FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: AUGUST 4, 2015
Pre-Election VIA Spending Promise = Zero for St. Marys
Save VIA calls political announcement ‘no way to run a railway’
ST. MARYS, ONTARIO – A July 31 pre-election promise by the outgoing federal government to spend $102 million on VIA Rail Canada’s Montreal-Ottawa line and nothing for the rest of its national network is a slap in the face to all those Canadians who have called for improved, affordable and sustainable rail passenger service.
That’s the view of Save VIA, the citizens’ committee in St. Marys, which has tried for three years to convince the outgoing government that it was on the wrong track with its program of budget cuts, service reductions and spot-spending announcements for VIA.
“The whole thing strikes us as political campaigning that has nothing to do with a comprehensive fix for a very sick passenger railway,” said Chris West of Save VIA. “Just a few weeks ago, we had a trainload of promises from VIA for post-election improvements in Southwestern Ontario, but not a cent has been allocated for them here. This is no way to run a railway.”
At two chamber of commerce luncheons and a private meeting with municipal officials and Save VIA members in St. Marys, a series of possible service improvements was announced by VIA in mid-June. All of them seemed sketchy, with no costs or firm delivery dates attached. The Montreal-Ottawa service announcement only raises concerns that VIA lacks a recovery plan and is being run strictly by political whims.
“This is what has repeatedly jeopardized VIA since it was created by political expediency in 1977 to allegedly save our passenger trains,” said Save VIA’s campaign coordinator, Greg Gormick, who is also a professional rail consultant and government policy adviser. “VIA just eliminated one Montreal-Ottawa train on June 1 and now the outgoing government is crowing about putting two new ones on the line in 2017 thanks to its $102-million spending promise. If the future of our passenger trains hangs on planning like this, then that future will be limited.”
At a day-long series of public events in St. Marys on July 30 – the day before the last-minute, pre- election promise was made – Save VIA released its own short-term revival plan for VIA’s North Main Line, which links the town with Toronto, London and all the communities in between. It demonstrated that innovative and low-cost improvements could be implemented within a year to boost VIA’s ridership, revenue, cost-recovery and service frequencies.
The North Main Line Reborn plan is available on the Save VIA website at www.savevia.ca
Says West, “With this latest political promise, it’s more apparent than ever that Save VIA is correct in calling this ‘the voting phase’ of our campaign. It is only by questioning the candidates and their parties about what they plan to do for VIA after the election that we feel citizens can get any meaningful action. If VIA lives or dies by the political process, then here is a chance for every concerned citizen to take a hand in its future.”
In the weeks leading up to the election on October 19, Save VIA will be escalating its activities to highlight the importance of citizens asking the right questions of the candidates in Perth- Wellington and elsewhere. More public events will occur in St. Marys and other Southwestern Ontario communities served by VIA.
Says Gormick, “VIA’s own recent reports demonstrate it can’t survive much longer on a diet of inadequate, politically-motivated spending that always seems to coincide with elections. Now is the time for all who need and will support an improved rail passenger system to ask the tough questions and make their ballot decision on the basis of the answers they receive.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Box 1197 449 Queen St. W
St. Marys, ON N4X 1B7 [email protected] www.savevia.ca
Tel: 519 284 3310 :Fax: 519 284 3160 Sans frais/toll free 1-866-8632 ext 238
BOX 1197 449 QUEEN STREET WEST ST. MARYS, ONTARIO N4X 1B7 TELEPHONE (519) 284-3310 FACSIMILE (519) 284-3160