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The Evolution of VIA Rail - a graphical history

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jiml

Conductor
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
2,591
Location
Somewhere in Southern Ontario
For those with an interest on how VIA Rail's route structure has evolved since its inception, here are a couple of well-done map videos explaining the timeline. They are fairly accurate and will show those who didn't have to endure the cuts how we got where we are. The creator also has a wide range of other historical transportation videos that are worth checking out.

Main network:


Eastern Canada:


Western Canada:

 

neroden

Conductor
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
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Location
Ithaca, NY
Good history. It seems clear that the 1990 cuts, under right-winger Brian Mulroney, were the most brutal, hostile anti-passenger cuts in Canada's history. They specifically ripped the heart out of the system; most of the previous, and most of the subsequent, cuts had been to weaker branch lines or related to damaged track or bridges (with some exceptions) -- while the Mulroney axe wrecked all service to any province other than Ontario and Quebec. And Ontario and Quebec were really only preserved by provincial takeover of a lot of the services. It really looks like an attempt to kill the system entirely.

In North America, only Mexico's destruction of its entire passenger train network under President Zedillo is worse. US cuts were bad, but never this bad.

It's particularly notable that these attacks were done during the time when passenger rail demand was starting a long, and sustained, upturn; rail demand rose continuously, and quickly, during the 1990s. I consider the Mulroney cuts to be sabotage.

Amtrak took advantage of the rising demand despite attacks from some sectors of government and the moronic "Mercer Consulting cuts" of 1996 which were reversed within a year. VIA couldn't, because Mulroney had sabotaged VIA.

Zedillo was President of Mexico in 1995; his sabotage of the Mexican system also stuck.

So there were concerted sabotage attempts against the passenger rail systems in Canada, the US, and Mexico all at around the same time. We were lucky to have Clinton as President when the sabotage attempt against Amtrak came; it got reversed as a result. Mexico and Canada were not so lucky.
 
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jiml

Conductor
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
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Location
Somewhere in Southern Ontario
More recent history tends to overwrite what happened before. While the Mulroney cuts were bad, the ones 10 years prior under the current PM's daddy were worse in actual quantity. Per Wikipedia:

In 1981, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's government endorsed Minister of Transport Jean-Luc Pépin's plan which slash Via's budget, leading to a 40 percent reduction in the company's operations.

So to paraphrase, the company was already 40% smaller when attacked by the Mulroney government as you described, making the proportional cut "less of the whole", if that makes sense. As a VIA supporter and historian, I find both equally distasteful and the lesson learned is that public funding for passenger rail does not advance nor decline solely on the political leanings of the government in power. There's a little wishful thinking in connecting leftist politics funding passenger rail and right-wing politics with its demise. Like most people familiar with Amtrak, I'm optimistic that "Amtrak Joe" will do what he can for its future. Do other Democrat politicians feel similarly? Don't be too sure. When funds are short for any government, passenger rail is an easy target.
 

Siegmund

Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 19, 2018
Messages
239
Location
northwestern Montana
I too rate the 1981 cuts as deeper than 1990, in terms of how much service was lost.

The difference was that there was enough of an outcry after the 1981 cuts that a good portion of the lost service had been restored by 1985 or so. Ironically, some of the restoration a campaign promise by first-term Mulroney . In 1990 there was no compromising afterward, just squeezing VIA's neck tighter and tighter. Does that mean that 1990 cut it below critical mass? Or that 1981 hurt it badly enough that there was already no critical mass of riders and lobbyists to resist the 1990 cuts or do anything about it afterward?
 
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