Wednesday, May 04, 2016

VIA Rail praised, government panned by financial watchdog

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VIA Rail praised, government panned by financial watchdog VIA Rail Canada

Canada’s chief financial watchdog praised VIA Rail’s internal management April 3 but slammed successive national governments for failing to support the state-owned passenger railway with strategic planning and capital investment.

“We found that VIA had made efforts to define a long-term strategic direction. However, despite its efforts, the Corporation still had no long-term plan or direction approved by the federal government,” reported Auditor General Michael Ferguson.

“For a number of years, VIA has received from the government only short-term approval of its funding and five-year corporate plan, and often late in the Corporation’s fiscal year. In this context, VIA could not fulfill its mandate as economically, efficiently and effectively as desired. The significant deficiency could also compromise the Corporation’s medium- and long-term viability.”

In its response to the report, VIA highlighted its desire to build a dedicated, electrified passenger railway connecting Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, a plan now awaiting federal government for approval.

“A project to build dedicated tracks for the busiest segment of VIA’s network, that is, the Toronto–Ottawa–Montréal corridor, is being examined,” said Ferguson. “This four-year project could begin as early as 2016 and be completed in 2019. It showcases VIA Rail’s current assets and the future new fleet in order to attract investment from outside the Government of Canada, thereby minimizing the Canadian taxpayer’s burden.”

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