VIA Rail is in talks with the Provincial Government to offer ultra affordable train tickets to vulnerable aboriginal people, youth and elders along the Highway of Tears.
The idea was floated by VIA Rail’s GM of Regional Services Michael Woelcke at a meeting of the Highway 16 Advisory Group in March, but was just recently made public with the meeting minutes.
The Highway 16 Advisory Group was made up of First Nations, municipality and ministry representatives – meeting five times between January and May 2016. The team developed details and plans for public transit service along Highway 16 which was announced in June.
The proposed plan would provide $5 service to at risk youth, elders and First Nations regardless of origin or destination along the route. The criteria for who would qualify for the $5 passes is still to be determined, as is the distribution – whether it be through the First Nations Health Authority or the communities themselves.
Separate discounted ‘Aboriginal Fares’ are also being mulled, at 33% less than regular fare.
While the June announcement of bus service for Highway 16 did not include any rail components, in a statement the Ministry said “we continue to engage with VIA and the idea of a discounted fee is still being considered, however, we are not in a position to make any commitment to fare reductions on their behalf.”
VIA Rail spokesperson Mylène Bélanger confirmed that discussions are still underway, but declined to offer any further comment.
** A previous headline used the phrase ‘First Nations’, when in fact ‘vulnerable people’ of all nationalities would likely qualify for the $5 tickets – although the program would be targeted at ‘First Nations’ communities. Meeting minutes do indicate that 33% off ‘Aboriginal Fares’ are being considered.