Departure time of Stratford’s only Via Rail train to Toronto (Union Station) now occurs at 11:16 a.m., more than two hours later than its former departure time at 8:40 a.m. This train now gets to Toronto at 1:38 p.m. Departure time for the return train remains unchanged, leaving Union Station at 5:40 p.m. 

This leaves barely four hours between arrival and departure times — meaning Stratford residents can no longer enjoy day trips to Toronto by train for cultural events, visits to family and friends, or  medical appointments. 

Mayor Dan Mathieson and a growing number of residents are now calling on VIA Rail to explain the need for changes that leave Stratford residents with service that is far less convenient, that virtually guarantees fewer passengers on VIA Rail trains to Toronto, and poses such a serious threat to Stratford’s tourism industry.

Mayor Mathieson has asked to meet VIA Rail officials to express his concerns, hoping the company’s management will “… walk us through the decision and how we can either have it reversed or at least have it re-evaluated, as it reflects on the level of service our community has now been deprived of…,”

CFUW Stratford joins Stratford residents in lamenting this needless reduction in service. We  invite concerned citizens to join our club in writing letters to VIA Rail management, both Federal and Provincial governments, seeking immediate review of this decision and restoration of an essential service to our community.   

We are providing anyone interested in joining this campaign with a sample letter and a list of addresses of officials who might be contacted to make everyone aware of the difficulties this recent change to the train schedule has created. Please feel free to edit the letter below as you wish and use any of the addresses provided. 

                                                                                            ******

Dear  

The recent changes to the train schedules in and out of Stratford and neighbouring communities are a serious cause for concern. The new early morning GO train serves commuters, but this seems to have led to other changes that are not helping the rest of the North Line residents.

Neither are these revised services in line with stated goals at all levels of government to increase rail services.  It is important to make rail service sufficiently attractive to get us out of our cars and off the highways.  We know that we need to decrease the use of fossil fuels and to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 30-50% by 2030 and to net zero by 2050.  Public transportation is an excellent strategy.  

We are pleased to currently enjoy a pilot project morning, 5 days/week train, leaving from Sarnia and serving Stratford, departing here at 6:43 AM and arriving at 9:13 AM at Union Station.  This is wonderful!  VIA rail was unable to secure this slot in 2016, after initially withdrawing an early morning train in 2012. We hope that this capability for commuters will remain.   

However, the shift of the morning VIA train (# 84), from an 8:35 am departure to 11:16 departure and arrival in Toronto at 1:58 pm leaves a gap that raises a number of issues.  As there is no change in the return train 87, which leaves Union Station at 5:40 PM, only 4 hours in Toronto are allowed for the train rider.  

This new schedule does not service riders who would go in to Toronto either for work or for the day for shopping, cultural events, health appointments etc.  A further complication is connection to other trains travelling to Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. The connections used to be finely tuned, and efficient, with minimal wait time.  Now the layovers vary greatly, sometimes resulting in very late arrivals in destination cities, which is both inconvenient and potentially unsafe. The schedule change also limits links to the UP Express to Pearson Airport for outgoing flights.  

On behalf of myself and my fellow residents, I strongly urge VIA and Metrolinx to sit down and negotiate increased train accessibility for Stratford and the North Line, with efficient, timely, affordable and frequent rail service. We would welcome the return of the 8:35 am, and greatly encourage additional trains, both to and from Toronto to Stratford.   For example, the return of the late evening return from Toronto, and the early afternoon train from Toronto would be a boon as well as an evening return to Toronto from Stratford around 10 pm.  Such trains serviced this area until the early 2000’s.   Let’s build for the future and not slip backwards.  

Yours truly,

Places to write in support of additional rail service for Stratford:

VIA Rail Customer Support

service@viarail.ca

President VIA Rail   Cynthia_Garneau@viarail.ca

Our local Member of Parliament                          john.nater@parl.gc.ca 

Prime Minister Trudeau                                         justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca 

Federal Minister of Transport                              mintc@tc.gc.ca 

Metrolinx President and CEO, Phil Verster        CEO@metrolinx.com 

Our local MPP                                                       randy.pettapiececo@pc.ola.org

Minister of Transportation, Ontario                    caroline.mulroney@pc.ola.org 

Premier of Ontario                                                Premier@ontario.ca  

As a courtesy, if you wish, please cc Transport Action, who are assisting in the dialogue for increased public transportation in Canada.

Transport Action Canada                                    info@transportaction.ca

 

 

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