Transport Action has published a report, researched by Jon Shrubsole, identifying opportunities to improve the service offered by VIA Rail’s two routes in northern Quebec, the Montreal–Senneterre Abitibi and Montreal–Jonquière Saguenay trains.
When VIA took over service from CN and CP, these trains were a daily overnight service, and the region enjoyed additional services, include between Quebec City and Hervey Junction and connecting Senneterre to Cochrane in northern Ontario. Cuts over the years have reduced services to thrice weekly, and coordination with local and regional bus services is lacking.
As with all of VIA’s mandatory remote services, a large portion of the operating costs are fixed, so adjustments to provide a more practical service for local communities and attract more passengers would make better use of those expenses, and increasing the revenue from rail-based tourism would help to support both the service and the regional economy.
This report suggests affordable optimisations that would increase the ridership potential of these services, including providing Shawinigan and Joliette, cities with populations of almost 50,000 each, with a daily connection to Montreal.
Improved service to Shawinigan would also support VIA’s objective of collaborating with Parks Canada to provide public transportation for visitors to La Mauricie National Park, fulfilling a government promise to make experiencing Canada’s National Parks more accessible and affordable.
Photo: Train towards Montreal picking up passengers at Shawinigan station around sunset – © David McCormack