MP calls for action to save Via's Ocean run

Darrell
Darrell Cole
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Hyer makes whistlestop in Amherst on Sunday

An Ontario Green Party MP is calling on Maritimers to speak up to save passenger rail service in the region.

Clare Christie of Amherst talks to Margaret Hyer and Thunder Bay-Superior North Green MP Bruce Hyer outside Amherst’s historic train station on Sunday. Hyer is travelling by rain from Halifax to Ottawa to raise awareness about the future of passenger rail service in Atlantic Canada.

AMHERST – Atlantic Canadians need to speak up now or risk losing their passenger rail service, says Green Party MP Bruce Hyer.

Hyer made a brief stop at Amherst’s historic train station on Sunday as he travels by train from Halifax to Ottawa to sound the rallying cry against cuts to rail services that have seen Via’s Atlantic run reduced and numerous train stations shuttered.

“It appears as though Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are trying to use any trick they can to do away with passenger rail service in rural Canada,” Hyer said during a five-minute stop in Amherst. “This run here, the Ocean, has been a train that has been on the go since 1904 and it replaced a passenger rail service that had been here since Confederation.”

In June 2012, Via Rail announced it was cutting its Halifax-to-Montreal service from six times a week to three, cutting about 45 jobs in the Atlantic region. It also resulted in the closure of several train stations along the route, including Amherst’s – which opened in 1906 to service the Inter-Colonial Railway.

The train continues to stop in Amherst to pick up and drop off passengers, but normal services previously offered – including ticket purchases – are no longer offered. Train staff are no handling customer services.

The moves came after Via Rail’s federal funding was cut by $6.5 million with another $34.7 million in cuts expected after that.

“Maritimers need to show that they care about this run,” Hyer said. “Joni Mitchell said in a song that you don’t care about something til it’s gone, but I’m afraid once it’s gone it’s never coming back.”

Clare Christie of Amherst came to the train station to meet Hyer. She said passenger service is disappearing without much opposition from politicians or Canadians.

“It’s something we need to protect because there are so many people who have to come to rely on it,” Christie said. “Instead of saving it, we should be looking to invest more money into passenger service because it’s an efficient and clean method of transportation.”

Hyer hopes his awareness campaign prompts Atlantic Canadians to ask their MPs about the future of passenger rail service in the region. He said the government needs to make passenger service a priority and believes the government needs to take control of the Bathurst-Miramichi line in northern New Brunswick to save coast-to-coast Via service.

“Instead they are deliberately putting passenger rail service in jeopardy,” Hyer said. “We’ve had too many cuts by the Liberals and Consevatives over the years. There was a 74 per cent cut in 1990 and the last two years we’ve had a further 62 per cent cut. Now, for a measly $10 million, that would keep the rail line open between Bathurst and Miramichi, we can save this train. That’s the cost of three kilometres of highway in Nova Scotia. We’re talking peanuts here.”

darrell.cole@tc.tc

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: Via Rail, Green Party MP Bruce Hyer, Conservatives Inter-Colonial Railway Liberals

Geographic location: Amherst, Halifax, Atlantic Ottawa Canada Montreal New Brunswick Miramichi Nova Scotia

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  • reg
    March 03, 2014 - 09:52

    I believe the reduction in VIA passenger rail service to three days a week was a trial balloon to test opposition that brings us to the situation where harper wants to close the Maritimes to passenger rail service with the excuse of CN shutting down 70 km of track for the lack of 10 million dollars. Remember harper spent 1.2 billion for a G8 conference in Ontario that lasted a week. Those who want to keep our passenger rail service should write their MP or phone. This is a service that was joins Canada together, not one that ends at Quebec City.