Transport 2000 Canada Hot Line

30 January 2004

This is the Transport 2000 Canada Hotline, issue number 743, recorded on 30 January 2004, John Pearce reporting.

In this issue...

This week's hotline is a mixture of aviation and railway news.

First, in the air:

1 - Air fees controversy

The controversy about airport rents and charges continues. Barry Rempel, president and CEO of the Winnipeg Airport Authority and his counterpart, Larry Berg at Vancouver International Airport Authority both complained this week about escalating federal rental charges at Canada's 9 largest airports.

Meanwhile, Doug Young, who was federal minister of Transport from 1993 to 1996 when many of the airports were privatized, publicly regretted policies he promoted which have given NavCan and airport authorities unrestricted authority to raise fees to airlines and the travelling public. Young commented that airport accountability and management structure needs to be reviewed.

2 - USA recommends more open skies for Canada

The United States, through its ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci, has suggested liberalized aviation policies which would create serious domestic competition for Air Canada but allow Canadian carriers access to lucrative routes in the U.S. New Canadian Transport minister Tony Valeri has suggested he wants to consult with industry stakeholders in Canada before beginning serious negotiations with the U.S. His concerns were echoed by Tim Morgan, senior Vice-President with WestJet, who expressed some fears that powerful U.S. airlines with lots of capital and spare aircraft could flood the Canadian market with excess capacity, especially if "cabotage" were permitted.

3 - New Charlottetown-Halifax flights

Prince Edward Air has announced 3 round trips each weekday between Charlottetown and the Atlantic air hub in Halifax. The independent air service hopes to connect with major national air carriers in Halifax. Its marketing takes the unusual step of quoting fares which include all taxes except airport improvement fees.

4 - Halifax airport growth

The Halifax airport hub recently announced a 5% growth in passengers in 2003 versus 2002. The growth was fuelled by major discounts from 4 competing national airlines, and positioned YHZ as the leader in passenger growth among major Canadian airports.

5 - NavCan warns of higher charges to airlines

Nav Canada warned that higher air traffic fees to airlines may be in the wind after reporting a $2 million deficit in its last quarter. CEO John Crichton blamed the challenge to NavCan's finances on the slow recovery of global airline traffic growth.

Now for some railway news:

6 - Ontario pledges to keep Northland public

Ontario Liberal Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Rick Bartolucci, and MPP for Sudbury, told union leaders at a meeting in North Bay this week that the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission would stay in public hands. Since a divestiture announcement by the previous Conservative administration in December 2000, Ontario Northland has been operating with an interim part-time administration.

Union president Brian Stevens expressed hope for new leadership "committed to building a vibrant organization".

7 - VIA affected by deep freeze

The recent cold weather in eastern Canada has been hard on VIA service, especially its Renaissance passenger equipment. In addition to frozen doors and steps, frozen toilets are now a problem. Train 25 on the Québec City to Montréal mid-day trip January 25th is reported to have made special stops at stations so passengers could use washroom facilities. Train 27 that day was replaced by buses and train 26's passengers were carried from Montreal to Charny on train 16, the "Chaleur", enroute to Gaspé. The single Renaissance train set operating on the "Ocean" route between Montréal and Halifax seems to have fared better with most delays attributed to infrastructure such as signals and frozen switches.

8 - Southwest Ontario T2000 meetings successful so far

Paul Langan, Transport 2000 Ontario member from Cambridge, is conducting a series of 6 town hall meetings along VIA's so-called "North Line" linking Toronto to London and Sarnia through Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Stratford. Meetings were held last weekend in Sarnia, St. Mary's and Stratford and this past week in London, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Guelph. Support from the media and municipal leaders has been excellent.

The risk of cancellation of substantial federal funding to VIA for track upgrades on the line, and the imminent loss of the Amtrak/VIA Toronto-Chicago "International" train were major topics at the meetings. The funding would be used to upgrade track for faster and more frequent service.

The line carries many business commuters into Toronto from Kitchener and Guelph and many college students between the high concentration of universities on the line. It is judged by many to have great potential for growth but has, to date, been neglected by the Ministry of Transport and VIA Rail.

9 - Canadian Transportation Agency centennial

The Canadian Transportation Agency marks 100 years of service to Canadian transportation as a government regulatory agency. Initially the "Board of Railway Commissioners" regulated railways only. However in 1938 its powers were broadened to assume some authority over air and marine matters. Control of air in 1944 and marine matters in 1947 led to formation of the Canadian Transport Commission in 1967 with an expanded role in oversight of rail, air, and water modes.

10 - New T2000 report on crashes and injuries

This week Transport 2000 Ontario released a report entitled "Spine and Brain Injuries from Vehicle Crashes". Natalie Litwin of the Ontario group highlighted some of the human health costs of our road-based transport system, citing continued emphasis on private motor vehicles instead of much safer public transportation.

11 - Collenette to retire from politics

Finally, former federal transport minister David Collenette has just announced his decision to bow out of politics after 20 years. During his lengthy term as Minister of Transport, he has been a strong supporter of public transportation, especially passenger rail. Transport 2000 Canada commends his work over past years and will certainly feel his absence from the federal scene.

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