Via Rail cancels plans to resume full Montreal-Halifax service

By Chris Stoodley

Via Rail has cancelled its plans to resume full service to its Montreal to Halifax line later this year.

Back in July, the independent Crown corporation announced it was going to resume full service to its Ocean line on Oct. 1. That would see three trains a week travel between Montreal and Halifax.

Now, the corporation expects at least a six-week delay until that change comes into effect. People should expect more than one train a week until Nov. 15.

“They’re blaming this on COVID,” Ted Bartlett, president of the public transportation advocacy group called Transport Action Atlantic, said. “The ironic thing about this is that number one, in the Toronto-Montreal, Toronto-Ottawa, Ottawa-Montreal and Montreal-Quebec City corridors, they are almost back to the full pre-COVID level of service with their passenger trains on those runs.”

However, the Maritime provinces have been reporting fewer per capita COVID-19 cases compared to Ontario and Quebec.

“They’re expecting us to believe that COVID is a bigger risk in the Maritimes than it is in Ontario and Quebec, which is certainly poppy-cock,” he told NEWS 95.7 fill-in host Todd Veinotte. “VIA (Rail) has done this without any respect for the travel needs of Atlantic Canadians.”

Bartlett said he was at the Moncton VIA Rail station a little more than a week ago when the weekly train passed.

“The crowd was unbelievable; it was just like you’d expect Christmas,” he said. “It’s not from lack of demand. We suspect there’s another agenda at play here just trying to save some money so they can spend it in the corridor.”

He said it’s disappointing from a government standpoint because none of the parties focused on passenger rail transportation as an issue.

“Atlantic Canadians have been traditionally and historically very supportive of passenger rail,” he said. “And we are absolutely convinced that with modernization addressing some of the issues, … it could be restored — to a considerable degree — to its former glory.”

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