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Advocates concerned over Via Rail announcement

'Via management assures us that they fully intend to restore the service as soon as its safe to do so,' said Ted Bartlett with Transport Action Atlantic
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Via Rail train (Meghan Groff/HalifaxToday.ca)

Originally scheduled to restart November 1, Via Rail announced its long distance routes between Halifax and Montreal will now be shut down indefinitely going into the winter.

The decision comes as health officials work to stave off a second wave of COVID-19 but an advocate group says the move puts the future of train travel in Halifax in jeopardy.

In a release, Via Rail says the company would offer all of its services to Canadians as quickly as possible under optimal sanitary conditions, but gave no indication when that might be.

Ted Bartlett, with Transport Action Atlantic in Moncton, told NEWS 95.7's The Todd Veinotte Show that while he understands the move, it also puts passenger rail into a state of uncertainty. 

"It certainly is at risk. Via management assures us that they fully intend to restore the service as soon as its safe to do so," said Bartlett, adding that the service in Halifax may have additional challenges to COVID-19 once it resumes. 

He points out that prior to the pandemic, Via Rail suggested it would no longer be allowed to use a "rail loop" in Halifax to change direction after November, which would make it incapable of making a return trip back to Montreal.

In addition, Bartlett says the service is out of date and will need to attact customers looking for green transportation options, adding that requires a convenient, daily schedule and major upgrades.

"We're concerned but we think there's a case to be made for green infrastructure investment bacause there is money there to invest in green infrastructure, the government keeps saying that, so where's our share?" said Bartlett.

He added that as owners of Via Rail, the Canadian government has yet to make a significant green infrastruture investment in the service.




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