Via Rail Stopped in Its Tracks

For Immediate Release

January 26, 2001

"The Canadian Transportation Agency [CTA] has taken a stand," said Council of Canadians with Disabilities [CCD] spokesperson Eric Norman of the CTA Order in CCD's case against VIA, which was handed down late yesterday.

"The CTA has recognized that these trains would represent a serious blow to transportation access for persons with disabilities, and that the time to decide whether they meet Canadian standards is now, before the deal becomes a fait accompli."

1 business day before CCD asked the CTA to block the deal, VIA signed a secret contract to purchase 139 inaccessible European rail coaches.

"These cars represent a step backwards for Canada, while the U.S., Europe and even regional rail carriers like GO Transit are approaching full accessibility," said Pat Danforth, Chair of CCD's Transportation Committee. "We are relieved to learn the CTA has been willing to call a halt to the process, so that it has time to decide whether they will ever come into use".

"VIA must promise to stop the process of commissioning these cars for use in Canada," said CCD lawyer David Baker of Toronto's Shell Jacobs Lawyers. "If they refuse to give this commitment, the CTA has already made the findings necessary to issue an injunction. VIA has 5 working days within which to decide whether to stop its retrofit process, or to defy the CTA and force it to issue an injunction."

CCD is the national cross-disability organization of persons with disabilities. It has brought this action to prevent rail cars, which it believes cannot be made accessible for use by persons with disabilities, from becoming Canada's next generation of rail car. "The golden age of Canada's railways was not part of our experience. VIA's choice of train will set us back 30 years," said Danforth.

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For further information, contact:

Eric Norman (709) 256-8630
Pat Danforth (250) 383-4443
David Baker (416) 539-0226 Ext. 212