Lambton County appeals to PM in opposition to VIA Rail cuts

In a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Lambton County Warden Steve Arnold has expressed the "surprise, shock and extreme disappointment" that the federal government would cut VIA Rail service to the area.

The cuts, which take effect Friday, will result in only one train a day leaving Sarnia.

Arnold told the PM, in the Thursday, June 28 letter, that the cuts are unacceptable, for several reasons, one being the lack of consultation.

"It is my understanding that there was also no consultation with the First Nations communities that are serviced along the Sarnia to London corridor," wrote Arnold.

He added that the reduced service "will further isolate communities such as ours which are located on the geographic periphery of the country."

The variety of people affected by the cuts cuts across all walks of life, said Arnold. "Students rely on the service to attend our community college.  Professional people rely on the service to connect to other communities such as London and the GTA. Local residents requiring medical treatment rely on rail transit for specialized treatment in London which acts as the local regional medical centre for specialized care."

Arnold also made the point that cuts may be a "self-fulfilling prophecy."

"Ridership is down so service needs to be reduced.  Yet the resulting service reduction leads to even further decreases in ridership because the service is so poor. At one point our community had 4 daily trains, but now within one generation, we are reduced again by cuts in service to only one daily train"

The cuts, added Arnold in his letter, are a step backwards from an environmental standpoint.

"They are in complete contrast to the greening of Ontario and the broader initiatives across Canada to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging people to drive."

Winter travel will also take a hit, wrote Arnold.

"Many in our community use the service during the winter period, to avoid the hazards of winter driving and road closures which are frequent in our region."

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