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(Reuters) - VIA Rail, Canada's government-owned passenger train company, said on Wednesday it will cut 200 jobs this year as it reduces frequencies on certain routes because of lower demand.
VIA said in a statement the cuts will reduce its unionized workforce by about 9 percent. The company, which operates just short of 500 trains weekly across Canada and transports more than 4 million passengers annually, employs about 3,000 people.
The company did not say which routes it is targeting but transport lobby group Transport Action Ontario said that the Montreal to Halifax, Nova Scotia, route will be cut back as will the Toronto to Vancouver run in the winter months.
There will also be a number of reductions in southwestern Ontario, where GO Transit commuter rail service and other commuter services are available, the group said.
"This next phase of VIA's modernization includes adjusting frequencies on specific routes to better reflect customer demand, while maintaining service on all current routes," VIA said in a statement.
The changes will take place from July to the end of October, VIA Chief Executive Marc Laliberté said.
The opposition New Democratic Party blamed the Conservative government for the cuts and said the reduction in passenger rail service will damage the economic stability of regional communities.
"The Conservatives are gutting a service that many Canadians rely on," said Olivia Chow, NDP critic for transport, infrastructure and communities.
"Canadians traveling for business, school or recreation rely on VIA Rail to provide efficient, affordable and accessible services," she said.
Following the 2008-09 recession, Via received hundreds of millions of dollars in economic stimulus funding from the federal government to revamp stations, locomotives and passenger cars.
Laliberte said Via will have finished the expansion of track capacity between Montréal and Toronto, where demand for more rail service is high, by year-end.
Reporting By Nicole Mordant in Vancouver; Editing by Peter Galloway