Independent MP Bruce Hyer and Green Party Leader and MP Elizabeth May are calling for immediate government action to reverse the decline of passenger rail across Canada in the wake of Hyer’s Independent Members’ Report chronicling the decline of basic service in Canada. The report, A Wedding Band of Confederation: Restoring Rail Passenger Service to Ontario’s North Shore and Across Canada, commissioned by Hyer, also lays out solutions for getting passenger rail back on track.
“VIA Rail’s latest filings reveal that it is in big trouble,” said Hyer (Thunder Bay-Superior North). “VIA Rail announced service cuts a year ago and tooted about how ridership and revenues would be boosted, but VIA’s plan has gone off the rails. Its annual report shows operating expenses up and ridership down. There are fewer trains…and they are emptier and later. Clearly, VIA intends to abandon Canada, except for the Quebec City-Windsor corridor.”
The report noted the main problems for passenger rail in Canada include:
- Lack of a federal vision, national strategy, legislation, and funding (contrasted with Australia and the US)
- Resistance by CN and CP to prioritizing passenger rail on existing lines
- VIA Board of Directors reticence to a truly national passenger rail network
“I raised my concerns with the deteriorating state of VIA rail in January,” said May. “I am grateful that Bruce Hyer has commissioned this in-depth report. Canada’s passenger rail system is in crisis and those of us who care about it need to speak out.”
“One or two MPs alone cannot win the battle to restore passenger rail in Canada,” said Transport Action’s Greg Gormick, co-author of the report. “Hyer’s initiative must be accompanied by a public campaign to reinvigorate VIA rail and passenger train travel in Canada. This report provides a clear analysis of the failures of successive governments to support passenger rail, and lays out a clear plan to reinvigorate train transportation in this country. Equally important, it requires political will and renewed national commitment in the form of a federal strategy for passenger rail.”