SACKVILLE, N.B. – Sackville town council has lent its support to an advocacy group in Northern New Brunswick who is fighting to keep passenger rail service alive in Atlantic Canada.
Council agreed during its monthly meeting last Monday night to send a letter to federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau and local MP Dominic LeBlanc, showing its support for the efforts being led by the Save Our Trains in Northern New Brunswick group.
Jamie Burke, senior manager of corporate projects for the town, said the group released a report last August, which urges investments to Via Rail’s Ocean service, the Halifax-to-Montreal route that was downgraded from six days a week to three in 2012. At the time, a number of VIA rail stations across Atlantic Canada were also closed down as part of the cost-cutting measures, including Sackville’s.
Entitled ‘Riding the Ocean’s Next Wave: A Proposal for VIA Rail Canada’s Maritime Service’, Burke said the report provides a comprehensive proposal to restore service in Northern New Brunswick and improve service throughout the Atlantic region. The report includes a number of recommendations to increase the economic viability of the Ocean service, including the return of a daily schedule, as well as putting strategic investments into track upgrades, infrastructure and rolling stock.
He said the Save Our Trains group has since sent the report out to municipalities, in the hopes of gaining support for the cause.
“What the ‘ask’ is from the group is for councils to voice their concern and help convince the federal government to follow through with some of these investments . . . as a way to increase passenger rail service in our region before it’s lost,” said Burke.
Town council unanimously voted to support the motion to pen a letter to the Transport Minister, saying they would be disappointed if passenger rail service was no longer available in the region.
Councillor Megan Mitton said after reading the report, she believes the issue is an important one for Sackville.
“It affects our community. The railway goes right through the town,” said Mitton. “I think it’s important we try to maintain access to this type of public transportation for our citizens.”
Councillor Bill Evans agreed, saying the town has a sustainability plan in place that encourages the use of all types of public transportation.
“We have said that sustainability is important to us. Public transit is a huge component of supporting sustainability,” he said. “So in the interest of providing our citizens with transportation alternatives, I will vote in favour.”
Councillor Joyce O’Neil said the loss of passenger rail service would limit people’s options when it comes to public transportation. Over the past decade or so, O’Neil said she has watched as the service has continued to deteriorate and she hopes it doesn’t get the point where it completely dies.
“I’d hate to see us lose it now,” she said.