Opinion: The case for privatizing VIA Rail

May 11, 2016

Jesse Kline: The case for privatizing VIA Rail

By Jesse Kline | May 11, 2016, National Post

Industries of historic importance often hold a special place in the hearts of a nation. And most Canadians know that nothing — save, perhaps, the mighty beaver — was more important to Canada’s development than the railway. Sir John A. MacDonald’s transcontinental railroad secured British Columbia’s place in Confederation, kept American expansionism at bay, helped populate the once-desolate prairie provinces and provided the only viable communications and transportation link between the two sides of this vast country of ours.Website Insert Perfect Answer copy

And the Canadian Pacific Railway was indeed well used in those days: between the time when the first passenger train left Montreal for Port Moody, B.C., in 1886 and the turn of the century, CP was running daily passenger trains in both directions. Rail travel peaked during the Second World War with Canadians taking 60 million trips annually, but declined sharply after that, due to the increased availability of automobiles, highways and low-cost air travel.

Perhaps the final nail in passenger rail’s coffin was the opening of the Trans-Canada Highway in 1962, which allowed Canadians to travel from coast to coast in their private vehicles. The resulting decrease in ridership continued throughout the 1960s and ’70s. CP cut service on many of its lines and eventually got out of the passenger rail business altogether. In 1976, a government report predicted that rail travel would see even further declines in the future, leading the federal government to do what governments do best: take over the failing industry and provide it with huge subsidies at the taxpayers’ expense. Thus, Via Rail was born.

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