It's our train station

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Here’s a question: What is a reasonable length of time for a heritage building owned by a crown corporation to sit idle?

Kind of specific, I realize. I’m referring to the Amherst train station. Via cut service at the site Oct. 27. The train will stop in Amherst, but there are no employees inside the building to sell you a ticket or otherwise assist.

Five months have passed and there’s still no word about what will be done with the structure.

Attempts to get information from Via have been basically rebuffed: “We’ll tell you when there’s something to say,” is the gist of the response.

Maybe you think that’s fine. Maybe it IS fine. But I’m actually a little annoyed about it.

This isn’t really private property. Sure, it’s owned by Via, but Via is owned by us. This is our land and our building. The idea the muckity-mucks at Via can’t be bothered consulting the people of this town for almost half a year about the fate of one of our most interesting heritage buildings is unacceptable to me.

I get it, decisions take time. Fine. But with little active communication from Via, residents just have to take it on faith Via is actually taking steps to determine the station’s fate.

I don’t do well with “Just trust us,” especially when I hear it from our employees, aka civil servants.

We deserve regular reports:

“VP Jimmy McJim is meeting with the Heritage Minister next week to discuss X, Y and Z.”

Or: “The decision has been delayed because Buddy What’s-His-Face decided to take a vacation at an inopportune time.”

Or: “Turns out, the land under the station holds a gold deposit and we want to extract it.”

Whatever. The point is, “You’ll know when we see fit to tell you,” doesn’t fly with me. Who do these people answer to? They apparently think no one.

But it’s a crown corporation, and trains haven’t been top secret since about 1850. If I want to be cc-ed on every email about the station circulating through the ponderous hands of Via’s middle management, I should have that right. If I want to know the name of the person who makes the decision – or who’s responsible for the indecision – I should have that right.

Bottom line, I’m fed up with the arrogance of a civil service that forgets they are employed to provide a service to the public, and the public has the right to the information that allows them to make judgments about the quality of that service.

I don’t know if five months is too long for Via to develop a plan for the Amherst Station. But I absolutely know it’s too long for them to keep us in the dark about their progress.

So, Mr. Laliberte, what gives? You’re the CEO. Should Amherst expect anything from your corporation any time soon? 

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  • D. Scott
    April 22, 2013 - 15:16

    I'm in no way associated with via rail. I thought I'd provide the response that some among them would like to provide. Dear Eric, We understand your interest in a resolution to this matter and regret the fact we cannot provide a response that will not get one of us fired or permanently harm our career aspirations. We would love to sell the property to someone that can generate some income from it but, apparently, based on the absence of offers no one can. Our second option is to demolish the building and sell the empty lot to whoever believes that would represent an asset. We realize we cannot make this announcement because we will be villified by those who believe the property represents a historical or architecturally significant building. They will suggest our customers should pay to save this building. In the last few decades we have lost so many of our customers due to price increases necessitated by paying for stuff that our customers didn't want in the first place, we have become economically unviable. (This has been compounded by public servce unions that demand pays far in excess of the productivity of our employees.) We're not going to do this anymore. Right now our strategy is to let the building rot until it becomes so decrepit we are asked to demolish it. The alternative outcome is one level of government or another will be forced to buy it, by some small group of citizens that enjoy spending other people's money. If you believe there is any way to generate an income from this building please make us an offer. We eagerly await your response. Sincerely, Via Rail