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Via Rail chief talks future of rail service in the region

By Makala Chapman, Brendan Burke, Meaghan Bury [1]

BELLEVILLE – Via Rail [2]‘s chief executive officer (CEO) made a stop in Belleville Tuesday morning and announced two new trains to and from the city starting November 1.

At a session at the Travelodge hotel hosted by Belleville’s Chamber of Commerce, Yves Desjardins-Siciliano [3] told members of the business community that an additional train from Belleville to Ottawa will leave the city daily at around 3 p.m., and one to Toronto will leave around 5 p.m.

“By adding these frequencies, we’re anticipating a greater ridership in and out of Belleville,” he said. “If you combine that with the early train leaving Toronto to Belleville, it would allow somebody to come to Belleville for a full-business day.”

As for why these new additional stops are being added, Desjardins-Siciliano said it’s all about showing his company’s support for the people they serve.

“Via Rail exists because of communities in between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto – communities like Belleville,” he said.

Desjardins-Siciliano spoke to over 100 attendees at the Travelodge, including Belleville Mayor Taso Christopher, fire chief Mark MacDonald, Prince Edward County Mayor Robert Quaiff and MPP Todd Smith.

Desjardins-Siciliano also outlined a passenger-rail project aimed at increasing ridership while alleviating track congestion. The proposal — still in the works — is to build a $4 billion dedicated passenger track system in the Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto corridor.

“We can be even more accessible and that’s what we’re planning to do,” said the Via Rail CEO.

 

The project is part of a continued effort to meet travellers’ needs while addressing issues within the company, he said.

“The trains are older, the time to destination is longer and the on-time performance is worse,” said Desjardins-Siciliano. “We’re now hovering around 74 per cent on time.”

He also added that five years ago Via was at an 85 per cent on-time rate while last year the passenger travel company hit an all-time low of 52 per cent.

An additional billion dollars would be spent on rolling stock, which includes items like new trains.

“I think people are recognizing that they have a growing need for an efficient, safe, public transport system and that train is the only alternative available,” he said.

Mayor Taso Christopher was at the conference and he said Via’s plans were nothing but good news for the Bay of Quinte region.

“If we get more frequencies, more deliveries for passengers from the east, west and even northeast, it’s a win-win for everybody,” said Christopher. “If the synergies all work well we’d like to see more trains and more frequent trains in the city of Belleville.”

Desjardin-Siciliano also said that over the next five years more than half of Via’s workforce would be leaving on retirement and that somewhere between 1,200 to 1,400 new positions would be available.

He also added that this would be a good opportunity for Canada’s veterans to seek employment after their time serving in the military.

“It only makes sense to us that we should try to encourage those who share Via’s sense of dedication to their communities, professionalism, and discipline,” he said. “There’s no better place to find that than in the armed forces.”

 

Desjardins-Siciliano’s next speaking stops include Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal.

 

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