VIA Rail looks at expanding Atlantic Canada service perhaps as early as next spring

November 10, 2015

TAYLOR: Via looks at expanding Atlantic service

Via Rail could start operating a smaller regional passenger rail service within Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as early as next spring.

Company president and CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano told me Monday that officials from Canada’s publicly owned passenger rail company have been meeting with municipal leaders to find out if such a service would be viable.Website Insert 5000 New Seats copy

In Nova Scotia, for example, he said it could be a daily service between Moncton and Halifax, bringing intercity commuters to Halifax in the morning and making the return trip to Truro and Moncton at the end of the business day. Within New Brunswick, the trip could be between Moncton and Campbellton.

The Halifax to Campbellton run is about a third of the distance from Halifax to Montreal, so it could cost much less than the full Ocean service, he said.VIA Rail Canada Inc.-Ocean's summer success leads to more depart

“It could be more practical for people; close to 80 per cent of our ridership is local service.

“Maybe there is a service to be had there that would better complement the Ocean. You would be able to service the long distance, which is people going away for three, four days or a week, and you would be able to service people between Campbellton and Moncton and between Moncton and Halifax,” said Desjardins-Siciliano.

It is all part of a plan by Via to attract more passengers. The service loses money and is heavily subsidized by the federal government, he said.

Every dollar a Via passenger pays is matched by about $2 from the Canadian government, Desjardins-Siciliano said. The average fare is about $120, and the cost of providing the service is more like $300 to $350.

For the holiday period, Via will increase the frequency of the Ocean service, with the hope of drawing more customers to the train in this region. Normally, Via operates the Halifax-Montreal train only three times a week in each direction. That is going up to six times a week in each direction during the period of Dec. 19 to Jan. 3.

“Last year, we did the same thing and we came up shorter than we would have liked,” Desjardins-Siciliano said.

Read the full story from Business Herald columnist Roger Taylor by clicking here.


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