FOR RELEASE: JUNE 29, 2016
VIA Rail all talk and no action on promised train service expansion for Southwestern Ontario
ST. MARYS, ONTARIO – It’s time for the Trudeau government to deliver some answers as to why VIA Rail Canada’s year-old promise to expand Southwestern Ontario’s rail passenger service hasn’t been honoured.
“We knew the grand pronouncements made by VIA in Stratford and Sarnia a year ago were just hot air,” says Save VIA’s Chris West. “We had hoped the new federal government would see through this VIA public relations exercise and take action. We’ve been sadly disappointed by the government’s failure to even show any concern and we believe the time has come to hold Ottawa’s feet to the fire on this issue.”
At public events in Stratford on June 16, 2015, and Sarnia on June 17, 2015, VIA CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano unveiled a plan to vastly increase service frequency on its Toronto-St. Marys- London-Sarnia and Toronto-Woodstock-London-Windsor lines. However, no firm timeline was offered, with VIA saying the service expansion would occur perhaps in the Fall of 2015, more likely in early 2016, but definitely within one year. VIA’s CEO also admitted the Crown corporation hadn’t even discussed the plan with owners of the tracks over which these trains would operate. To date, absolutely no extra service has been added and VIA has issued no statements explaining where this project now stands.
Says West, “VIA has done nothing for Southwestern Ontarians. Instead, we’re being subjected to an endless stream of public relations rhetoric about how they’re going to miraculously build a dedicated, passenger-only line linking Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. This $4-billion plan is now the subject of a $3.3-million, three-year study by the feds. Obviously, Southwestern Ontario isn’t even on the agenda for VIA or the government.”
Also of extreme concern to the Save VIA citizens’ committee are the expensive proposals being made with much fanfare by the Government of Ontario. Like VIA’s plans, these are eating up more public funds and valuable time, but not doing anything to improve public transportation in Southwestern Ontario.
The provincial government is now studying an expensive and time-consuming proposal for high- speed rail on a Toronto-London-Windsor route that will duplicate much of the current VIA service, but will bypass St. Marys, Brantford and Woodstock. At the same time, provincially- funded GO Transit is going to add two more rush-hour-only trains on weekdays on the Toronto- Kitchener segment of the line through St. Marys and Stratford. Queen’s Park is also promising to further expand this GO Kitchener service by 2024 without even considering the need to link its efforts with VIA to deliver cost-effective improvements for citizens along the entire North Main Line to London.
“You have to wonder if the two levels of government ever talk to each other about these un- coordinated and competing projects,” says West. “They’re using public funds to duplicate efforts and delivering nothing that will help improve the public transportation situation in Southwestern Ontario at a time when it is desperately needed. This is a misallocation of tax dollars.”
As a result, Save VIA will be intensifying its citizens’ campaign to compel both levels of government to apply some common sense and fiscal responsibility to the situation. The details of this enhanced advocacy will be announced throughout the summer, leading to a major public event in St. Marys in September.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
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