Rail advocate applauds potential Campbellton-Moncton route
Head of Transport Action Atlantic says people along north shore are most dependent on the Via Rail line
The head of Transport Action Atlantic, a group fighting for improved rail service in the Maritimes, is encouraged by news that Via Rail is considering a new daily route between Campbellton and Moncton.
The proposed new route, which is under consideration for next year by Via, would service points along the north shore in the morning and evening.
Ted Bartlett says people from Campbellton, Bathurst, and Miramichi, as well as smaller communities along the line are looking for a reliable train service to Moncton.
"This addresses their problem quite well in that they would be able to leave home first thing in the morning, get to Moncton by the noon hour, have their medical appointments … do whatever business they came here to do, and get back on the train at supper and be home that night," Bartlett said in an interview on Information Morning Moncton.
That hasn't been possible since Via cut back on train service throughout the Maritimes three years ago, Bartlett said.
"So we're hoping this really does work for them, we don't know what days of the week they're talking, in terms of five days, is that Monday to Friday, we're not sure," he said on Thursday.
Speeds too slow
One of the issues that first needs to be addressed is the speed of the track.
Bartlett says between Bathurst and Miramichi, the train still crawls along at 30 kilometres per hour and takes nearly six hours to get from Campbellton to Moncton.
Let's bring us back to the 1940s at least- Ted Bartlett, Transport Action Atlantic
"Back in the days of steam locomotives, where they had to stop and water the engines several times en route, they could do it in about four [hours,]" he said.
"We're asking the new [Liberal] government to give serious consideration to directing some of their infrastructure funding to some badly deteriorated track in this country and a prime candidate is Bathurst to Miramichi," he said.
"Let's bring us back to the 1940s at least."
Track upgrades would be necessary to get trains fast enough to make the daily round trips.
Approvals would have to come from Canadian National Railway, which owns the tracks Via travels on.
Bartlett says the group's national body, Transport Action Canada, is seeking a reintroduction of a Via Rail Canada Act, giving Via a "proper legislative foundation" that has rights and a clear mandate regarding operation over freight railways.
"This is something it's never had in its 38 years of existence and it's really a fatal weakness," he said.
"We believe Via needs new equipment, which involves over a period of 10 years, a substantial investment on the part of the federal government … but building those rail cars will produce jobs for Canadians."
Via Rail is also considering launching new regional routes to service Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and in particular, a route between Moncton and Halifax.
Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, Via Rail's president, said earlier this week the new routes allow for tailored regional needs while maintaining its Ocean route between Halifax and Montreal.
A Moncton to Halifax route would run first thing in the morning and return in the evening.
The new routes are afforded by increased revenue and ridership on the corridor between Quebec and Windsor, Ont., on which 73 per cent of Via's passengers are repeat customers.
That extra cash can offset the subsidies that are keeping trains running in the Maritimes, Desjardins-Siciliano said.
For every dollar that a passenger pays to ride on Via in the Maritimes, the federal government gives a two dollar subsidy.
For a ticket to ride between Halifax and Montreal, the taxpayer pays $480.