Chamber supporting proposal for N.B. VIA Rail stop

By Angela Brown
December 4, 2017 - 4:39pm

North Battleford residents might have a VIA Rail stop here one day if a local businessman is successful in encouraging VIA Rail to pursue the project.

Battlefords Chamber of Commerce has given its endorsement to the proposal by lawyer and Chamber member Richard Gibbons, who brought the idea forward at the Chamber's last meeting.

The proposed route would travel north of Saskatoon, through Warman, North Battleford, Lloydminster, Vermilion, and Vegreville, to Edmonton, straddling the Yellowhead Highway along the way.

Chamber president Warren Williams said Gibbons was looking for the Chamber's backing for the proposal - not for monetary support but simply to indicate it favours the idea. 

Williams said the Chamber will be releasing a letter saying it supports the idea in principle.

"Anything that can bring people into our community is a good idea," Williams said, adding having more tourists come to the area would be good for the local economy, and bring tourists dollars to local restaurants, hotels and businesses. "More is better," he said.

The current VIA Rail route travels through Biggar and Unity, but not into the Battlefords. So the new route would provide an alternative.

Williams said he believes VIA Rail had a stop in North Battleford at one time many years ago but that is no longer the case.

Destination Battlefords has been working with Gibbons on the proposal. 

"It's another way for people to reach our community as a destination," said the company’s executive director Ryan Bater, North Battleford's mayor.

He said there are a number of steps that need to be taken before the team will be able to submit the proposal to VIA Rail, including making a business plan.

"We're initiating efforts with other communities down the proposed alternative line," Bater added. "VIA Rail has a lot of passengers on that line so to be one of the stops would be of great advantage to our community."

 "There are still a lot of details to figure out, and work to do. We can’t do this alone," he said. "We need to work with other communities along the proposed route. That's what the focus is now - putting the team together, and getting the necessary data and information."  

Bater said they don't want to approach VIA Rail until they are ready.

"As this point we're just seeing if there is enough interest out there to begin this process," he added.


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