FOR RELEASE: OCTOBER 3, 2016
All Aboard St. Marys releases its first “Top 10 List of VIA Rail Nose-Stretchers”
ST. MARYS, ONTARIO – Due to the increasing volume of overblown and undelivered promises from VIA Rail Canada, the All Aboard St. Marys citizens’ committee is now keeping a running tally of the publicly-owned corporation’s dream schemes, missteps and excuses.
“There are so many of these Pinocchio tales that it’s becoming difficult to keep track of them,” says Greg Gormick, campaign coordinator for All Aboard St. Marys and a 30-year veteran of Canada’s railway industry, including stints with VIA, CN and CP. “What is truly amazing is the willingness of so many politicians, business leaders and citizens to drink VIA’s Kool-Aid without asking any questions about its true content.
“In truth, our intercity passenger service is rapidly deteriorating through mismanagement, underfunding and neglect. VIA is being allowed to taunt Canadians with claims and promises that its Conservative-appointed board and senior management team have yet to deliver. We can only hope that holding VIA to account will alert the Trudeau government to the fact that our national passenger railway is out of control and headed for serious trouble.”
Here then is All Aboard St. Marys’ first Top 10 List of VIA Rail Nose-Stretchers; others will follow.
#10: VIA had a record-breaking summer in 2016.
VIA has obviously lost its institutional memory. Prior to the Draconian cuts made by the Mulroney government in January 1990, VIA was carrying about 8 million passengers annually – twice as many as today. How could VIA have a record-breaking summer in 2016 when its ridership is half of what it was every year from the late 1970s through to the end of 1989
#9: VIA will greatly expand its service throughout Southwestern Ontario.
A: That’s what VIA’s CEO promised at public events in Stratford and Sarnia in June 2015. Now, VIA admits it didn’t clear its plan with the owners of the tracks: CN, GO Transit and the Goderich-Exeter Railway. It’s not our fault, VIA says. But you would think VIA might have at least discussed this plan with the track owners before unfurling it with great fanfare and falsely building up the public’s expectations. Not to worry, says VIA. It’s still working on this plan and hopes to launch some new services “during Canada’s Sesquicentennial Year.”
#8: VIA will add several shuttle trains from London to Windsor and Sarnia using self-propelled rail diesel cars (RDCs) and make London a hub for all the new services.
The 60-year-old RDCs aren’t up to the job, as testing earlier this year proved. While nothing further has been said about a multi-train London hub, VIA is spending $2.55 million to upgrade the London station’s washrooms, HVAC systems, signage and roof.
#7: To become permanent, any new trains in Southwestern Ontario must each carry a minimum of 120 passengers every day.
This is not a target based on marketing or costing studies. At the premature Stratford service improvement announcement in 2015, VIA’s CEO said it wasn’t a scientific figure, just one that he came up with off the top of his head.
#6: VIA wants to increase service to the Niagara Region.
That’s what VIA said when municipal politicians in St. Catharines, Grimsby and Pelham voted to ask for an expansion of the inadequate service they’ve endured since the Harper government cut VIA’s funding in 2012. But at its 2016 annual public meeting, the corporation admitted, “VIA Rail currently has no plans to reinstate the daily Niagara train.”
#5: VIA will launch new Campbellton-Moncton and Moncton-Halifax trains in September 2016.
Reminding VIA of its failure to deliver these new trains provokes yet another of its “the-dog-ate- my-homework” excuses. Once again, CN is said to be holding this up, even though the federal and provincial governments gave the freight railway $35.2 million in 2014 to retain and fix the deteriorating track on the Campbellton-Moncton line. No revised launch date has been set.
#4: VIA can operate a commuter service in Halifax.
VIA’s mandate is running intercity passenger trains, not commuter trains. In making its unsolicited offer to the Halifax Regional Municipality, VIA failed to note that it doesn’t have equipment suited for this service, it has no agreement to run such a service over the CN-owned line and it has no maintenance facilities, having closed and sold its Halifax Maintenance Centre more than a decade ago.
#3: VIA wants to re-route the Toronto-Vancouver Canadian between Sudbury and Winnipeg to restore service to Thunder Bay.
On several occasions since 2014, VIA’s CEO and public affairs staff have spun this yarn to politicians and the press, raising the hopes of citizens on the scenic CP route along Lake Superior’s North Shore. But at its 2016 annual public meeting, VIA admitted, “We are not considering a return to Thunder Bay at this time.”
#2: VIA can’t compel CN to operate our trains on time or force them to allow more passenger trains on their tracks.
Yes, VIA can – but it won’t. Under Section 152.1 of the Canada Transportation Act, VIA has the right to request that the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) step in to resolve any and all disputes with the freight railways. The corporation has, in fact, requested CTA dispute resolution in situations involving CP, the Hudson Bay Railway and the Goderich-Exeter Railway. In all three cases, the CTA ruled in VIA’s favour.
When asked why it has failed to call for CTA action to compel CN to adequately deliver the service for which it pays top dollar, VIA’s CEO told Trains magazine columnist Bob Johnston, “You can’t manage business relationships through court orders – they should be based on mutual respect, confidence and a true desire to be helpful.”
One result of that “helpful” approach is that VIA’s on-time performance has nose-dived from 84% in 2011 to 71% in 2015.
#1: VIA is an arm’s-length Crown corporation that makes its own decisions.
No, VIA is tightly controlled by federal politicians and bureaucrats through the funding it receives. It is the government, not VIA, that sets and approves the railway’s budget, which determines how much service it can or can’t provide, and which capital projects it undertakes.
Make no mistake about it: VIA takes its marching orders from Ottawa. Canada’s traditionally anti-rail civil service and a lack of interest by successive governments largely explain why VIA operates the most inadequate rail passenger service in the industrialized world.
For more information, please contact:
All Aboard St. Marys [email protected] allaboardstmarys.ca
Tel: 519 284 3310
Fax: 519 284 3160
Toll Free : 1-866-862-5632 Ext. 238
BOX 1197 449 QUEEN STREET WEST ST. MARYS, ONTARIO N4X 1B7 TELEPHONE (519) 284-3310 FACSIMILE (519) 284-3160