February 4, 2014

Open letter to all cabinet ministers

This letter is concerning the urgent situation in the Maritimes. CN has announced that it will start the abandonment process of their 44 miles of track between Bathurst and Miramichi in New Brunswick. This stretch of track hosts VIA Rail’s Ocean service between Montreal and Halifax. Despite what you have probably been told, this train service is well used. According to VIA’s own numbers, more than 7,500 passengers used this train at Christmas. One cannot say that ‘people are not utilizing the service’. CN has said that it needs just $10 million over 15 years to keep this vital passenger link to the Maritimes. Although VIA Rail may or may not act at arm’s length from the government, it is the federal government’s responsibility to provide the necessary infrastructure where needed, as it has done elsewhere in the past. The people of the Maritimes deserve to be treated like other Canadians.

The main benefit of long distance trains are their service to intermediate points. While the end points are cities that have adequate air service, long distance trains provide economical and convenient service between intermediate points and larger population centres. Rerouting the Ocean through CN’s other route to the Maritimes is not an option, as there is less people along that line.

Because of mismanagement of VIA Rail and successive government severe funding cuts, intercity passenger rail in Canada is being phased out. This is in sharp contrast to the rest of the world who are investing heavily in intercity passenger rail. All the other G8 countries, including the United States who are geographically and culturally similar to Canada, are aware of the benefits of passenger rail. In the not too distant future, there will be a progressive government in Ottawa who would like to invest in the mobility of Canadians, but it will be too late for the Maritimes. If you let this vital link be abandoned, it is gone for good. What a terrible legacy that would be for the present government.

Yours truly,

Barry Brake
Montreal, QC