VIA Rail is cutting the number of round trips between Halifax and Montreal by half.
The federal Crown Corporation announced Wednesday (June 27) it will cut the number of trips on its Ocean line from six to three per week.
The company cited declining demand as the reason, despite the fact that the line had 7,000 more passengers in 2011 than a year before.
“Several efforts have been made to at least maintain ridership on the Ocean,” Denis Pinsonneault, VIA’s chief operating officer, told reporters.
“However, the market has evolved … we still believe there’s a strong market for VIA Rail, but the reality is over the last 15 years there has been a decline in our ridership.”
Pinsonneault repeatedly said recent federal budget cuts to the corporation did not drive the decision, noting ridership has decreased by 50 per cent since 1997.
The head of the Canadian Auto Workers Union Local 4005 disputes the company’s line that the demand isn’t there.
“Year after year, our ridership has gone up 7.8 per cent,” Brown said in Halifax.
“I work on the trains. Since January, my trains have been sold out. Sold out, no room. You want to travel, travel the next day.”
The company expects the service cut will affect 45 employees, but Brown said that number could be much higher once all the details are known.
She also said the company has done very little to promote the service in the Maritimes.
VIA Rail lost more than $292 million before its federal operating grant in 2011 – more than half of its $574 million budget. That’s actually a slightly smaller operating deficit than 2010, when the corporation ran a $297 million deficit.