CTV Northern Ontario: Concern over passenger train schedule
Northern Ontario tourism officials are concerned that Via Rail will renege on its promise to bring a passenger rail line back to its full schedule in the region.
Via Rail announced the return of its lines to full schedules in the fall, but according to Destination Northern Ontario, it was unable to get an answer on whether the “Budd Car” line, between Sudbury and White River, will be included in this return this summer.
“I know many operators along the line have booked a very busy year and we’re starting to hear people canceling trips because they can’t book their train tickets,” said David MacLachlan, managing director of Destination North Ontario.
MacLachlan said pre-pandemic planning called for about three weekly departures each way, but that boiled down to just one departure per week.
“We have everyone trying to get on a train a week and it makes for a really busy train. I’ve heard there are weekends where, it’s like, it’s the train the busiest in Canada,” he added.
Rail Travel Tours of Winnipeg has been booking rail tours for two decades.
Its owner, Daryl Adair, said he was having trouble finding available tickets.
“It’s very concerning. It’s very distressing, not only from a tourism perspective where we’ve planned two, three years ahead, we have customers who have been waiting for two years, who have stayed with us to take this train,” he added. said Adair. “They seem to make the restart easily between Toronto and Montreal and again poor northern Ontario is saying ‘hey we’re still here’. We need that train, essential service too.”
A Via Rail statement said: “VIA Rail ridership fell by more than 95% at the height of the pandemic, but as we are now seeing an increase in demand, we are adding frequencies across the country while continuing to use a balanced approach to fulfilling our important public service mandate while managing financial impacts.”
The company added that it is expected to make further announcements regarding the line soon.
MacLachlan and Adair said their attempts to contact the company were not returned.