Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New Brunswick Man Takes Via Rail to Court over Cuts to Maritime Route

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New Brunswick Man Takes Via Rail to Court over Cuts to Maritime Route

Article excerpt

Businessman takes Via Rail to court over cuts


OTTAWA - A New Brunswick man is taking Via Rail to court for cutting in half the service on its main Maritime route, saying the company is violating federal policy to advance economic growth in rural and urban areas.

While Widler Jules pursues an injunction in Quebec Superior Court to restore the train schedule to his area, the Conservative government is defending Via's cuts.

Via Rail rolled out dozens of changes over the last few months, reducing frequency to cities across Ontario and the Maritimes in particular, and leaving more stations unstaffed. Last week, it announced increased service on the Quebec City-Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto route.

Several Tory MPs have told The Canadian Press they had concerns about reductions in their communities. Via and the government have also been lobbied by many mayors, transit advocates and the opposition.

"Communities feel they have been abandoned. Where are the Conservative members from these communities? Why aren't they speaking out?" NDP transport critic Olivia Chow said during question period in the House of Commons on Monday.

"Why are the Conservatives allowing Via Rail to walk away from its mandate to provide service nationwide?"

Minister of State for Transport Steven Fletcher offered no indication the government intends to push Via for changes.

"Via Rail is an arm's-length Crown corporation that develops schedules based on demand. The demand in those routes has gone down, and some of those routes are duplicated by the GO Train (operated in southern Ontario by the province), some are duplicated by bus service," Fletcher told the Commons.

"Via Rail provides a service, but so do other services in the same vein. So no matter what, Canadians will be able to get from Point A to Point B and we will ensure that taxpayers' money is respected."

But some Canadians like Widler Jules say they don't have access to other services.

Jules, a management consultant with clients and an ill parent in Montreal, lives in Atholville, N.B. The local bus company recently closed its doors, and a new one is not serving the area. Jules cannot drive to Montreal because he would leave his family without a car. …

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