Thousands of Canadians sign rail cut petition

From The London Free Press:

More than 2,000 signatures have been collected in an effort to reverse Via Rail service cuts in Sarnia.

Members of the Sarnia-Lambton Federal Liberal Association launched the “Save Our Train” campaign in October after service cutbacks resulting from dwindling ridership were announced this summer.

Via Rail now has only one train arriving in Sarnia daily at 10:18 p.m. and one that leaves daily at 6:11 a.m. Ticket agents at the Sarnia station were also laid off.

Via Rail changed routes and laid off staff across the country after the federal government cut $41 million in operating subsidies over three years.

Eileen Viola, president of the Sarnia-Lambton Federal Liberal Association, said members heard a variety of stories from riders when they canvassed for signatures at the station over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Seniors are relying more on the train as a source of transportation, and students use it to get back and forth from college and university, Viola heard.

“I was very surprised because we were led to believe by our MP that there were no complaints, nobody really cared.”

Sarnia-Lambton MP Patricia Davidson has told The QMI Agency she is working behind the scenes for improved rail service in her riding.

Local Liberals also heard a call for greater airline service out of the Sarnia Chris Hadfield Airport.

“People are feeling very isolated,” Viola said. “They feel like Sarnia has been isolated.”

The first batch of Sarnia-Lambton signatures were sent to Guelph MP Frank Valeriote Nov. 6. He hopes to table the petition in the House of Commons before Parliament rises Dec. 4.

“We’re not alone,” Viola said. “Ottawa has to pay attention at some point because the government does need a strategy for national rail transportation.”

Visit to sign the petition.