to fill the void if Via goes.

"Let's hope something comes through for us," she said.