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Mayor Kilger raises concerns over VIA Rail schedule changes

Media Release
City of Cornwall

Mayor Kilger raises concerns over VIA Rail schedule changes
On December 13th, Mayor Bob Kilger sent a letter to Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry MP Guy Lauzon outlining the City of Cornwall's concerns over the upcoming changes to the VIA Rail schedule in Cornwall in January 2012.
PHOTO CREDIT - OurHometown.ca

Cornwall - December 22, 2011 - On December 13th, Mayor Bob Kilger sent a letter to Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry MP Guy Lauzon outlining the City of Cornwall's concerns over the upcoming changes to the VIA Rail schedule in Cornwall in January 2012.

The letter stated the following:

December 13, 2011

SENT VIA E-MAIL, ORIGINAL BY CANADA POST

Mr. Guy Lauzon, MP
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Mr. Lauzon:

Further to our recent meeting with Ted Bytalan, Senior Director, and Malcolm Andrews, Senior Manager, Media and Community Relations with Via Rail Canada, I wish to offer the following requests for Cornwall:

1. The proposed schedule changes, effective January 24, 2012, clearly have the greatest negative impact on Cornwall. The elimination of trains 68 and 69, with stops in Cornwall, will reduce our VIA service to 4 stops in each direction per day, which is insufficient for a community of our size, and considerably less than some smaller communities in Eastern Ontario. Most importantly however, it seriously affects the business traveller, who would typically take a morning train to Toronto or Montreal, and return later in the day on trains 68 or 69. We have received numerous comments from these Cornwall business travellers who have heard rumours of this proposed change, and they are understandably very concerned. While the daily numbers for Cornwall utilizing these trains may seem small, they amount to approximately 10,000 trips per year, which is certainly not insignificant.

While we are concerned with the proposed eliminations, we are requesting that serious consideration be given to having the 5pm trains from Toronto and Montreal (Trains 66 and 67 respectively) stop in Cornwall. This would allow Cornwall and area business travellers to have a reasonable opportunity to have a business schedule in these major cities, which they have been accustomed to and dependent upon. The proposed arrangement would allow very limited business time, precisely less than 3 hours for a day trip. The proposed alternative would allow approximately 5 hours, which is a reasonable compromise.

2. Our Economic Development Department met with Mr. Karl Coffin of VIA Rail Canada in 2010 to discuss infrastructure and building improvements which were occurring and planned for locations in Eastern Ontario. While some communities such as Brockville and Belleville have received considerable investment by VIA over the past year or so, there have been no funds invested in the Cornwall location, and would not appear to be within the capital forecast. The existing structure is dated and, together with the proposed scheduling reductions, reflects very poorly for Cornwall. It is our request that Cornwall's station be given similar consideration for physical improvements.

3. The hours of operation of the Cornwall station have been reduced in order to be more cost effective. This may be acceptable to a rural location, but not to a City which has utilized and relied on the services of VIA rail for decades. It is respectfully requested that the business hours for the Cornwall station be reinstated to normal business hours.

4. Finally, it has become very apparent that the proposed changes have been provided to my office at the eleventh hour. In fact, VIA Rail Canada, a Crown Corporation funded in large part by the taxpayers of Canada, has not communicated this significant change to my office, let alone the public, until the matter is too late to sensibly discuss. It is expected that any future changes to scheduling or operations affecting Cornwall and area be communicated to my office, and to the public, in order that reasonable and helpful input may be provided. Let's not forget, VIA Rail has a social contract and accountability to the Canadian public; it is not a private company that can make unilateral decisions as they have in this situation.

Mr. Lauzon, the proposed scheduling changes will have a significant impact on the Cornwall business traveller. As you are aware, our community is advancing quite progressively and in contrast, this proposal by VIA is reducing our effectiveness as a business centre. Your immediate assistance and support in resolving the above requests is paramount.

Sincerely yours,

Bob Kilger
Mayor

c. Jim McDonell, MPP
Councillors
Paul Fitzpatrick
Mark Boileau


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