End of the line for daily Via Rail service in Maritimes
Passenger train, the Ocean, cut back to 3 days
Daily passenger train service in the Maritimes reached the end of line on Friday, but a group that promotes public transportation vows to continue to fight for full service to be restored.
Via Rail's Ocean line between Montreal and Halifax will now run only on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, instead of making six round trips each week.
Blondine Arseneau takes the train to cities across the Maritimes every week with her seeing eye dog, Mao, to raise money for the Mira Foundation.
"All of the money that we raise to give free of charge the dog to the blind, to the persons in wheelchairs and the autistic children," she said.
Arseneau isn't sure how she will get around with the train only running three days a week. She can't drive and taking a cab is too expensive, she said.
People with disabilities and those living along New Brunswick's Acadian Peninsula without a car will have very few travel options, said Ted Bartlett, the vice-president of Transport Action Atlantic.
"You can't take a plane out of Campbellton to Montreal. You can't take a bus out of Bathurst to Moncton. So really, the future of public transportation in northern New Brunswick is standing out on Highway 11 with your thumb out," Bartlett said.
"It's going to be no longer possible for the people on the north shore of New Brunswick, who are the ones who are most dependent on Vial Rail's Ocean, to come down to Moncton in the morning, do an afternoon's business, have their medical appointments, or whatever, and get back home on the evening train," he said.
Via Rail announced in June it was scaling back passenger service because fewer people were taking the train.
Bartlett says the group plans to take its fight all the way to Ottawa to get a full, seven-day-a-week service back up and running.
Transport Action Atlantic has been holding a series of town hall meetings across the region, seeking input on producing a new blueprint for Via's revival and expansion.
Bartlett contends the rail service needs some "innovative marketing" to get back on track.
Via Rail's federal funding was cut by $6.5 million this year and another $34.7 million will be lost over the next two years, officials have said.