On the Death of VIA Rail

Here’s my latest column for the Kitchener Post. No surprise, it revisits an issue that I’m passionate about.

VIA Rail needs new equipment before it falls apart

OPINION Aug 09, 2017 10:52 by James Bow Kitchener Post

I realize that I have spoken about the federal government’s inadequate funding of VIA Rail recently, but I want to focus on a matter raised by Chris West of the All Aboard St. Mary’s citizens committee.

VIA Rail needs new equipment. The train cars they operate are decades old. VIA’s maintenance crews have done incredible work keeping these cars on the rails, but there is only so much that can be done.

Without a massive overhaul, enough equipment will become unusable by 2020 that VIA will have no choice but to cut service. At this point, it makes more sense to purchase new cars than to rebuild the old ones.

This doesn’t come cheap. Replacing VIA’s fleet with new equipment will cost more than $1 billion in up-front charges. However, by not spending this money, the federal government is making VIA Rail waste money year after year.

Old equipment costs a lot to maintain. This is eating up VIA Rail’s subsidy and preventing them from expanding service.

Even more cynically, rather than commit to funding VIA Rail’s needs one way or another, the government of Canada has committed to spending money on VIA Rail, by studying the issue.

(Read more…)

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