VIA Still Seeking Quebec-Windsor Increased Service

VIA Rail Canada is studying creating passenger-only route in the Quebec-Windsor, Ontario, but its new CEO has not committed to seeing the project through.

Cynthia Garneau said at the annual VIA public meeting that the carrier has created a committee to review the prospect of making parts of the corridor passenger only.

Garneau said VIA hopes to enter into what she termed “a new phase” before the end of the year.

One element of that “new phase” could be additional trains on existing Canadian National tracks now used by VIA in the corridor.

“This project is complex and ambitious and we continue to work with Transport Canada to capture its scope, to mitigate the risks,” she said. “The feedback we’ve been getting is encouraging. It will be using existing infrastructure, as you know, and existing rights-of-way all the way from Quebec City to Toronto.”

VIA’s former CEO, Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, has called for higher service frequency in the corridor.

During the meeting, VIA executives said that revenue was up 7.4 percent and ridership up 8 percent last year.

VIA expects to continue emphasizing its corridor service because it accounts for 95 percent of the carrier’s ridership.

Plans are underway to assign new single-level cars and locomotives to corridor service.

During a question and answer session, VIA management said it expects to resume tri-weekly service by the Canadian between Toronto and Vancouver, British Columbia, by next spring after CN finishes increasing the capacity of the route used by the train.

Currently, VIA is operating one Canadian roundtrip only between Vancouver and Edmonton, Alberta.

VIA also plans to eventually resume going all the way to the end of track on the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec, but officials gave no date for that.

They noted that the government of Quebec is rebuilding the tracks on the route.

No plans are in the works for VIA to institute service in Western Canada to cities left behind by discontinue of bus service by Greyhound. VIA officials said the carrier does not “have the resources allocated to entertain any more services.”

Likewise, VIA management said that additional service in Southwest Ontario “is solely dependent on working with the infrastructure providers and intermodal partners to evaluate access.

Although the region shows great potential, VIA doesn’t expect to add service in the short term.

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