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VIA Rail Struggles On the North Main Line

When the federal government gave $923 million to VIA Rail for capital investment, part of the money given VIA stated was for the rebuilding 3 rail diesel cars (RDC) for new service on the North Main Line.(NML Sarnia-London-Stratford-Kitchener-Guelph-Toronto)

This decision was in line with VIA Rail’s stated Corporate Plan for improvements to the North Main Line.

It was also reinforced in the Environmental Study completed by GO Transit relating to their introduction of passenger trains on the NML to Kitchener. An appendix in the study stated VIA would be adding three trains each way on the line.

Unfortunately this is not going to happen. So what happened and why does no one care?

Enter Goderich Exeter Railway (GEXR), owned by Rail America, who lease the CN north mainline. Their relationship with VIA Rail is one of conflict. They are in disagreement about the price VIA Rail should pay to be on the line.

Two times GEXR had complaints with the Canadian Transportation Agency to fight VIA Rail. Both times the decision has gone against GEXR yet there have been no increase in service or rebuilt RDCs.

The bottom line is GEXR doesn’t want VIA on their sparsely used freight line. They do not want to maintain the line to passenger rail speeds. CN the owners of the line have previously stated their distain for passenger rail service on their freight lines.

The current situation is grim. GEXR frequently delays VIA trains on the mainly single track. VIA’s on-time performance is suffering.

VIA Rail fare prices are too high. This has played a significant part in the ridership problems along the line. Greyhound and the newproposed GO train service are $14.60 one way into Toronto from Kitchener. VIA Rail is $23.00.

Connections to Windsor are worse with only one connection a day.

Let us not forget the root cause of all these issues. It can never be stated enough that we have a federal government that has no plans for passenger rail service in this country. The government grossly under funds VIA Rail.

The end result of no policy on passenger rail in Canada gives freight railway companies like GEXR (Rail America) the opportunity to run roughshod over VIA and has lead to the tragic demise of VIA Rail passenger rail service along the North Main Line.

For the complete history of this issue go to this website -