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Editorial: VIA Rail proposal should lead to broader discussions

The overall report; entitled ‘The Canadian on the CN Prairie North Line: A Strategic Solution, was prepared by Prairie North Rail Passenger Train Inc.
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Yorkton Mayor Mitch Hippsley is part of an effort to alter Via Rail route. (File Photo)

YORKTON -  It was interesting to hear from Yorkton Mayor Mitch Hippsley regarding a plan which is in place that if accepted and implemented would see Via Rail passenger service in Yorkton.

Hippsley said the idea is a simple one. The proposal prepared for the consideration of the Government of Canada is to alter the current route of VIA Rail’s The Canadian from its current route on the CN Main Line to the CN Prairie North Line through Saskatchewan and Alberta.

The overall report; entitled ‘The Canadian on the CN Prairie North Line: A Strategic Solution, was prepared by Prairie North Rail Passenger Train Inc. out of North Battleford.

Anything that offers a travel option to people in the city, or visitors headed our way is of course a positive.

And as Hippsley noted something needs to be done before VIA is lost completely, which he added would be very unfortunate especially as STC and Greyhound bus service has been largely lost already.

Certainly the provincial government’s decision to axe STC remains a black mark in terms of connectivity within a province which remains very much a place of a myriad of communities, and it is also a decision creating hardships for many who do not have their own vehicles.

We might expect if Hippsley and other mayors were successful in getting VIA service shifted north it would alleviate some of the lingering STC hardships but it likely won’t be as impactful as we might hope.

The service in the proposal is ‘The Canadian’ a transcontinental passenger train operated by VIA Rail Canada with service between Toronto and Vancouver using CN trackage.

The Canadian typically operates twice per week. Train #1 departs Toronto on Wednesdays and Sundays and Train #2 departs Vancouver on Mondays and Fridays. The total journey takes about four days. An additional train operates once each week between Vancouver, BC, Edmonton, AB in the summer months.

For major trips that can work, to run to Saskatoon for medical services less so.

What the proposal does do is refocus some much needed attention on overall transportation issues.

One has to wonder how our system evolved to where branchlike tracks were pulled up, an evolution which went hand-in-hand with elevator closures.

Grain and other goods transferred from rail to truck – ever larger trucks – and our highways and grid roads have paid a significant price in potholes and needed resurfacing ever since.

While the ship (more precisely train) has left in terms of those branch lines we should be determining how rail might factor in to the future of goods delivery and passenger service.

Really that there is not a dedicated high speed rail connection for passengers between Calgary and Edmonton, or Regina and Saskatoon suggests we have not learned from European efforts in that regard.

Such lines are just one example of what we might do if we develop and plans are dedicated to it.