September 1, 2016 — VIA’s latest report: Another smoke screen

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FOR RELEASE: SEPTEMBER 1, 2016

VIA’s latest report: Another smoke screen

ST. MARYS, ONTARIO – VIA Rail Canada’s second quarterly report of 2016, which was issued yesterday, is a disturbing attempt to convince Canadians that their publicly-owned passenger railway is on the upswing. The opposite is true.

“This is another report exemplifying what former Amtrak president and Cape Breton resident David Gunn has often pointed out,” says Chris West of the All Aboard St. Marys citizens’ committee. “To quote Mr. Gunn, ‘VIA has this incredible ability to issue press releases with bands playing and flags flying – as they retreat. I always marvel at it.’

“We, too, marvel at it. This latest smoke screen by VIA is a perfect example of that public relations technique identified by Mr. Gunn.”

The VIA release covering its latest quarterly results is available at:

http://www.viarail.ca/en/about-via-rail/media-room/latest-news/209805/31-august-2016- more-canadians-choosing-smarter-way-to-t

The VIA quarterly report is available in full at:

http://www.viarail.ca/sites/all/files/media/pdfs/About_VIA/our-company/quartely- reports/2016/VIA_Q2_EN.pdf

Says West, “The emphasis is on allegedly spectacular increases in ridership and revenues, which are a paltry 2.9% and 7.0%, respectively. This indicates ridership is not rising significantly, but VIA’s excessive fares are squeezing travellers for more money without improving or expanding service. This is an issue covered in an open letter to VIA’s CEO from Senator Bob Runciman.”

Senator Runciman’s letter to VIA’s CEO is available at:

http://www.bobrunciman.com/images/sitepicts/Runciman letter to Via Rail.pdf

The response from VIA’s public affairs department to the Brockville Recorder is available at:

http://www.recorder.ca/2016/08/24/improve-via-rail-service-to-brockville-senator

What All Aboard St. Marys finds most disturbing is the downplaying of certain facts and figures in the latest VIA report. VIA says it has access to additional rolling stock on a leased basis, implying this would be required to handle skyrocketing ridership. In fact, VIA’s equipment is deteriorating to the point that it may not have enough cars to continue running some of its trains and it will have to lease cars to paper over the problem.

Most discouragingly, VIA’s costs are rising and the drop is not covered by the small revenue increase. Compared to 2015, VIA’s operating costs have risen from $138.4 million to $146.1 million. Capital funding provided by the Trudeau government has fallen from $20.3 million to $17.3 million. The desperately-needed renewal of this exhausted railway has been cut back. This will only accelerate VIA’s deterioration.

“Also disturbing is the money being devoted to long-range studies,” says West. “VIA is spending $3 million for a study of new rolling stock for its Quebec-Windsor Corridor. However, there is no mention of a completion date. It is also unknown if and when VIA could put any new trains into service or their cost. Moreover, Transport Minister Marc Garneau is spending $3.3 million for his own three-year internal study of VIA’s dedicated-track concept for the Montreal-Ottawa- Toronto route.

“At the same time, VIA keeps lobbying publicly for a start to construction of this unproven and unapproved scheme by the end of 2016, two years before the study is completed by the railway’s federal overseers. This is backing Minister Garneau into a corner and, in well-run private firms or government agencies, it might be viewed as a managerial over-step. We have to ask who is really running this railway.”

All Aboard St. Marys will pursue this matter through a series of Freedom of Information requests to be filed officially with VIA and Minister Garneau’s department.

For more information, please contact:

Chris West,
All Aboard St. Marys chriswest@kwic.com www.savevia.ca
Tel: 519 284 3310
Fax: 519 284 3160
Toll Free : 1-866-862-5632 Ext. 238

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BOX 1197 449 QUEEN STREET WEST ST. MARYS, ONTARIO N4X 1B7 TELEPHONE (519) 284-3310 FACSIMILE (519) 284-3160

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