Want some pain take the train Ru­ral Ram­blings

The McLeod River Post - - Points of View - Post Staff

We’ve seen the ads on TV. A Via train car­ry­ing happy pas­sen­gers takes them through the majesty of the Rocky Moun­tains, ev­ery­thing is hunky dory. Sadly not, and it’s un­likely to get bet­ter any­time soon.

Prob­a­bly be­cause of Canada 150 last year statis­tics show that tourism broke the record in Canada in 2017 with 20.8 mil­lion trips of more than one night. Tourist spend­ing per quar­ter in Canada ac­counts for around $21 bil­lion.

Tourists that take a Via train trip will be a small mi­nor­ity in terms of vis­i­tors to Canada. How­ever, de­lays, in­clud­ing a re­cent 45 hour and count­ing one, could cost the in­dus­try dear. Pas­sen­gers book­ing a Via Rail trip will note on the com­pany’s web­site that trains may be de­layed. This is be­cause freight trains take pri­or­ity and pas­sen­ger trains may be kept wait­ing for hours in sid­ings.

Via Rail has apol­o­gised to pas­sen­gers for the de­lay but, at the time of writ­ing, says it won’t com­pen­sate them be­cause the de­lays are “be­yond our con­trol.” Yes, the de­lays are be­yond the com­pany’s con­trol, but this is a PR dis­as­ter that could have far reach­ing and long last­ing after af­fects.

The trip for those pas­sen­gers has been ru­ined al­ready. They have places to go and dead­lines to meet. Via should, at the very least, have bent over back­wards to en­sure those pas­sen­gers got where they needed to go. By bus by plane, any which way or how and the com­pany should have just sucked up the cost. Many of those pas­sen­gers are used to some train de­lays. How­ever, they’re also used to 100 MPH pas­sen­ger trains and ex­ten­sive and ef­fi­cient net­works. The pas­sen­gers are go­ing home dis­grun­tled at the very least and are not likely to re­turn. Worse, they’re go­ing to spread the word and put off other tourists from vis­it­ing Canada. I can’t see how Via Rail is go­ing to get over this one un­less it can cut a deal with the own­ers of the tracks.

One of the first ob­jec­tives of a govern­ment, even 100 years ago was get­ting the trains to run on time. It’s go­ing to be a brave and de­ter­mined govern­ment that takes on Canada’s rail is­sues and re­solves to solve them. It’s go­ing to take bil­lions even tril­lions of dol­lars to do it and a com­plete re­think of how the rail sys­tem is op­er­ated and yes, I think, owned. I would be in­ter­ested to see what re­turn could be achieved on that in­vest­ment as ex­ports and im­ports are moved way more quickly and thou­sands maybe tens of thou­sands of jobs are cre­ated. Maybe there are some num­bers be­ing crunched right now. I live in hope.

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