BUSINESS

VIA Rail For Sale? Ottawa Denies Report Canada's Passenger Rail Service On Selling Block

01/20/2012 01:40 EST | Updated 03/21/2012 05:12 EDT
CP
OTTAWA - The federal government is denying a published report that it is thinking about selling Via Rail.

A spokesman for Transport Minister Denis Lebel says privatizing the passenger rail service isn't on the table.

Pierre Florea, Lebel's press secretary, says all government spending is under review, but there are no plans to sell Via Rail.

Via Rail is a Crown corporation established in 1977 to run passenger trains.

The report cited briefing notes provided to Lebel when he assumed his portfolio.

Florea says the information contained in these notes does not necessarily reflect government policy.

"The information provided does not necessarily reflect the government's position on these files, or a decision made by the government," he said in an email.

"While the department can make suggestions, the minister is in charge of government policy."

Via runs almost 500 trains weekly on 12,500 kilometres of track and serves 450 communities across the country.

In 2010, it carried more than four million passengers.

The federal government contributes both operating and capital subsidies to Via.

A parliamentary report issued last November said subsidies ran between $700 million and $1 billion in the 1980s, but declined to about $445 million in 2010, with all figures in constant 2002 dollars.