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Guest Post by James Cobban - Improving Efficiency at VIA Rail

Improving Efficiency at VIA Rail 

Guest Post by James Cobban - One of the features of the current implementation of passenger rail in Canada that significantly increases travel time and the operational costs of VIA Rail is the time which it takes at each station to disembark and board passengers because the platform is about a metre lower than the entrance to the passenger rail car.

This metre gap is also contrary to the goal of eliminating physical mobility barriers. At a few stations, most notably Union Station in Toronto, this barrier is only addressed by the use of passenger lift devices which require that the train be ready well before departure time so that disabled passengers can be pre-boarded.

These lift devices are only available at a few stations, and require that VIA rail have additional staff on hand to assist with boarding, which is demeaning to disabled passengers. It is a fact that outside of North America almost all passenger stations have entry-level platforms, even in 3rd world countries, and that entry-level platforms are integral to public transport in all systems that are under exclusive Provincial administration.

However I have asked every branch of government, plus VIA rail and Metrolinx (which owns the platforms at Union Station in Toronto) why this unnecessary and inefficient barrier to public rail transportation exists and I cannot get anyone to just answer the damned question!

I have calculated based upon the rider-ship figures from VIA rail that since the creation of VIA rail its passengers have climbed and descended the five steps from the traditional low platform to the passenger rail car entrance for a total distance of over 200,000 km, or over half-way to the MOON!

I have made that point to the former astronaut Marc Garneau. This situation appears to exist solely because while the design of railroad stations is subject to Provincial building codes and so must be accessible, and the interiors of passenger rail cars must be accessible in order to satisfy Federal regulations, the point where those two regimes meet is not the responsibility of ANYONE!


  1. On se croirait tout à fait au 19e siècle.. Looks a lot like it is happening in the nineteenth century


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