A tree stuck a VIA Rail train near Smithers, causing damage and delays. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

In Our Opinion: Putting the horse before the cart

Should the federal government give priority to Via Rail passengers over cargo travelling on CN Rail?

Most would agree, Prince Rupert wouldn’t be where it is today without globalization and the growth of international trade. But when did that trade become more important than the people who live here?

At the last city council meeting, Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa asked if they could ask the federal government to make passengers on trains a priority over cargo. It was like asking the government to stop putting the cart before the horse.

As of late, rail traffic is causing not only delays in getting grain to the terminal, it’s also delaying passenger travel. Notifications of delays, and even cancellations, seem to come through the newsroom on a weekly basis.

Meanwhile, Via Rail reported a 7.3 per cent increase in ridership for 2017. Whether that’s tourists exploring Canada for the 150 celebrations, or more people are using rail as an option to travel, the fact is, people still like to take the train.

READ MORE: Give Via Rail passengers priority, says Councillor Randhawa

Now, the timing is more critical than ever. At the end of the month, Greyhound is gone for northwestern B.C. travellers and options for getting off this beautiful island are thin. Gas prices don’t help either. Electric charging stations aren’t available in Prince Rupert yet, so driving solo, or with a partner, means a lot cha-ching for each kilometre you burn. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a nice consistent train option where you could save wear and tear on your vehicle, and read a great book while heading to your appointment in Prince George? The problem is, while there is already a train that leaves Prince Rupert three days a week, it’s just not a sure thing.

No one is blaming CN Rail for putting its business of moving cargo first. Now, its time for federal policy makers to do what they’ve been elected to do, look after their people. But if the City of Prince Rupert’s letter makes its way to Minister of Transport Marc Garneau’s office, does he put the horse before the cart? We are in peculiar times when we have to ask such a question.

READ MORE: Mayor Brain sees opportunity in Greyhound withdrawal


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