FOR RELEASE: AUGUST 8, 2016
VIA Rail proposes commuter trains for Halifax, but still no improvements for Southwestern Ontario
ST. MARYS, ONTARIO – Despite the fact that its sole mandate is to provide intercity passenger service across Canada, VIA Rail is now making an unsolicited proposal to get into the commuter business in Halifax.
“No offense to the people of Halifax, but this proposal is disturbing to intercity passengers in Southwestern Ontario and across Canada,” says Chris West of the Save VIA citizens’ committee in St. Marys. “A little over a year ago, VIA promised to increase our well-used but infrequent service. Now, our Crown-owned railway is not only not delivering on that promise, it is expending valuable time and effort trying to convince a local government that it should be contracted to deliver a type of service that is not part of its mandate.”
The VIA proposal suggests the national passenger railway could implement a commuter service between its Halifax station and the suburban community of Windsor Junction, 25 kilometres north of downtown. The proposal calls for the use of three self-propelled rail diesel cars (RDCs) that were rebuilt at a cost of more than $6 million for use on VIA’s Vancouver Island VIA service, which has been suspended for five years due to deteriorated track conditions.
“We support the proposed commuter service, which the Halifax Regional Municipality has found to have considerable merit,” says West. “But delivering this type of service is not what VIA was created to do. It is an intercity carrier that, from our perspective, is struggling to provide a modern and adequate service to the millions of taxpayers coast to coast who support it. We have to ask where the federal government stands on this. The whole situation highlights the need for Ottawa to establish a clear rail passenger policy that sets the guidelines under which VIA management can act.”
The three RDCs proposed for use on the Halifax-Windsor Junction commuter train were tested earlier this year for the additional train frequencies VIA promised Southwestern Ontario in 2015. These cars have also been suggested for two new trains VIA also promised residents along the Halifax-Moncton and Moncton-Campbellton sections of the route of the Montreal-Halifax Ocean, which VIA cut from six times weekly to three in the fall of 2012. Like the Southwestern Ontario trains, VIA has not been able to deliver the new Atlantic services or provide a timetable for their introduction.
West asks, “Is this any way to run a publicly-funded intercity passenger railway? As far as we can see, this latest commuter proposal is an indication that passengers in Southwestern Ontario, Atlantic Canada and on Vancouver Island are being ignored while other projects eat up scarce VIA funds and managerial attention.”
What makes this latest VIA proposal confusing is the fact that the railway’s officers have hinted that they would like to cease operating certain London-Toronto and Kingston-Toronto intercity trains. The reason given is that these trains are, in the opinion of VIA management, commuter services that should be run by provincially-owned GO Transit.
“Our elected officials must take steps to clarify and resolve matters such as this commuter issue,” says West. “It is government’s role to provide the clear direction and the funding to improve VIA’s core business, which is operating intercity trains on routes that extend beyond the territory served by current or future commuter trains.”
Save VIA will be bringing this matter to the attention of MPs of all parties and respectfully asking for an explanation. The group will share those responses with the public when they are received.
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