Federal Budget investment in passenger rail supports Unifor’s rail service vision

May 7, 2024


The latest federal budget includes significant investments in VIA Rail, supporting Unifor’s Get Canada Back on Track campaign efforts to expand and sustain Canada’s national passenger rail services.

“This budget’s commitment to VIA Rail operations funding is a win for every member who has voiced the need for reliable and expansive rail services,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne. “It’s a clear result of Unifor’s relentless advocacy under our ‘Get Canada Back on Track’ campaign.”

The federal government’s Budget 2024 has earmarked dedicated funds for VIA Rail, promising the continuation of Canada’s current rail service and a nod to the persistent advocacy of Unifor members. A total of $462 million over the next five years is set to support operations, addressing some of the shortfalls highlighted in recent assessments.

In addition to operational funding, the budget earmarks $63 million over three years for the Remote Passenger Rail Program, which supports the continuation of services to Indigenous and remote communities.

“We are encouraged by the budget’s commitment to fund rail connections for remote and Indigenous communities, emphasizing rail travel’s role in bridging the gaps between diverse regions of our country,” said Unifor Atlantic Regional Director Jennifer Murray. “This investment is essential for enhancing inclusive access and guaranteeing that reliable rail services provide this vital connection to Canadians.

Despite these positive strides, the budget’s structural changes to the High Frequency Rail (HFR) project, transitioning it to an agent of the Crown under Infrastructure Canada, raises critical questions about future privatization.

“The government should reconsider its plans for the privatization of operations of passenger rail along the corridor,” added Payne. “Unifor remains committed to protecting our members’ interests, securing employment, and promoting expanded investment in public passenger rail for all Canadians as these new investments roll out.”

The budget also fails to include new funding for the purchase of long-distance train sets, but does suggest preliminary discussions are underway with potential suppliers to ensure VIA Rail continues operations as its aging fleet reaches end of life. This lack of specific funding highlights the ongoing need for advocacy to secure complete funding solutions that match the scale of Canada’s rail service ambitions.

For more information please visit backontrack.unifor.org