VIA proposes replacing Budd Cars – by Jim Moodie (Sudbury Star – June 23, 2015)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

A new plan for the Sudbury-White River VIA train puts the remote rail service in jeopardy, an industry analyst is warning.

Greg Gormick, a policy consultant, says VIA Rail president Yves Desjardins-Siciliano recently told a group of southwestern Ontario mayors that the self-powered Budd Cars that ply the Sudbury-White River line will be repurposed on routes in their area and replaced in the North by a locomotive-hauled passenger coach and freight car.

“I was shocked,” says Gormick, who sat in on the meeting. “I can’t conceive of this, knowing the costs behind it.” He says Desjardins-Siciliano described the plan twice last week, once to a private audience in St. Mary’s and then at a public meeting Sarnia.

“He’s promoting this fantasy shuttle service that would go back and forth between London and Sarnia and London and Windsor, using the Budd Cars,” Gormick says.

VIA rail is an arm’s-length Crown corporation, but Gormick says there is a political angle to the VIA president floating the idea at this time. “We’re talking about someone who works for the Conservatives and he’s out doing some pre-campaigning for them,” said Gormick. “This plan for southwestern Ontario conveniently wouldn’t kick in until after the election.”

The Budd Cars, built more than 50 years ago and rebuilt in more recent years, may not be the fanciest machines on Ontario tracks, but they “don’t owe anybody anything,” says Gormick, and at present make the most sense for the northern route accessing camps, fishing lodges and canoe routes.

A couple of cars hauled by an engine would not be nearly as efficient, Gormick argues, with fares almost certain to increase as a result.

With a subsidy of $4.77 per passenger-mile, the Sudbury-White River train is already “the most subsidized train in the VIA system,” Gormick notes.

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