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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Passenger Rail Service Campaign to Thunder Bay Gains Momentum with House of Commons Motion, Petition and Facebook Group

Efforts to restore passenger train service to Thunder Bay 20 years after a previous Conservative federal government cancelled it seem to be gaining momentum again as Bruce Hyer, NDP MP for Thunder Bay-North Shore plans to introduce a motion in the House of Commons calling for its restoration.

Supporters of the revival of passenger rail service in the area can also sign a petition at http://revivesuperiorrail.com

But it is Alice (Granberg) Herculson, who started a facebook group in support of the restoration of rail service who has really focused on the issue. If you belong to facebook you can join it at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=92835672445

Alice sent me an email sharing the reasons she supports return of rail service. Here are her comments:

"In the mid 1970s before I had even started school, CN Rail sent my dad to work in Northern Ontario as a signal maintainer. We lived in some of the most remote towns of Northern Ontario including Folyet, Caramat, Hornepayne and Longlac. Although my dad didn’t stay with the railroad and eventually ended up working in the forest industry as an accountant, the train continued to be a big part of our lives because it was the train that got us from those remote Towns back to Toronto to see our families.

"I’ve travelled VIA from Longlac to Toronto and from Terrace Bay to Toronto and those were some of my most memorable family vacations. I loved the train and in fact had a nickname as a child "tracks" because I had spent so much time riding not only the passenger train, but living on trains while my dad worked in remote sidings - like at Dunrankin!

"I am not a consultant and I haven’t completed any formal study on this but in my opinion the Government would’ve better served the people of Northern Ontario by helping them market this tremendous mode of transportation to ensure increased usage rather than cut costs and eventually cut the service all together. Companies and government are always quick to cut costs but not so quick to do the harder stuff like market their product to increase revenue. There are two sides to the income statement and adjusting either side can increase profits. You can cut expenses or you can be better at marketing and increase your revenue!

"The VIA Rail through Northern Ontario was a nod to our heritage and definitely had the potential to be a link to a positive economic future. Northern Ontario is not a hard sell to those that have the opportunity to see it first hand. Northern Ontario has the same tourism potential that places like Muskoka and Vancouver Island have, but Ontario has to be progressive and seek opportunities to drive the tourism industry in Northern Ontario and one way to do that is to bring VIA Rail back and provide funding for market studies and tourism studies to ensure that the VIA gets used not only by locals looking to get from Terrace Bay to Thunder Bay but by people living just about anywhere.

"Not that long ago, I had made a suggestion while in Schreiber that maybe some sort of public-private partnership including some communities in the United States could be made to develop a passenger rail service that followed the entire Lake Superior perimeter including down on the United States side. I think some kind of train of that nature would attract a lot of business. The VIA that I remember served great food, offered first class service, was super comfortable and relaxing and could get you through the back country on a world class scenic journey. I think a little bit of marketing would encourage thousands and thousands of people to hop on board at Thunder Bay for example to circle the entire Lake Superior! Northern Ontario has something incredible to offer tourists from Ontario, Canada and the world, my belief is that it will take only a little effort and some very solid partnerships to make it happen! I think bringing back the VIA Rail to the North Shore is just a start!!"

Thanks Alice and I invite all readers to send me their comments at mj.morris@live.ca


Bruce Hyer plans to table his Motion to restore local passenger service, cut in the late 1980’s, at the first opportunity when the House of Commons resumes next week. Unlike Government Bills and Private Members’ Bills, Motions die when parliament is prorogued. The Motion to be re-introduced reads:

Mr. Hyer (Thunder Bay-Superior North) That, in the opinion of the House, the government should commit to re-establishing passenger rail service to Thunder Bay and the North Shore of Lake Superior, and should report back to the House within six months on its progress.

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Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
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