CAPT Supports Transport Action Canada’s Letter

0

The Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains (CAPT) supports Transport Action Canada’s concerns outlined in the letter below about the Canada Transportation Act (CTA) review which recommends considering the elimination of subsidies for the Toronto to Vancouver passenger train known as The Canadian.

This train is one of the few remaining passenger train services in Northern Ontario. It travels through remote First Nations and communities in Northern Ontario and crosses the Algoma Central Railway at Oba.

The connection of The Canadian and the Algoma passenger train is one that those working to save and improve the Algoma passenger service plans to make more functional so that passengers from all over Canada can access the Algoma passenger train at Oba by transferring to and from The Canadian.

The recommendation in the CTA review was made without respecting the duty to consult First Nations as well as Northern Ontario communities that would be affected. We call on local media to cover this matter that would further reduce Northern Ontario’s already dysfunctional transportation system.
The report of the Canada Transportation Act review chaired by the Honourable David Emerson contains a number of recommendations, for Passenger Rail including:

that the Government of Canada increase the use of private sector approaches for federally-operated passenger rail services including by: a. considering the elimination of subsidies for the Toronto-Vancouver service; b. supporting the on-going feasibility of a dedicated corridor from MontrĂ©al to Toronto; c. continuing the federal subsidy for the regional and remote, and the MontrĂ©al- Halifax services, in partnership with, and with contributions from, the provinces and communities concerned; et c. …

Transport Action Canada has met with Ministry of Transport staff in Ottawa and discussed the Review, and will comment to the Ministry on a number of recommendations after analysing the report in depth. Meanwhile, a letter to the Minister following the meeting contained the following remarks:

“Although we haven’t yet had opportunity to examine the document in detail, it would appear at first glance that the CTA review contains some … valid reflections on the true cost of highway transportation which have traditionally not been clearly identified at all levels of government. …

“There is one clause in the report, however, which we immediately viewed as highly contentious and based on extremely dubious rationale. Recommendation 2(a) in Section 8.3 suggests that the Government of Canada consider the elimination of federal government support for the Toronto-Vancouver passenger rail service, currently provided by VIA’s flagship train The Canadian.

“At the same time, the report endorses continued subsidies for remote services, while appearing to ignore the reality that the major contributor to the Canadian’s operating deficit is that it runs through some 1500 kilometres of sparsely-populated northern Ontario, making it very much a mandated remote service to communities along the line – while at the same time fulfilling its flagship role as Canada’s sole surviving coast-to-coast passenger train.

“There have been allegations that the Canadian represents unfair taxpayer-supported competition for the privately-owned tour company Rocky Mountaineer. This is not correct. The two operations are vastly different. The Rocky Mountaineer train is an award-winning upscale tourism product, but it does not provide a basic transportation service for Canadians. Unlike the Canadian, it offers only package tours; it is not possible to purchase an economy-class seat between any two points on its route. It does not operate on a year-round basis, nor does it run east of the Rockies.

“While the VIA-operated train offers its own upscale product, it is one quite different from that of Rocky Mountaineer, and furthermore is priced to achieve full cost recovery. In fact, its revenues help support the basic transportation service that this train also provides in the course of its cross-Canada run. We believe it is vitally important that these realities be kept in mind, and that any efforts to reduce public expenditures for the Canadian be focused on maximizing revenues and ensuring that it operates in the most cost-effective manner – without compromising the unique experience and excellent service for which it has achieved an outstanding worldwide reputation. … “

Transport Action Canada wishes to alert the communities served by the Canadian between Winnipeg to Capreol to this potential threat to access and mobility in Northern Ontario. They include Minaki, Sioux Lookout, Armstrong, Nakina, Longlac, Hornepayne, Oba, Gogama, and Sudbury Junction. The train provides through travel south to Toronto and west to Winnipeg and Vancouver.