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Via plans to spend $40M on new, upgraded stations


By Mike De Souza, Canwest News Service

October 27, 2009


OTTAWA — Canada's national passenger rail service is spending more than $40 million over the next two years for new railway stations around Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Windsor, Ont. as well as significant upgrades to existing stations in Vancouver, Saskatoon and other cities across the country, Canwest News Service has learned.


Some of the details were revealed in a Via Rail employee newsletter released this month that provided a breakdown of new investments announced as part of the Harper government's stimulus plan. They include more than 140 projects at 62 locations to repair, upgrade or build stations for the Crown corporation around Canada.


In some cases, multi-million dollar projects are already underway to rebuild platforms, repair roofs or upgrade heating systems in such locations as Vancouver, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Halifax. Other cities such as Montreal, Windsor, Oshawa, near Toronto, and Smiths Falls, near Ottawa, are slated to have a brand new station in their region.


The Crown corporation said the projects might produce some economic spinoffs, but that its goal is to improve service and the customer experience on its network.


"We're not designing stations which are purposely . . . too big so that we've got some extra space that we can rent out and get some rental income," Via Rail spokesman Malcolm Andrews said Tuesday. "We're building stations that are the right size for (what) the growth in ridership will be at a particular station."


Nearly three-quarters of the investments in stations are slated for Ontario and Quebec which makes up the bulk of Via Rail's nationwide ridership. The region has also received tens of millions in investments to improve the speed and frequency of its trains.


In Montreal, Andrews said that Via had set aside money for a new station to replace its existing suburban Dorval location as part of a larger regional project that is in the works to create a commuter rail service that links downtown with the Trudeau International Airport. Although Via is not directly involved in developing the airport link, local officials are studying two possible routes that would force Via Rail to move its station a bit farther away from its current location.


Andrews said the details could be announced and confirmed within the next year, depending on progress in studies on the light rail project.


"It would be much nicer and bigger," said Andrews about the new proposed Dorval station. "We'll be looking at integrating that with projects that we're looking at working on with CN in terms of having island platforms and better access to more than one track at a time, so that (multiple) trains can stop at either track."


A spokesperson for the Agence metropolitaine de transport, which is in charge of commuter trains in Montreal, said a decision must be made on the route of the proposed light rail link before consultations on the project can proceed.


Meantime, an announcement about construction for a new station in Smiths Falls, Ont. was "awfully close" to being confirmed, Andrews added.


"It will also give people a new station with more modern amenities, easy access and good parking," he said, noting that local elected officials have also been musing about how this type of project could open the door to regional commuter trains to connect towns such as Smiths Falls to Ottawa.


Andrews said that Via Rail was also planning to make an announcement about building a new station in Windsor, Ont. within the next year, possibly moving the hub to a new location. He said there was a pressing need for better facilities in the region and that the decision would be made after consulting with local officials.


"It's a station that's been there for easily half a century (and) it's not really large enough to accommodate the demand," Andrews said.


But he said Via Rail would still have to evaluate the needs of the community in detail before making a final decision on the new project.


"It's just good business sense," he said. "It's just to make sure that whatever we do is the right thing and it's not at odds with how these people see themselves being served by passenger rail."


The Crown corporation has set aside $500,000 for significant upgrades over the next two years at its Saskatoon station but no final decision has been made.


"There's major work that needs to be done in several area," said Andrews about the Saskatoon location.


In Vancouver, Via Rail is wrapping up about $1 million in repairs to replace the roof and lighting around train platforms.


The Crown corporation has also recently completed projects at its Winnipeg station to add a new heating system and is replacing roofs around the train platforms.




Station upgrades


Nova Scotia: Eight projects, $1.3 million


New Brunswick: Six projects, $800,000


Quebec: 38 projects, $6.2 million


Ontario: 66 projects, $24 million


Manitoba: eight projects, $2.5 million


Saskatchewan: One project, $500,000


Alberta: Three projects, $1.2 million


British Columbia: 10 projects, $2.9 million

© Copyright © Canwest News Service

Good news! Let's hope that they bulldoze and rebuild Saint-Lambert station!



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