This is a good question given public angst over future employment prospects including the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and the short term job market with few, if any, employer paid benefits.
With absolute focus on safety and reliability, most jobs in the passenger rail industry require trades and skills that cannot be out-sourced, offshored or performed by artificial intelligence. Track engineering and maintenance, signalling, rolling stock maintenance, customer service, marketing and catering require local, talented people, often with high-tech capability. Depending on the work, can pay six-figure wages and salaries, with benefits. Although building new passenger rolling stock is a critical part of the passenger rail industry it can be cyclical whereas train operations are highly consistent with continued opportunity for growth and skills advancement. In many ways it’s like the airline industry but with better jobs distribution across the province.
Every dollar invested in passenger rail operations results in between $2.2 and $3.6 of annual income depending on how far down the supply-chain one goes. And, remember, these jobs will continue to exist while people continue to travel.
Because successive governments have largely turned their backs on intercity and regional passenger rail, the Ontario talent pool is much diminished. But it has the potential to offer a massive boost to the provincial economy. In the UK over 600,000 people work in the rail industry and the government tax revenue is more than £11 billion (C$20bn). And the UK industry remains robust with route upgrades, new train building and maintenance facilities being added across the country.
The opportunity for good, high-paying work and the vastly better environmental credentials of passenger rail should put it high on the economic agenda of our federal and provincial governments. The railways built Canada and can help take us into a prosperous, cleaner and secure future.