New Brunswick

CN upgrades to preserve Via's Maritime service underway

CN upgrades that secured the future of Via Rail's Maritime passenger service are underway in New Brunswick.

Work in northern New Brunswick expected to continue into the fall, CN official says

An extensive upgrade to Canadian National Railway tracks in New Brunswick is underway.

Work on the line started in Moncton on July 30 and is continuing into the northern part of the province, where a stretch of bad track threatened to end Via Rail's Maritime passenger service between Halifax and Montreal.

CN says work on the tracks in northern New Brunswick, used by Via Rail's Maritime passenger service, is expected to continue into the fall. (CBC)
Jim Feeney, director of public and government affairs with CN, says up 100 employees are working on the project, which is expected to continue into the fall.

"Basically there are three entities that are involved here," said Feeney.

"There's CN, the government of New Brunswick, which is paying for the cost of rehabilitating the line — they're doing the northern and the southern. Then Via has kicked in for the middle section so that passenger service can be retained on the line," he said.

"For CN's part, our commitment is to keep the line in service and maintained to these levels for the next 15 years."

In August 2012, CN announced it was looking for $50 million from the New Brunswick government and other partners to maintain freight rail service in the northern part of the province. Otherwise, the company said it would be forced to discontinue part of the Newcastle Subdivision service by March 2014.

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

In January 2014, the New Brunswick government agreed to provide $25 million to preserve the rail freight service.

Then in May, federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced Via would pay $10 million to fix the 70-kilometre stretch between Miramichi and Bathurst and preserve the passenger service running on the line.

About 80,000 passengers a year currently use the service between Halifax and Montreal, but Via hopes to see that increase to 125,000 passengers a year.