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Modernizing rail would boost the economy

Passenger rail represents a vital part of Canada's economic infrastructure.


Expanding passenger rail is good for the economy. PHOTO: Thinkstock

Expanding passenger rail is good for the economy. PHOTO: Thinkstock

It’s time Canada developed a modern passenger rail service that helps the environment, reduces congestion and creates the jobs needed to build a more stable future for our children.

That means more frequent trains to better meet the needs of travellers, whether for business or pleasure, and the introduction of high-speed rail in our busiest travel corridors, such as Toronto to Montreal or Calgary to Edmonton.

Other countries such as Japan and Germany have invested in their rail systems and the result is a network of trains that efficiently and effectively move people to where they need to be, when they need to be there.

Canada has gone in the opposite direction, cutting funding for Via Rail, which leads to services cuts and declining ridership – making the next round of funding cuts almost inevitable. In June 2012, Via Rail management announced cutbacks in both employment and train frequency. Earlier that year, the federal government announced another round of cuts to Via Rail’s funding, continuing through 2014. It’s a policy direction with a near-perfect record of failure.

Unifor believes there is a better way to do things, and recently released a policy paper, Getting on Board or Running off the Rails? that makes the case for a modern rail system and outlines the many benefits that would come with building a modern passenger train system.

“With the introduction of faster and more efficient rail service, there would also be jobs researching and developing the next generation of trains.”

One of the biggest benefits would be jobs: on the trains for ticket agents and crews, plus employment tied to manufacturing the trains and rails, and jobs to put them in place. There would be jobs created for companies supplying and servicing the manufacturers, and at the transportation companies moving those supplies and finished products to market. With the introduction of faster and more efficient rail service, there would also be jobs researching and developing the next generation of trains.

More jobs would be created when the people employed in those manufacturing, transportation and research jobs go out and spend the money they earn.

Reduce congestion
Trains are a more environmentally responsible way to move people between cities than cars, so improving service would cut pollution levels and greenhouse gas emissions.

More trains would also reduce congestion. In Toronto its cost on the economy is pegged at some $6 billion a year in lost productivity, according to a study done for the Metrolinx transit agency.

No one is saying passenger rail is the one thing that’s going to turn the Canadian economy around, but it is one of the many creative solutions that would provide our youth with hope for a stable future.

Passenger rail is much more than a good way to visit Grandma for the holidays. It’s also a vital part of our economic infrastructure. It enables people to travel easily between cities to work together on the projects that drive our economy.

Railways helped build Canada. With a little imagination, they can help build the Canada of tomorrow.



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