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Track conditions to make VIA Rail’s Halifax to Montreal journey even longer

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VIA Rail says the schedule for its route between Halifax and Montreal is about to become longer due to track conditions and speed limitations in New Brunswick.

Starting June 19, the westbound Halifax-Montreal train will have 90 minutes added to its scheduled route.

The eastbound Montreal-Halifax train will become 45 minutes longer.

The Ocean travels 1,346 km, three-times-a-week, between Halifax and Montreal. The added time to each scheduled trip will make the journey nearly 24 hours in total.

In a statement, Via Rail says the new schedule “better represents actual travel times” as a result of reduced speeds on CN Rail’s Newcastle Subdvision between Moncton and Campbellton.

The advocacy ground Transport Action Atlantic says The Ocean will now take six hours and 16 minutes to travel 300 kilometres between Moncton to Campbellton, at an average speed of about 50 km/h.

In 1994, trains were able to travel speeds of over 100 km/h on that same stretch of track.

“It will now take nearly five hours longer to travel from Halifax to Montreal than it did 30 years ago,” said Transport Action Atlantic member Ted Bartlett.

Via Rail says it is bound by CN’s decisions about track speeds and repairs.

CN says work is ongoing to increase speed allowances on the Newcastle Subdivision, which may allow for some improvements “in the coming weeks and months.”

In 2014, VIA Rail gave CN more than $18 million to repair a 70-kilometre section of rail between Miramichi and Bathurst. At that time, CN was considering abandoning that track, which would’ve ended The Ocean’s route.

CN says it spent $22 million in 2023 to maintain its tracks in New Brunswick.

Via Rail is a Crown corporation. CN was privatized in 1995.

“The buck has got to stop with the federal government,” says Bartlett. “We’re not talking high-speed rail here, we’re talking about the restoration of the reasonable running times that we had 30 years ago.

“We believe there’s an obligation there.”

The Ocean began operations in 1904. Passenger rail service between Halifax and Montreal was reduced from six-times-a-week to three-times-a-week in 2012.

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