06/27/2012 07:47 EDT | Updated 08/27/2012 05:12 EDT

Via Rail cuts Montreal-to-Halifax service by half

Unionized Via Rail employees attending a meeting with company officials in Halifax say its Montreal-to-Halifax service will be cut from six runs per week to three runs per week.

Via Rail's Ocean service will run only on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays starting in the fall, said representatives of the Canadian Auto Workers union.

"They're saying it's not a cost-cutting measure that they're doing this, that the market is just not there for the train traffic," said Jennifer Brown, the president of Local 4005 of CAW.

Brown told CBC News the cuts will mean a loss of 45 jobs in the Maritimes — 30 in Halifax and 15 in Moncton. The layoffs are effective as of the end of October.

"The majority of them will be on board as right now, we operate with five crews that operate for the six-day cycle. That will be reduced, we don't know to how many crews as of yet," she said.

Nationally, Via Rail said it expects to cut 200 unionized jobs, or about nine per cent of its positions, as the government-owned passenger rail service reduces trips on some lines in the face of federal budget cuts.

The federal government's recent budget reduced subsidies to the passenger rail service by $6.5 million this year, $15.1 million in 2013-14 and $19.6 million in 2014-15.

Brown, who has been an employee of Via Rail for 13 years, said her own job is one of the ones on the chopping block.

"The meeting was very somber. The applause that you heard was when unionized members got up and spoke their mind about things that transpired and we asked the officials, 'How did they get here today? Did they travel by train?'" she said.

"Of course, no. They travelled by air."

Train passenger Leone Campbell told CBC News she thinks that Canada should be expanding train service, not reducing it.

"When you consider the service that's available in Europe," Cambell said, "A country like Canada really should be thriving on train systems."

Via Rail's headquarters are in Montreal, but the company rolled out announcements on Wednesday across the country, including in Vancouver, Toronto, Halifax and Winnipeg.