VIAction 2030: The Hidden Cost of Privatizing Canada’s Rail

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|May 29, 2024

Last week, VIA Rail Canada presented its vision for the future of the national passenger rail network, entitled VIAction 2030.

While VIA’s strategic goal to “champion passenger rail” in Canada is admirable, VIAction 2030 offers lofty platitudes but no real plan. Troubling is the document’s silence on the Federal Government’s plans on privatizing the busy corridor operation in Ontario and Quebec as part of the High-Frequency Rail (HFR) project.

This project will see a private operator assume control of HFR services and local services, including scheduling, timetables, crew and staff management, dispatching, onboard products, customer service and marketing within the corridor. In return, a private operator is expected to be given a sweetheart deal with a guarantee of profit.

History shows us that in countries such as Germany, the UK, Spain, South Korea, and France, privatization schemes have led to higher fares, service reductions, job losses, and cuts to maintenance and safety.

These examples should serve as a stark warning to Canadians.

The Federal Government’s plan to privatize VIA Rail’s corridor operations risks similar outcomes, undermining the reliability, affordability, and safety of our national passenger rail service.

Given that VIA Rail’s important public service has never made a profit, even in the busy corridor and even before the nationalization of passenger services in 1978, we can expect that taxpayers and passengers will foot the additional cost of profit guarantees made to a private, multinational operator by the Federal Government.

VIA Rail must remain a public service that benefits passengers—not shareholders.

Unifor’scampaign believes it is time for the Federal Government to change track—to strengthen a public VIA Rail to provide even safer, more reliable, and more frequent transportation. This is the right course to support the creation of good, green, public, and long-term jobs.

Take Action and let your member of parliament know its time to Get Canada Back on Track!