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National passenger rail under attack: It’s not over yet, folks

By shost at 3:48 pm on Monday, July 23, 2012

By now many have read and heard of VIA Rail cuts, to  Southwestern Ontario, Niagara, and Halifax/Vancouver services. Nothing has been spared and nothing is really safe, except VIA’s precious core services, the Montreal to Windsor corridor.

What’s behind the cuts? Harper Government cuts to VIA operational funding. This pays for employees (at head office and at stations, and train staff)  and the costs for running trains. This does NOT affect capital spending, such as new stations, track improvements, new or refurbished equipment, etc.

The cuts you have seen are just the beginning, $6.5 million in savings were ordered to be saved for 2012, $15 million next year, and a further $19 million in 2014. (Source: http://www.nupge.ca/content/5134/rail-service-across-country-axed ) You also won’t see cuts, in the short term, to what VIA runs as essential services – these are remote services trains, such as the Sudbury-White River train, which are often run in conjunction with local first nations. The political firestorm over cancelling these services would be devastating to the current Government. 

As a result, don’t be suprised if more cuts occur and if they are devastating to local passenger rail. Southwestern Ontario has the most to lose, and some communities, notably Sarnia, Wyoming and Strathroy are in danger of losing all passenger rail service despite the fact hundreds of people a day use their current trains. It won’t matter when VIA doesn’t have the money to run trains.

Don’t like what you are seeing/hearing? The time to take action is now: Write your MP/MPP, join local coaliations (Sarnia’s Mike Bradley is organizing one in conjunction with other concerned Mayors) and remember this come the next election. This is a political game and only politics will change the fate of passenger rail in this country.

While other countries are taking steps forward, our Country, and even our Province (Ontario Northland as an example) are taking steps backward. Hold on to your seats, this ride has plenty of bumps left.

- Steve

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