The following letter to Federal Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau was submitted to SaultOnline.com for publication.
Subject: Cancelled support for remote the train from Sault-Ste-Marie to Hearst
I am writing you to protest your decision to cut off promised operating assistance to the remote rail passenger service from Sault Ste Marie to Hearst, as described in the article from the Sault Star copied below ‘Fed train aid goes off the rails’ by Brian Kelly. Your statement reproduced here is inaccurate and disingenuous : Transport Canada is pulling $5.3 million in support for passenger rail service north of Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst because “most” of the communities along the rail line have access to highways.
He said his department’s remote rail passenger program is only available when rail “is literally the only way to get in and out” of communities. “Most of them (communities between the Sault and Hearst) have other alternate ways of accessing highways,” Garneau said following a funding announcement at Sault Ste. Marie Airport on Wednesday.
Saying that most of the communities Between the Sault and Hearst have “other alternative ways of accessing highways” is inadequate to say the least. As one who has travelled the whole line in recent times, I can vouch for the fact that at most of the stops on the line there were no roads in sight, and reliable local information indicates in most cases other than Dubreuilvlle and Hawk Juction there is no road access for communities, resorts and wilderness access points over most of the line. The “alternative ways of accessing communities ” perforce includes use of amphibious aircraft, snowmobiles, ATVs on rough logging roads when they are open, and so on. This is just not the kind of access that will satisfy the needs of the people that need to travel in the area.
Looking at the region using Google Maps, as I am told your predecessor’s Transport Canada staff did when formulating the recommendation to cease funding the line is no substitute for doing on-the-ground research on local conditions. May I ask you to re-open this file, verify the facts on the ground and with the people living, recreating and working along the line andrestore funding for this vital remote access service.
Yours for truth in public administration
Harry Gow, MSW, Transport consultant (and founder of several rural transit systems) .