Advocates have questions on National Railway Day

Transport Action Atlantic is asking why it is taking so long for VIA Rail and the Government of Canada to deliver on an outstanding promise to improve frequency of passenger rail services in the Maritimes. Today is National Railway Day – the anniversary of the last spike ceremony that marked completion of Canada’s continuous rail link from coast to coast on November 7, 1885.

“It’s a very appropriate occasion to pose this question,” says Ted Bartlett, president of the regional public transportation advocacy group, “and not just because it’s a date that was so important in the development of Canada’s nationhood. It was three years ago this week that VIA’s CEO unveiled a plan to reintroduce regional service within Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, using the same type of rail diesel cars (RDCs) that had been discontinued in January 1990 as part of sweeping cuts mandated by the Mulroney Government. His timeline called for the routes between Moncton and Halifax and Moncton and Campbellton to be operational by late summer or early fall of 2016.

“That goal, unfortunately, was not met. Neither were several other target dates subsequently offered. We’re still waiting, and VIA management is no longer even suggesting possible start dates. Furthermore, we understand that there will be no additional frequency or capacity offered during the holiday travel season this year, something that had become standard practice in recent years to augment the very limited schedule normally offered in this region.” Continue reading “Advocates have questions on National Railway Day”

Advocacy award honours John Pearce

TAA Treasurer Don MacLeod presents the inaugural John Pearce Award to John Pearce (seated). Looking on, from left to right, are TAA board member Michael Perry, President Ted Bartlett, and Membership Secretary Christine Mills Garnet. (Photo – Tim Hayman)

How does an organization appropriately acknowledge more than four decades of dedicated service to its cause?  When president emeritus John Pearce advised his TAA colleagues last summer in a brief e-mail that his health no longer would permit him to maintain an active role, that question immediately arose.  The answer came from vice-president Ashley Morton: establish an annual award in John’s name to recognize outstanding public transportation advocacy.  And, let’s further honour John by naming him as the first recipient.

So it was that following the TAA fall board meeting on November 18, a delegation visited the Dartmouth seniors complex where John and his wife Karen now reside to personally present the annual award plaque and the recipient’s “keeper” trophy.  It was obvious during the brief ceremony that, although age and health issues have forced him to the sidelines, they have not diminished his commitment and enthusiasm for the cause.

John joined Transport 2000 Atlantic in the mid 1970s, served for many years as its president, and remained an active volunteer and board member as the organization rebranded itself as Transport Action Atlantic.  His primary focus was always passenger rail, and until less than a year ago he could be frequently found in the Halifax VIA station, promoting the cause and chatting with passers-by and railway employees.

The John Pearce Award will be given annually to a group or individual demonstrating outstanding effort in the field of public transportation advocacy.  A selection committee will be established to invite nominations and choose the winner each year.

The physical award. The names of each year’s recipients will be added to the main plaque, and each individual will also receive a smaller trophy to keep.