Fair Rail Freight Service Act (Bill C-52)

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, this legislation proposes small measures when what we really need are comprehensive steps toward a national transportation strategy, within which rail is key.

I want to raise one issue with my colleague that has troubled me for a long time as an advocate for passenger rail. The member pointed out quite rightly that VIA Rail does not own its own tracks. It must get permission and lease them from freight. The increasing problem is that freight trains are getting increasingly longer, which means they can no longer use the sidings that are available. That means that passenger rail always has to go to a siding, because of shorter trains, and wait there while freight goes by. That is undermining the efficiency of passenger rail through freight.

I wonder if my colleague would have any comments.

Matthew Kellway: Mr. Speaker, the future of transit in this country should be focused on making passenger transit more efficient. The environmental impact of that would be tremendous for Canadians. I would note too that the emission intensity of passenger rail over the last 20 years or so has improved by about 26% and there is lots of room for greater improvement for passenger rail.

It would be wonderful if there were a way to give passenger rail greater priority on the tracks, to work out some system, so that freight travel could also continue in a competitive and efficient way as well.