|VIA 15 detouring through McGivney in July 2005|
Follow the Atlantic
It's possible that VIA could choose the route of the former Atlantic, running from Halifax and Moncton to Saint John and then through Maine to Sherbrooke and on to Montreal. This is highly unlikely for several reasons, including the customs clearing issues, traveling over two different shortlines (NB Southern and whatever Fortress appoints to run the former MMA), and the fact that I don't think through traffic through Lac-Mégantic has even resumed yet. I believe we can safely dismiss this option.
Through the Wilds
The most obvious choice is to run through central New Brunswick over the CN Napadogan subdivision and into Quebec over the CN Pelletier subdivision, rejoining the current Ocean route at St. Andre Junction. This is CN's main line through the Maritimes and is well maintained... despite a couple of recent derailments.
Here's a map I drew showing that route. Click on the map for an interactive version.
|1977 Ocean Detour Schedule|
There are a few downsides to having the Ocean run over the Napadogan.
- Northern New Brunswick and northern Quebec would lose their passenger service. There is an alternative, Maritime Bus in NB and Orléans Express in Quebec, although I think you'd find most people would rather take the train.
- There are fewer available passengers over the Napadogan route, given that the Napadogan runs through virtual wilderness between Moncton and Edmundston. This would be a gain for Edmundston, Grand Falls and a few other communities, but fewer passengers = less revenue = more chance of outright cancellation.
- A capital investment would be required for VIA to provide station facilities, as nothing really exists since passenger service ceased in this area.
Give It Up
The most serious possibility is that VIA Rail will simply stop running the Ocean altogether. The chilling headline Via Rail's Maritime-Quebec passenger service in doubt says it all.
A spokesperson for VIA Rail, Mylène Bélanger, was quoted as saying: "At this time it's still a hypothetical question, but if this section is abandoned we'll look into the commercial viability of all other alternatives, for connecting between Halifax and Montreal, before adopting any other route." (emphasis mine)
As for purchasing the section of track between Bathurst and Miramichi, Bélanger said, "Via Rail does not have the financial resources to acquire or maintain this section of the tracks. So we'll wait for any developments."
But What About The Gaspé?
One more thing - don't forget that the train serving the Gaspé peninsula (the former Chaleur) ran as part of the Ocean between Montreal and Matapedia. If the Ocean was to run a different route, or be cancelled altogether, the economics of the Gaspé train would be even worse as it would have to bear the entire cost of the Montreal-Matapedia section.
You may recall that the Gaspé train has not been running for quite some time, due to track problems. These track problems have been solved between Matapedia and New Carlisle, yet VIA has not committed to returning to the route.
The future of passenger rail east of Montreal is more and more in doubt.
EDIT: Thanks to Tom Box for a few corrections.