Transport Action BC

2012, June 27

The slow death of passenger rail in Canada continues

Transport Action BC calls VIA Rail Canada cuts ‘inexplicable’ and ‘wrong to the core’

‘Death by a thousand cuts’ continues while hundreds of millions invested in VIA’s renewal

VIA rail fading away slowly.

KAMLOOPS, JUNE 27, 2012 – Matthew Buchanan, president of the public transportation users and advocacy group, Transport Action BC, said that today’s announcement of yet more cuts to Canada’s nationwide rail passenger service is wrong and inexplicable given this federal government’s recent investment of $923 million in a renewal of VIA Rail Canada’s trains, stations and other assets.

“While the rest of the G20 nations invest heavily and wisely in expanding their rail passenger services, Canada’s longstanding policy of cutting VIA continues,” said Buchanan.

“These cuts are wrong to the core and the destructiveness of this latest round will soon become apparent, much to the detriment of the more than four million passengers who use VIA annually.”

In 2009, VIA began receiving $923 million for the largest capital renewal program in its 35-year history.  Transport Action BC applauded that wise decision, especially the leadership role played by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, who are strong supporters of public transportation, in general, and VIA, in particular.  Some of the investments in that capital renewal package are now being undermined by cuts to the very trains they were meant to benefit.

Respected sources, such as the U.S. Department of Commerce, have determined that every dollar invested in rail projects yields three to four dollars of economic spin-off, not to mention vast social and environmental benefits.  Furthermore, VIA’s public funding for its national network of passenger trains costs the average taxpayer only $1.60 per month – less than the cost of a large cup of coffee.

“We can only believe today’s shocking announcement is part of the usual Ottawa game,” said Buchanan.  “From the day it was born as a publicly-owned Crown corporation in 1977, VIA has been under attack by high-ranking civil servants at Transport Canada, Treasury Board and Finance.  They have engaged in a 35-year campaign that can only be described as ‘death by a thousand cuts.’  It appears these civil servants have once again misled the elected officials who have championed VIA and convinced them this is the right track to take.  Nothing could be further from the truth.”

The cuts – which are being portrayed by VIA as “the next phase of its modernization project” – will severely and negatively affect the following routes:

  • The Canadian (Toronto-Vancouver) cut from three trains weekly to two from the end of October until April each year;
  • The Ocean (Montreal-Halifax) reduced from six times weekly to three, cutting VIA service to Atlantic Canada in half;
  • Montreal-Ottawa;
  • Toronto-Stratford-London;
  • London-Sarnia;
  • London-Windsor; and
  • Toronto-Niagara Falls.

Deeper cuts will occur next year and in 2014, as VIA’s operating budget is reduced further.

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