FOR RELEASE: AUGUST 15, 2016
Ottawa to rail passengers: Sunny words, studies and vanishing funding
ST. MARYS, ONTARIO – While the federal government says it believes in modern passenger trains and understands how they can help fight climate change, its actions tell a different story.
“Ottawa is actually reducing Canada’s investment in rail passenger service,” says Chris West of the Save VIA citizens’ committee in St. Marys. “A year ago, the previous government pledged $102 million for some major improvements to VIA’s Montreal-Ottawa service. Now, Ottawa has announced $34.2 million to fix the roofs two VIA maintenance centres and touch up a few stations, but the $102-million service upgrading project appears to have vanished.”
The money previously earmarked for VIA is nowhere to be found in any of the government’s budget documents and the 2015 media announcements have been removed from the VIA and Transport Canada websites. What has been added are a long-range study of new rolling stock for use on only a portion of the national system and three-year study of VIA’s proposal to build a dedicated, passenger-only line on portions of the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto route.
Says West, “We understand the need for studies before making major investments, but this so- called action plan by the feds is really an in-action plan. All VIA needs to do on the equipment front is duplicate the steps being taken now in the U.S. by Amtrak and its various state partners. They’ve placed orders for hundreds of new cars and locomotives that would be ideal for Canada. As for that dedicated-track route, it was rejected by a qualified VIA team 20 years ago.”
West also notes that VIA has reneged on the promise its CEO made a year ago in Southwestern Ontario to add more train frequencies. The Crown corporation has said off the record that CN won’t allow it to add the trains for various reasons that are allegedly related to limited track capacity. The truth is that VIA failed to discuss the matter with CN before making the highly- publicized announcements in Southwestern Ontario in June 2015.
Another VIA promise that hasn’t been honoured concerns the addition of daytime trains on the Campbellton-Moncton and Moncton-Halifax portions of the route of the Halifax-Montreal Ocean. VIA cut the train from six roundtrips weekly to three in the fall of 2012.
“We already know exactly what we can expect from VIA, which is very little,” says West. “But VIA is a publicly-owned and funded railway that operates under the direction of our elected federal politicians. We have supplied these MPs and cabinet ministers with numerous reports on what can be done for very little money to make some interim improvements to VIA’s service pending the arrival of those long-range studies. The response has been pleasant words and no action.”
As a result of this inertia by VIA and the federal government, Save VIA will be notching up its advocacy efforts to encourage more citizens to join with the group in demanding the passenger train improvements Southwestern Ontarians want and will support. Major announcements from Save VIA will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead, culminating in All Aboard St. Marys Day on September 16. Politicians of all stripes are cordially invited to attend and hear the views of voters on the future of our passenger trains.
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