Northern outfitter calls for increased service of Budd Car train

A lodge owner in northeastern Ontario says as the province continues to add services and open business, one essential service remains cut back.

Schedule for train has been reduced compared to previous years

The VIA Rail Budd Car service runs between Sudbury and White River. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

A lodge owner in northeastern Ontario says, as the province continues to add services and open business, one essential service remains cut back.

The Budd Carr, which is operated by VIA Rail, has been running on a limited schedule. The train runs between Sudbury and White River and makes stops at outfitting lodges and other stops throughout the region.

David MacLachlan runs Lodge Eighty Eight along the line. He says COVID-19 has impacted his business greatly and he's only bringing in about 15 per cent of his usual revenue.

He says having the American border closed is a huge blow because many of his customers were from south of the border. He says he's been working to attract more people from Ontario to his business.

However, MacLachlan says currently, he can only offer a six-night package from White River, and an eight-night package from Sudbury.

"It's pretty tough for people to make that eight to 10 day commitment," he said.

MacLachlan says he's been in contact with VIA.

"It's a bit like a chicken and egg scenario," he said. "They're looking for an increased demand … but you can't buy the tickets because the train has been taken right off until August except that one weekly. It just makes it really difficult."

'Hurting my constituents'

He and other outfitters have also appealed to the province, which designates the Budd Car an essential service.

The train runs through Nickel Belt NDP MPP's France Gélina's riding. 

"This schedule is hurting my constituents," she said. "In the age of COVID, people want to isolate. Northern Ontario has the room to safely social distance, but we need the train to help residents and visitors take advantage of our vast geography."

She and other MPPs have also contacted VIA.

"Some of them have gotten back to me to say we're ready, the staff is ready," she said. "It sounds like they are looking at it."

VIA Rail has responded to CBC saying they are committed to speaking to local authorities before issuing a public position.

With files from Kate Rutherford


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