Tuesday, May 13, 2014

New Brunswick Rail Route Will Remain Intact

VIA 6400 in Miramichi
VIA 6400 in Miramichi, August 2007
VIA Rail will provide $10.2 million to preserve the 70 km of rail line between Nelson Junction and Nepisiguit Junction in New Brunswick. Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt made the announcement in Fredericton in Monday. Together with the province's $25 million investment, this means that rail access in northern New Brunswick will be preserved... at least for now.

A lot of people worked very hard to convince the federal government, er, VIA Rail to step up. Groups like Save Our Trains in Northern NB put a lot of pressure on local MPs, who in turn "stalked" the Transport Minister to convince her to convince VIA Rail to step in. Maybe not so coincidentally, VIA Rail's interim CEO, Steve Del Bosco, was turfed a week ago and replaced by Yves Desjardins-Siciliano.

Well done, everyone.

The new CEO stated that he wanted to see the ridership grow by 50%. Hey, I have an idea - restore the Ocean to six departures/week. Ridership was cut by about 50% when they went to 3/week. It should double back again...

The mayor of Miramichi, Gerry Cormier, says that New Brunswick now has to use it or lose it. I agree. Local leaders, VIA Rail, and Maritime Bus have to work together to really promote and integrate all forms of public transit in New Brunswick.

Get on the train!

PS VIA Rail's 2013 annual report (PDF) is now available. It shows an average of 1,468 passengers/week on the Ocean and a cost recovery of only 24%. I have to believe that if you restore the Ocean to 6 departures/week, the cost recovery will be better. Some costs are proportional to the number of trains but a lot will be fixed, such as station and station staff costs, advertising (although that's pretty low right now) and so forth. I'd love to see the cost recovery prior to the Ocean cutback.

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