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”

A muted celebration of National Railway Day

A railway track disappears to the horizon amidst a forest
On CN’s Newcastle Sub just north of Rogersville NB, a speed restriction slows VIA Rail’s Ocean to an agonizing 30 miles per hour over more than 60 miles of deteriorated track. It’s not something to celebrate on National Railway Day!

Transport Action Atlantic’s observance of National Railway Day is somewhat less than celebratory this year.  Our optimism that the Trudeau Government would act decisively to address some of Canada’s critical rail issues is beginning to fade, amid growing concern about the state of the network in the Maritimes and across Canada.

November 7 marks the anniversary of the last spike ceremony that marked completion of a continuous rail link from coast to coast in 1885. More than 130 years after that historic event, what’s often referred to as the National Dream remains an essential part of the Canadian economy.  But despite the vital importance of rail in moving goods and people from coast to coast, TAA insists there are some very serious issues that need to be addressed. So far they appear to be getting short shrift from a government that took office just over a year ago on a promise of “real change.”

The federal government appears to have a renewed focus on the subject of rail safety – and rightly so. But there’s also a critical infrastructure shortfall that is still not getting the attention it so badly needs. Last Thursday’s major policy speech in Montreal by Transport Minister Marc Garneau had very little to say about it. Continue reading “A muted celebration of National Railway Day”