Via cuts heading off the rails, says transit group

A VIA Rail employee climbs aboard an F40 locomotive at the train station in December. (CBC)

A group that promotes public transportation is warning that looming rail cuts could make an already inconvenient schedule even worse in the Maritimes.

The federal budget won't be released until later this month, but the opposition parties are already expressing concern over cuts to Via Rail.

The NDP and Green Party said the budget estimates tabled by the government show a 62 per cent reduction from 2011 to 2012.

Ted Bartlett, vice-president of Transport Action Atlantic, said he’s seen a once vibrant passenger rail system in the Maritimes killed through cuts.

With the upcoming federal budget, he said he worries the skeletal service will worsen.

“It may not come to that. But still, it's an alarming trend and certainly if Via is forced to scrimp again, this train is going to be cut completely,” he said.

"We are badly, badly underserved."

Bartlett said in a time when most other countries are investing in rail travel expansion it’s shocking to see cuts in Canada.

In 2012 VIA Rail cut service from Montreal to Halifax from six days a week down to three.

Dawn Paris is stuck in Halifax after missing her train on Saturday.

“Now I can't leave until Tuesday, because there's no train tomorrow. So now I have to call work and let them know that I won't be back for Tuesday or Monday,” she said.

“I don't like to fly, I don't want to fly, I want to take the train. [I’ve] taken the train my whole life. Now it's like you can't leave on Monday, you can leave on Tuesday, but you can’t leave on Wednesday. I think that sucks,” she said.

Passenger Rocky Silliker said he travels between Halifax and Sackville to visit his daughter at Mount Allison University.

He said cuts have made it difficult for his family to visit.

“I'm concerned because it seems like this government is taking us to the point that they don’t want passenger rail service in Canada except between the Quebec-Windsor corridor,” he said.

“Whereas if you look at what's going on in the States and Europe everyone is expanding rail service and going to high speed rail service.”