NEWS

VIA Rail's Ocean line not saving money with reduced service

05/15/2015 12:07 EDT | Updated 05/15/2016 05:59 EDT
The rail link between Montreal and Halifax, known as the Ocean, is celebrating it's 110th anniversary this year.

But there's little to cheer about in the latest financial information about the three-day-a-week service.

The Ocean continues to lose passengers and money.

In 2014, 74,175 people boarded the Ocean — that's 2,100 people less than the 76,337 passengers in 2013.

The line cost $35.6-million dollars to run last year — $42-million more than the year before. But the president of the public transit lobby group, Transport Action Atlantic, is not discouraged by the figures.

Ted Bartlett said the numbers point to the need to increase service rather than cut it.  

"It's quite apparent that VIA hasn't really saved any money by cutting back the frequency of service,"said Bartlett.  

"They've just made it a less valuable service to Atlantic Canadians."

He says when you cast back to 2011, the last full year the Ocean ran six-days-a-week rather than half that, the numbers tell the story.

During that year, the Ocean carried 134,000 passengers, 45 per cent more than today.

When you compare government funding per-passenger, the service costs $0.55 per passenger in 2011. That cost today is 41 per cent higher, $0.93 per passenger.

Bartlett said reinstating more frequent service would allow VIA to generate more revenue.

"The cost of operating this service on a daily basis is not significantly higher than operating it on a three-times a week basis," he said.

"That's been demonstrated by some studies that Amtrack has done in the states. You compensate for the extra costs by attracting more and more ridership."

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