Sackville Town Council voted unanimously last week to support the campaign to restore Via Rail’s Ocean passenger service that runs through Sackville on its route between Halifax and Montreal.
Councillors asked Mayor Higham to write a letter to the federal minister of transport supporting the group Save Our Trains in Northern New Brunswick, which is campaigning along with Transport Action Atlantic, for restoration of the six-day-a-week service that was cut to three days in 2012.
“I feel it’s a no-brainer, we really have to go after this,” Councillor Joyce O’Neil said when council first discussed the issue on February 5th.
“When you stop and think about it, if we lose the Via going through our town, our only other option is you’re either going to fly or bus or drive yourself,” O’Neil added. “This has been something that I’ve seen go all my lifetime and I’d hate to see us lose it now.”
“I think it’s a no-brainer too,” said Councillor Bruce Phinney. “We do need it. It’s a source of transportation for people who can’t afford a car or can’t afford other means.”
Report urges major investments
The background information package that councillors received before their meeting contained a copy of the report Riding The Ocean’s Next Wave by transportation consultant Greg Gormick.
The report, commissioned by the Save Our Trains group, was released last August.
It warns that Via’s Ocean train service will die without restoration of six-day-a-week service which it says would require an investment of about $266 million in new passenger train cars and track upgrades. It also recommends spending an additional $30-$40 million to restore Via’s Chaleur service on the Gaspé Peninsula.
“Direction and funding from Ottawa will enable VIA to begin the process of restoring the Ocean and the Chaleur as effective providers of local and long-distance public transportation, and as major contributors to regional tourism development,” the report concludes adding, “Failure to act soon will doom the Ocean quickly and ensure the Chaleur never returns.”
Sackville’s historic station
As part of the cuts in 2012, Via Rail closed Sackville’s train station built in 1907-08 of locally quarried sandstone. The station is a nationally designated historic site.
It’s not clear, however, whether Via Rail would reopen the station if passenger service were restored to six-days-a-week as town councillors hope.
None of the councillors at last Monday’s meeting specifically mentioned the station, although those who spoke made it clear they felt Sackville residents should continue to have passenger rail service.
Councillor Megan Mitton argued train service is important for environmental reasons as did Councillor Bill Evans.
“We have said that [environmental] sustainability is important to us,” Evans said. “Public transit is a huge component of supporting sustainability.”