AMHERST – It’s still too early to tell if the historic train station in Amherst will impacted by changes to Via Rail’s Atlantic passenger service.
Union representatives were told Wednesday that the Ocean route that runs between Montreal and Halifax six times a week is being reduced to just three times per week. It’s expected the reduction will result in the loss of about 45 jobs when the cut takes effect at the end of October.
There are currently 100 employees working on the route.
Malcolm Andrews, Via Rail’s senior advisor of community relations, said it’s premature to say what is going to happen to employees and stations along the route – that is the only passenger link between Montreal and the Maritimes.
“No decisions have made about the future of that station or any of the stations up and down the line,” Andrews said from Via’s office in Montreal. “Obviously the announcement like the one today is going to affect more than the employees that are on that train. That effect is going to spread out to the stations along the route, but how exactly how has yet to be determined.”
Three people work at the station.
With the news, there has been speculation in the community about the future of the train station that opened in 1906 for the Inter-Colonial Railway. Speculation has the station either being closed or becoming an unmanned station, meaning passengers would no longer be able to embark or disembark here.
Andrews said the company is just entering into its discussions with the union and it would be incorrect to speculate.
“I can’t speculate because there is no final decision and that’s not just about Amherst, but about the whole route,” he said. “Service to all the current stations will continue and no decision has been made at this time to change that.”
Ryan Beattie operates his hairstyling business in the train station. He admitted to hearing rumours of the station’s future, but he’s not concern about his future there.
“Even if they close the station and it gets a new owner I should be safe because I have a lease with an undetermined term,” said Beattie, who has operated Hairstyles by Ryan at the station for about 18 months.
Nationally, Via Rail expects to cut 200 unionized jobs, or about nine per cent of its workforce, as the government-owned passenger rail service reduces trips across the country.
The cuts come after the federal budget in March that slashed $41 million in subsidies to Via over three years. The company said trip reductions and job losses are being driven by weak off-season demand.
It claims ridership on the Ocean has dropped by 50 per cent over 15 years.
CAW Local 4005 president Jennifer Brown said ridership is up 7.8 per cent since last year and by nearly 25 per cent in the peak season.
(With files from the Canadian Press)