Via Rail Automating Cornwall Ontario Station as of October 25, 2013 – City Becoming Isolated from Canada !

lornaTRAINCFN– Canada’s great Rail Tradition seems to be dying in Cornwall Ontario.  The River City, less than two hours from Ottawa, our Nation’s Capital seems to be written off by the rail carrier.

First cuts to actual service and now it’s been announced very very quietly that the two full time positions at our local station are being terminated as of October 25th due to advances in technology according to Mylene Belanger of ViaRail who I spoke with this afternoon.

Ms Belanger stated that there had been a drop off of 15% in users who purchased their tickets at the station.   She added that there will be automated services at the station and that people also purchase their tickets online.

But for a city of over 45,000 people with a large percentage of seniors this seems like a hollow statement.   Further as Ms Belanger and I experimented with the Via site the schedules for Cornwall make it impossible to really use for business services.

You cannot book a ticket for example from Cornwall to Ottawa.  The Via site states no service available and suggests that you call them.   The test we did for a day trip to Toronto shows only one train that stops at Cornwall that leaves Toronto at 3:15 in the afternoon meaning that a day trip would consist of leaving Cornwall at 8:15 in the AM and having less than a few hours to actually do anything in Toronto before having to catch a return train.

With little to no marketing or advertising in Cornwall it feels to this scribbler, and huge fan of rail travel that Via really doesn’t want to build a market in Cornwall even though Ms Belanger stated that Brockville Ontario will have staffed service even though it has half our population!

Can you blame Via totally?  Not really as the City of Cornwall has allowed inter-city transportation to crumble without a downtown bus hub and passengers having to take cabs to get to drop off points near the 401 Highway.

The Mayor & Council have been busy covering up scandals and trying to sneak through Waterfront Condo deals this term rather than focus on real day to day issues like public transportation to and from our city.

The city even fumbled an opportunity to ask the Province to turn over the former tourism location near the Bridge which has connections to city buses that would be ideal as a  hub for Intercity traffic.

The impact economically and for tourism for any city the size of Cornwall to not have proper Intercity connectivity surely is not minor.

Also seniors will be more reluctant to give up driving their vehicles if there are not reasonable options which can be a safety issue as well.

We will be updating this story.   What do you think Cornwall of losing more connectivity?  You can post your comments below.

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  1. Rail service is dying in Canada. Calgary has no inter-city passenger rail service, and hasn’t had in over 20 years and you’re complaining about automating a poorly-used station in Cornwall?

  2. We as people that live in this city have to take more of an interest in every thing to do with our City.We can pass the buck and play the blame game but it all comes down to us.If we are not happy with the current people in charge change it next election.

  3. What a shame, another Via station bites the dust. Although sold ticket sales are lower at the station is ridership out of the station up? The worker at these stations not only sells tickets but does baggage, boarding, wheelchairs, disability aid. So if there are less tickets sold, this doesn’t mean less work. As of the first quarter of 2013 the passenger numbers on Via GREW, not shrank, with the majority of which was in the Toronto-Montreal-Ottawa corridor.

  4. Hi Jim,

    The VIA Rail station staff did the duties you mention many years ago . . . now those duties may be transferred on train staff.

    VIA Rail is now running through-trains on the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto link . . . they’ve also been upgrading the railway tracks on the east and west side of Ottawa . . . VIA trains now travel at higher speed on the Smiths Falls – Ottawa section, also on the Alexandria – Ottawa section.

    The information booth on the upper level at Cornwall Square could serve as a ticket agent for VIA Rail, should various parties be interested in such negotiations. One bus company still operates a local bus service along County Rd 2 between Cornwall and Montreal . . possibility of negotiations to sell their tickets and have the bus make a brief stop at Cornwall Square on the outbound supper time trip to Montreal.

    The VIA station may operate like some stations on the Montreal West Island commuter train . . . that operate like transit bus stops, as does the Hwy 401 intercity bus service through Cornwall.

    VIA Rail is under pressure to reduce total operating costs . . . the crown corporation is heavily subsidized.

    VIA’s ridership figures suggest that during the week, trains that stop at Cornwall may serve only 10 to 12-people on the Toronto – Cornwall link and often fewer on the Montreal – Cornwall link.

    Many years ago, the old CN Rail passenger trains actually stopped at Morrisburg and at Prescott . . . both stations closed several years ago. I expect that within the next few years, that VIA may close the station at Coteau QUE . . . with a bus connection between Coteau and the commuter station at Vaudreuil . . . most of the riders at Coteau are commuters going to/from Montreal.

    Within the next few years, VIA may switch the Montreal – Ottawa trains to the CP tracks just west of the Dorion commuter station, to reduce the travel distance and travel time on the Montreal – Alexandria – Ottawa link. Its a plan that has been considered earlier, installing 2-sets of railway interchanges between CN Rail and CP Rail lines.

    With regard to Cornwall, there may be the option of offering a once midweek connection on the Cornwall -Brockville link . . . a 12-passenger van leaving Cornwall at 5:50 AM to connect to the 7:00AM train at Brockville for Toronto . . . then a late evening connection with the evening train from Toronto, at the Brockville station. Such a link could serve the interest of the business community.

  5. With regard to Cornwall – Toronto passenger service, Toronto Island Airport and Toronto Harbour Commission and Toronto Marina are one and the same authority . . . . and they do provide a float-plane ‘runway’. Several communities located to the north of Toronto (eg; Muskoka region) have float plane service to/from Toronto.

    There are float plane runways along the St Lawrence River and Ottawa River, on the Quebec side of the border. There may be scope for a Quebec owner to offer once or twice per week, same day return service between Cornwall’s waterfront and Toronto Marina . . . it may be possible for a float plane to board passengers at the Cornwall marina . . . also at Long Sault marina.

    The landing fees are much lower for a float plane to touch down on water than on a paved runway . . same situation when it comes to taking off . . . the maintenance and repair costs are lower on the different runway.

  6. With regard to the possibility of providing same-day return bus service on the Cornwall – Toronto link, the Ontario Highway Transportation Board will need to get involved . . their suggestion is that a local entrepreneur negotiate with COACH CANADA (MEGAbus). There may be scope to hold discussions with Megabus for an early morning bus from Cornwall (that also stops at Brockville) to interline with an early express bus on the Kingston – Toronto link.

    In light of recent developments in Cornwall, such discussions may have to exclude the chamber of commerce until a certain deplorable situation is resolved.

  7. All we need is to have a City Tout Bus to use the old tourist unit at 7th and Brookdale. It can take people around town to show off the ‘hot spots’ along the St. Lawrence. Show off former industry properties, our wonderful Cornwall Museum and Lamoureaux Park. From their of course there is the Cornwall Square for mega shopping as a wrap or at the end of the day. Inbetween we have the old museum down near Nav Canada, the Industrial Park from Montreal Road to the 401. Lunch at Grey’s Creek on their lawns by the docks or a break along the Marina 200, some slurpies at the Complex.

    Now the grand ‘finally would be the brand new

    ‘Cornwall Steak at the Rail House’

    over off Balmoral… How’s that for a few new ideas. Of course that will mean hauling the locomotive from 9th and Brookdale as a showpiece for the festive history look, sort of like parking a Taxi by the East Side Mario’s before it was actually sold to be used as a taxi…imagine that.

    After a sumptuous din-din of surf and turf at the ‘Rail House’ a good evening at Aultsville or the Galaxy for a live from T.O. at the theatre opera.

    My, my wouldn’t that just blow your socks off.

    Just let your self run wild.

  8. I remember the old tour bus that went around Cornwall . . . it was an old school bus painted red . . . Yeah, I can see the old passenger train station becoming a restaurant . . . except that CN Rail has their own uses for the building. There is functioning restaurant at the old bus terminal on Tollgate Road.

    Except that the intercity passenger connections between Cornwall and the major cities of Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa need some improvement. Delaney does run a good commuter bus service on the Cornwall – Ottawa link . . . competitor Greyhound carries 10% to 20% of Delaney’s ridership. Greyhound would probably attract more riders if their bus to Ottawa left Cornwall at a later hour . . with Cornwall Square as their terminal point . . . except that Greyhound won’t go that way.

    There are plans to develop new business parks in Ottawa . . . one next to the VIA Rail station on Tremblay Road and the other near the airport. People who commute by train between Alexandria and Ottawa would gain from a railway lands business park. Delaney’s bus does stop very close to the Ottawa station on the inbound and outbound trips.

  9. My God Cornwall is dying for sure. First no more Voyageur station in Cornwall and now Via. Wait until I tell my husband this – Cornwall literally died for sure. There is no more life left to ressussitate with.

  10. Now now Jules, out of every dog a day is made. The ticketing process will still service those as before simply with an electronic flavor that most of us have come to accept. One has to admit that we are adapting well to all those parking lot units at hospitals and clinics and other areas without personal attendants

    If the day ever does come or perhaps even before, perhaps alternate complimentary uses of the unique flare the ticket office offers it just may accommodate a steak house. Perhaps one with regular entertainment too with a large gazebo erected outside and a boardwalk around the building just for aesthetics. A bar or parlour in the style of a 1920’s and 30’s could add inviting themes as well.

    No brothels please but valour curtains would lend a part. Special lighting, swags would accessories the whole project or maybe just the old parts shed can be reborn using some antiquity from the railways collections.

    So you see Jules, there really can be a silk purse developed from a sows ear here or anywhere else. All it takes is some brainstorming, a little money and a lot of heart.

    We can do. it Jules and YOU can offer your own plus and more thought to it too.


  11. If I recall, a market that did not appear to have a marketability for just the same project was Bancroft with their old and unused train station ticket office.

    It was turned into a restaurant. It was quaint and at least for a time had a welcoming and rather large drawing for such a unique opportunity to experience a throw back era of time. Quaint was quit fitting to what they did.

    Not sure if today it is still running but that would depend on the initial ownership make up.

    If say a franchiser got onto the idea well, the sky is the limit isn’t it.

  12. Hi Jules,

    Don’t give up on Cornwall quite yet . . . . there is still much potential left, despite all the problems.

    Some one like myself may have to approach COACH CANADA (MegaBUS) about an early morning bus to Toronto, perhaps on a Monday and Wednesday. The only ask $15 one-way on their 9:00 PM departure from Toronto to Cornwall on Tuesday and Wednesday. The bus service will have to begin its trip from either Cornwall Square or from Pitt & 2nd where the Cornwall Transit buses meet.

    A float plane doing a same-day return once of twice per week may also be an option . . . . possible future downtown-to-downtown service between the Cornwall and Toronto marina’s.

  13. A beautiful ‘Spagetti House’ would be another alternate to a Steak House or maybe one at each end of the old Train Station Building……..or perhaps together they can offer 2 specialties in one unit.

    My good god, we could go on and on.

    You see Cornwall, we can and we will rise up out of the ashes and ashen and become the go to and the come home place we’ve always aspired to be.

    Put some pizzasss in it and bring on those entrepreneur’s.

    Say, didn’t I read that a certain Ron Chenier had a new book out about just that subject….’Entrepreneurship’. Go figure…and read too.

  14. A lot of the towns that got cut have something in common: We all elected Conservatives to Ottawa. Some thanks we’re getting.

  15. MegaBus has an 8:00 AM daily weekday departure from Kingston that arrives at Toronto at 11:00 AM . . with possible opportunity to discuss a future interline from Cornwall and Brockville (COACH CANADA has a school bus division in the Brockville area).

    MegaBus also operates frequent express double decker bus services on the Toronto – Montreal link . . . most of which are booked out in advance and pass by Cornwall. The bus builder, Van Hool, does build a longer bus (model 927) . . . shorter than a semi-trailer but exceeds Ontario and Quebec length requirements by 9-inches . . . it can be modified to meet Canadian axle weight requirements (install larger tires on axle #3 and carry equal weight on axles 2 and 3).

    Starting at 5:30 AM weekdays, MegaBus has express buses leaving Montreal every hour until 9:00 AM . . the every 90-minutes until mid-afternoon when the frequency increases. Like the express trains that pass by Cornwall, most of the express double decker buses ride right by Cornwall.

    Both Ontario and Quebec refuse to discuss extending the length of the buses to that of semi trailers, to allow an additional 3-seat rows . . . 16 to 20-additional seats on the bus, with a possible stop at Cornwall.

  16. Mr. Windsor your bar/parlor of the 20’s and 30’s sounds like a good idea – something different to the ordinary. A steak house is a wonderful idea and maybe combine a little of everything. EXCEPT NO BROTHEL.

    I am in shock after reading this earlier and still have a hard time accepting this loss.

  17. T.J. Terrance, blow it out your ear.

    We did however make the mistake of electing idiots to run our provincial coffers didn’t we for 9 too many years in a row..

    Some thanks we’re getting.

  18. SAME DAY return trip to Toronto:

    Take the morning train to Toronto . . .and the evening bus back to Cornwall . . . there is an eastbound bus leaving T.O. during the PM rush hour and another at 9:00PM

    Perhaps 5th Wheel would be a more convenient stopping point for the Hwy 401 buses, if 5th Wheel owner and bus company willing

  19. Author

    Harry I much prefer sitting on a train than a bus.

  20. What I can’t understand is that so many seniors take the train or the bus and go on trips and all these facilities are disappearing from Cornwall. If this continues then Cornwall will be like what Mr. Marshall described one time on CFN “only a whistle stop” but instead of a stop it will just go by or not at all. Canada and the US was built on the rail system and I guess since Domtar and others closed their doors then people are really isolated.

    I don’t like technology that much and was always a people person. When we call places like hospitals or businesses we get a computer answering the phone and if you get someone answering the phone over your phone bills, credit cards, cable bills, etc. it ends up in India or China and places like that where you cannot understand what others are talking about on the other end of the line.

    How I long for the good old days when you can talk to real people instead of a computer or someone who cannot speak English nor French but some very foreign language and they have a very hard time to speak and understand you and you get so frustrated that you end up hanging up on them.

    Via sure has gone down hill. CN was purchased by US investor Warren Buffet so our CN is no longer ours and I think that Warren Buffet sold it and was buying a US train company instead.

    The people of Cornwall have to throw all the bums out from the mayor all the way to the council and if you can get rid of those managers and those economic council or whatever you want to call those other bums who do nothing good for the town and toss them out on the rails. Oh the rails won’t exist but make them walk the highway and leave for good to God knows where.

  21. The government in the UK sold the intercity passenger trains to private companies, like Virgin Airways and Stagecoach . . . . Coach Canada and MegaBus (Hwy 401 double decker buses) are part of the Stagecoach group.

    Stagecoach could take over ownership of VIA Rail . . . especially if the Fed Gov’t repeals the VIA Rail Act. Under that act, VIA Rail is not allowed to carry mail or parcel express . . . . so Air Canada carries the mail between the big cities in the Montreal-Toronto-Ottawa triangle . . . and trucks carry the parcel express.

    MegaBus is pressed for space on their buses . . . a return bus trip between Montreal and Toronto on MegaBus is cheaper that a one-way trip from Cornwall to Toronto on VIA Rail. MegaBus sometimes tows a little U-Haul type trailer behind their buses . . . to carry passenger’s luggage.

    So Stagecoach may be ideally suited to operate some VIA Rail routes . . . especially if they get to carry the mail and parcels on major Ontario-Quebec routes. They’ll offer bargain basement travel prices on the buses and higher prices on the trains.

  22. The reason that Brockville Station is staying open is a matter of luck. The tracks from Ottawa end at the main CN line in Brockville, thus lots of train traffic between Montreal, Ottawa, Brockville and Toronto.

    Not sure I agree that Cornwall is dying, there seems to be quite a lot of development in the industrial park.



  24. My how things change. First the pony rider delivered the mail from one town to another. Then it went by stage coach.

    After that it would be loaded in Toronto where staff would be in lock down and required to sort it on the way to Montreal for sorting while on the rails from their, and visa vi from Montreal to Toronto.

    Afterwards the trains were not used at all. Air and truck to major centers such as Ottawa in our case where mail would be sorted by postal codes and ready for the next day.

    Least wise that is how I understand it.

    It use to be a major revenue maker for CP and CN. With so much communication being done online and easy vehicle movement from town/city to town/city many fewer passengers use the trains.

    Frustrating, yes, but unless the government covers their losses with our tax money I can’t see how they would rehire with benefits (health/pensions etc.), yell and scream all they want, it isn’t going to happen. It will be all smoke and mirrors to make it look good, but it won’t change a thing.

  25. Many decades ago, mixed (passenger and freight) trains operated across North America. It may be possible for mixed trains to operate certain Canadian routes . . . . provided that politicians and bureaucrats butted out. The railways just could not be bothered with unwarranted political interference . . . so they’d sooner not operate mixed trains.

    In the USA, Amtrack is allowed to carry parcel freight on some of their trains . . . trains that operate with single passenger carriage and several parcel carriages. Except not allowed in Canada.

    Greyhound at one time operated freight buses along certain routes. A vehicle that was a cross between a bus and a truck could provide passenger service between Cornwall and Ottawa, outside of the commuter bus hours . . . except political and bureaucratic obstacles galore. UPS, Fedex and Canada Post operate trucks between Ottawa and Cornwall. Postal services in Scotland and Switzerland operate postal buses . . . vehicles that carry a small compliment of passengers plus the mail.

  26. Much better article here than in the Freeloader. You don’t happen to have a pic of the Alexandria train station like Cheryl Brink do you Jamie/ LMAO!

  27. The Mayor and City Council are USELESS! They could have done so much for the citizens of Cornwall but have done NOTHING! Lets get rid of them before Cornwall gets cut off from Ontario and floats off down the river….

  28. @ Jules

    Cornwall is not dying, you must really stop with all the nonsense that it is going bankrupt and dying. Sometimes I think that is what you want and so that you could say “I told you so”. You really seem so pleased with having left Cornwall, so I’m not sure why you spend so much time on Cornwall’s problems, you should leave the baggage behind if you didn’t like it that much and move on.

    There are a lot of problems with the way Cornwall’s mayor and council are running it and I would love nothing more than to see the whole bunch replaced with new faces and fresh ideas.

    Cornwall is somewhat like Sleeping Beauty, just waiting for the right “prince” to come along and wake her up. But first we have to have the right people running in an election to be able to elect them.

    Get the right people in place that don’t have any ties whatsoever to the existing mayor and council, people that can’t be bought, and that are here for the good of the community not just themselves and I bet Cornwall would wake right up out of the slump it has been in and become all bright eyed and bushy tailed.

    You can move to any city you want in Canada and still find problems that you thought you left behind. There is a saying “the grass is always greener on the other side” my answer to that is “it still has to be mowed”.

    Have a great day!

  29. “Driving the Karma Bus” no it is not what I want to see Cornwall die but on the contrary. So many times I will say to my husband the negative and he says look at all the development going on. The thing is that most of the development is for rich seniors and the ordinary people have no jobs. Right here in Ottawa there is hardly any work and all done by Harper keeping the rich old no good senators who are robbing us all blind and letting go the people who need work. I really do hope that things turn around for the better. I have to keep my hopes up or something will die inside of me.

  30. @ Jules

    Great, then put down that big stick you use to constantly beat Cornwall like a piñata and try finding what is still good about Cornwall regardless of who is at the helm. If more people start seeing the positive side about this “little town under the bridge” then perhaps there might be some incentive for the right people to run in the next election.

    Be the change you want to see…..

  31. “Driving the Karma Bus” we all want to see big change and good change and change for the better and not this kind of “clique nonsense” that has been going on for more years than I can ever remember. Bare Ass is the very worst mayor of all.

    People need work and it is work and businesses that bring in money and a better economy in Cornwall and elsewhere. Yes there are good things about Cornwall. Come where I am and traffic nonstop day and night and you have to be pretty well dead to put up with all the noise of the traffic. At least in tiny Fossoli you do not have that same traffic and nice and peaceful.

    Cornwall has to change in order to attract business. Bare Ass is literally finished as a mayor – he is sick and elderly and cannot focus on the future nor for attracting businesses. His days are numbered and when you look at him it isn’t just a lack of sleep but he is very sick. If Bare Ass had any kind of dignity for the community and himself he would resign now.

    You cannot have a woman in charge of those business exhibits and others being plastered at their liquid lunches and blaming everyone else because there is no business. They all have themselves to blame.

    We need people with vision and that is everywhere. Without vision there is no future. We need hope and vision and there has to be people out there who have those qualities and more. We cannot keep seeing a council that looks like they are ready for the Glen Stor Dun. We need younger people to take over and make sure that things become a great deal better than what is there just now. You have to have things to attract others to Cornwall. Believe me things are very depressing just going down for a visit and seeing nobody downtown nor elsewhere. Cornwall is a very pretty town and I have heard compliments from many others about Cornwall even visitors from the US.

    I do have to laugh and joke and pull at your strings to get people to wake up and that is what I am doing so stop taking everything as an insult. Without the beautiful park to walk here in Ottawa it would be terrible like my husband told this former teacher again today while walking a little with him. Do something to help better Cornwall. The former teacher is from Timmons Ontario and I tease him a lot too. LOL LOL.

  32. VIA Rail is now considering random background checks on future patrons and employing security personnel to go through people’s luggage.

    While you may not be able to buy a train ticket at some future time at Cornwall, there may be a security officer at the station ready to inspect passengers’ luggage prior to them boarding a train.

  33. How many businesses does anyone know that would continue to pay an employee $30/hr, plus benefits, free uniforms, dry cleaning fees, etc… while said employee sits in an empty station for an 8 hour shift and perhaps sells 5 tickets on a good night?

    Anyone may board any train without a ticket and purchase one from the service manager on board (provided the train isn’t sold out).

  35. Hi Lucy,

    I actually did that many years ago . . . . However, don’t expect bargain prices.

    These days, we can check online as to whether there is available space on the trains.

  36. $30/hour and all the perks???????? Holy moly steer me there PRONTO! I would be very satisfied with half that amount even without the perks. Most people work mighty hard and don’t get any of that even here in Ottawa you work mighty hard and get minimum salary or a little above. Many who have university degrees and work in the government for $20./hour. The standard of living is going to come way down and I was thinking that this could be the reason for all this automation going on. If we look at the telephone operators and you call a hospital here in Ottawa you get a computerized system where you have to dial a number to reach the place that you want. The same with your cable bills, telephone bills, etc. you can be dialing overseas and someone will come on to speak to you in a muttered up kind of English and you getting upset on the other end of the line not understanding a word but this is how things are being done today since incomes are way too high as well as the cost of living. Something has to give somewhere and the cost is going to come down and this is how they are doing it to start.

  37. This is Cornwall for you. Seem like they will never want Cornwall to get better. Seems like they want to keep Cornwall back in the stone ages. They wonder why young people are all moving away from Cornwall and we cant keep any doctors here or we can not get tourists here this is why. They mise well just close up Cornwall like they did with Detroit city. Cornwall has not growen sence the seventies. Its a shame Cornwall could be a beautiful city if they would not keep it so far behind in the times.

  38. Comment to Mr. Dave Windsor

    You are living the dream aren’t you? Cornwall to Ottawa service was a staple here for years and years, now Via wants nothing to do with it and neither does Greyhound……if you want to go to Ottawa say on a Friday to spend a weekend in Ottawa, you are S.O.L………because Greyhound only offers limited service to Ottawa on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays now…..and Via…….nothing…….so where is your silver lining now ?

  39. Author

    Patrick maybe the bus companies are upset at the City’s support of Delaney?

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