September 23, 2023
Chris Selley: Why Ottawa will not be a lot assist fixing journey issues

It is virtually inconceivable to make a bus extra enticing than a practice. However By way of Rail has managed it

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Canadian travellers are mad as hell, and let’s face it, they’ll most likely take it some extra, however within the meantime MPs are vowing to get some straight solutions from By way of, the developed world’s worst passenger-rail service, and Sunwing, Canada’s suspiciously low-cost vacation airline.

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Liberal MP Peter Schiefke, chair of the Commons transportation and infrastructure committee, guarantees to place representatives from each carriers on the stand to reply for the most recent spherical of chaos: By way of passengers on the Windsor-to-Quebec Metropolis hall have been stranded for so long as 24 hours within the midst of a yuletide blizzard, with insufficient entry to meals, water, sanitation and knowledge; and Sunwing despatched a whole bunch of passengers on vacation to Mexico and Cuba, apparently with no concept how one can deliver them dwelling once more.

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The Conservatives need Transport Minister Omar Alghabra on the stand as properly, and he says he’s recreation. Alghabra has already vowed to strengthen the Air Passenger Safety Laws with respect to the therapy, refunds and compensation owed jilted passengers.

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The latter is a semi-plausible improvement, and in idea comparatively easy. Final month, passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukács submitted a 29-page doc to the committee explaining how one can repair the laws. It’s usefully summarized as follows: Copy the European Union’s laws.

It’d simply be loopy sufficient to work. Nevertheless it was no accident Canadians wound up with crummy passenger protections within the first place. Lukácks and others warned all through their drafting and implementation that they have been significantly weaker than their American and European counterparts, and would possibly even make issues worse. The federal government carried out them anyway.

Twenty years after Jean Chrétien’s scandal-laden authorities banned company donations in federal politics, Ottawa far too typically behaves as if it’s in thrall to Canada’s largest corporations. Generally it looks as if the more severe the businesses’ customer support (see: telecommunications), the stronger the thrall. It’s simple to think about this authorities “compromising” but once more when it says it’s placing its foot down.

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Which brings us to By way of, which the Crown really owns. On that entrance, there may be significantly much less hope.

By way of clearly has some rudimentary work to do on disaster administration: meals, water, bathrooms, communications. Hours into the disaster, no person at By way of even appeared to have gotten away from bed. Screens in stations gave inaccurate data. It was a clown present.

Having carried out this rudimentary work, in idea, By way of would possibly then present edible meals and purposeful Wi-Fi. It may run its practice stations like practice stations, moderately than like airports for some purpose. (By way of really weighs your baggage and threatens to ship you dwelling if it’s chubby.)

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Alas, By way of trains would nonetheless then be lumbering alongside tracks owned by CN, subservient to each freight practice, and virtually at all times late because of this. It nonetheless wouldn’t be a service for individuals who have any pecuniary curiosity in really attending to Level B from Level A.

By way of wasn’t precisely knocking it out of the park earlier than the Christmas blizzard. The after-work trains from Toronto to Ottawa depart at 5:32 p.m. and 6:32 p.m.; they’re scheduled to take 4 hours and 40 minutes, which is roughly how lengthy it takes to drive. And within the week earlier than Christmas, their on-time efficiency was zero per cent. The longest delay was 56 minutes, the typical 26 minutes.

Fingers crossed, you received’t discover me on a kind of trains ever once more. Some uncommon excellent news on the journey entrance got here not too long ago from the Pacific Western Group of Corporations, whose premium Purple Arrow bus model simply arrange store between Toronto and Ottawa. I haven’t but had the pleasure, however Albertans reliably rave about this service: 2-1 seating with numerous legroom, Wi-Fi that works, streaming media, satellite tv for pc radio, free snacks and refreshments. At 5 hours and 10 minutes, the journey isn’t any slower than By way of is in actual life; and at $69 every method, it’s an absolute steal.

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It’s virtually inconceivable to make a bus extra enticing than a practice. However By way of has managed it.

The corporate’s solely actual hope of salvation is the $6-to-$12-billion “high-frequency rail” (HFR) plan that the Liberals in Ottawa appear more and more critical about pursuing. Its best promise is reliability: Trains would run (principally) on devoted tracks utilizing rights-of-way between Toronto and Ottawa through Peterborough, and between Montreal and Quebec Metropolis through Trois-Rivières. No extra ready on sidings for extra vital freight to cross.

Reliability is nice. Pace issues too, although. HFR is definitely not the car-killer, the airline-killer, the emissions-reduction powerhouse that its proponents declare. If it knocks 90 minutes off the typical journey between Ottawa and Toronto, as promised, that can flip some heads: Three hours and 10 minutes is certainly aggressive with flying. If it solely knocks the promised 50 minutes off the typical 5 hour and 10 minute journey between Montreal and Toronto, nonetheless, flying will nonetheless take advantage of sense for nearly all enterprise travellers.

Higher is at all times attainable in Canada, as Justin Trudeau likes to say. However the established order is at all times the most secure wager, and worse is at all times in with a shot. Canadians pining for a comparatively stress-free vacation can solely fairly conclude, as ever, that it’s a lot better to drive if in any respect attainable.


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