Archive for the ‘Other News’ Category

VIA Accepting Reservations for the Ocean

May 10, 2021

Although no date has been announced for a return to service, VIA Rail Canada has begun accepting reservations travel on the Montreal-Halifax, Nova Scotia, Ocean.

Travel can be booked for trips starting July 2, but VIA cautioned that does not necessarily mean the train will begin operations on that date.

The Ocean has been suspended since March 2020. VIA Rail has cancelled and refunded all reservations for travel on the Ocean up to and including, June 30, 2021.

A VIA spokeswoman said the carrier will continue “to monitor the evolution of the situation and work on a safe resumption plan, which will take into account health and sanitary developments of the different provinces where this long-distance route operates.”

Earlier VIA said its Toronoto-Vancouver Canadian would resume operating the length of its route starting May 17.

Currently the Canadian is operating weekly in western Canada with reduced consists and service due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

VIA Public Meeting Set for May 27

May 10, 2021

VIA Rail Canada will conduct its annual public meeting on May 27 online.

The meeting can be accessed on VIA’s Facebook page and YouTube channel at 4 p.m. EDT but this year it will be prerecorded.

During the meeting, VIA management will provide performance reports, financial results, and outline projects undertaken last year.

Presenters will include VIA Rail’s board chair, Françoise Bertrand; CEO Cynthia Garneau; and Chief Financial Officer Marie-Claude Cardin.

Canadians are invited to submit questions before the meeting and answers to the most frequently asked questions will provided on May 27 on the public meeting page.

Face Mandate Extended to Sept. 11

May 3, 2021

The requirement that face masks be worn while aboard public transportation has been extended until Sept. 13.

The mandate had been set to expire on May 11 but the Transportation Security Agency said it was extended because the COVID-19 pandemic remains a danger to public health.

“Right now, about half of all adults have at least one vaccination shot and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic,” TSA said in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to evaluate the need for these directives and recognize the significant level of compliance thus far.”

The mandate applies to air and intercity rail travel. Those refusing to comply will be subjected to fines of $250 to $1,500.

Canada Federal Budget Has Funds for VIA Corridor, Infrastructure Projects

April 28, 2021

Canada expects to budget $4.4 million for planning work on VIA Rail Canada’s proposed “high frequency rail” project.

The project seeks to create a passenger-only route for part of the Toronto-Quebec City corridor.

Also in the budget proposal is $491.2 million over six years, beginning in 2021-22, for VIA infrastructure projects that would support the high frequency rail project.

The budget document said $491.2 million would “help reduce bottlenecks, improve fluidity and connectivity, and allow VIA to take an important step toward high-frequency rail in the corridor.”

In an unrelated matter, VIA said that more stringent travel restrictions imposed last week in Ontario and Quebec are not expected to effect the railroad’s scheduled service.

“Passengers are responsible to comply with provincial restrictions,” VIA said in a statement.

Ontario’s new order prohibits non-essential travel into the province while Quebec has closed its borders to travelers from Ontario, where COVID-19 cases are on the rise.

Publishers Announce Books About Amtrak

April 26, 2021

Two publishers have announced the coming release of books tied to the 50th anniversary of Amtrak.

White River Productions said Fifty Years of Amtrak Trains will be a detailed summary of every route operated by Amtrak.

Authored by Bruce Goldberg and David Warner, the book will have 256 pages and numerous color and black and white photographs.

It is priced at $79.95 but is available for $70 at the publisher’s website through May 31.

A promotion for the book on the publisher’s website said many of the photographs have never been published.

Other illustrations will include route maps and illustrations of brochure art. The contents also include detailed tables showing train schedules and station stops at 10-year intervals.

Goldberg and Warner have written about Amtrak in previous works.

Warner was the co-auithor with Elbert L. Simon of Amtrak by the Numbers, a review of the passenger carrier’s locomotive and rolling stock rosters.

That book was published by White River in 2011.

Goldberg and Warner were co-author of The Metroliners, which was published by White River in 2016. He also authored a long out of press book titled Amtrak: The First Decade.

Ordering information about Fifty Years of Amtrak is available athttps://shop.whiteriverproductions.com/products/am50

Indiana University Press plans to release in October Amtrak, America’s Railroad: Transportation’s Orphan and Its Struggle for Survival, by Geoffrey Doughty, Jeffrey Darbee and Eugene Harmon.

A publisher’s summary said the book explores how Amtrak’s has been a company hindered by its flawed origin and unequal quality of leadership, subjected to political gamesmanship and favoritism, and mired in a perpetual philosophical debate about whether it is a business or a public service.

The authors interviewed former Amtrak presidents and explore the current problems and issues facing the passenger carrier while offering proposed solutions.

The book concludes that Amtrak was created in the absence of a comprehensive national transportation policy but managed to survive its inherent flaws due to the public’s persistent loyalty.

The book has 264 pages and 42 color illustrations. It is priced at $40. The cover has yet to be displayed on the publisher’s website.

Ordering information is available at https://iupress.org/9780253060631/amtrak-americas-railroad

STB Forms Passenger Working Group

April 17, 2021

A working group has been created by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to develop plans to enforce on-time performance rules for intercity passenger-rail service.

The STB said the group will oversee a rule formulated in November 2020 by the Federal Railroad Administration that established metrics and minimum standards.

In a news release, the STB said Frank O’Connor will serve as chair of the passenger rail working group.

Frank O’Connor is deputy director of the STB’s Office of Economics.

The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 gave the STB authority to investigate and adjudicate issues related to on-time performance of Amtrak’s intercity service under the new metrics and standards.

Those rules will be implemented on July 1, with quarterly reporting by the FRA to begin the following month.

The FRA rule defines on-time as the arrival of passengers at their destination station no later than 15 minutes after their published scheduled arrival time.

The FRA’s rule requires Amtrak and its host railroads to certify Amtrak schedules and sets an on-time performance minimum standard of 80 percent for any two consecutive calendar quarters.

Under federal law, the STB is authorized to investigate a failure to meet the on-time performance standard, either on its own initiative or upon complaint by Amtrak or another eligible complainant, to determine whether and to what extent that failure is due to causes that could be reasonably addressed by a rail carrier over whose tracks the intercity passenger train operates or by Amtrak or other intercity passenger rail operators.

The STB may identify reasonable measures and make recommendations to improve train service, quality and on-time performance.

Federal regulators may also award damages and prescribe other relief should the STB determine that failure to meet the on-time performance standard was attributable to a host railroad’s failure to provide preference to Amtrak over freight transportation.

The on-time passenger standards have been a decade in the making.

Earlier attempts to create an on-time standard were challenged by the Association of American Railroads in court and the case twice reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

The working group will also “explore the feasibility of creating an office at the STB focused on passenger rail issues and the creation of a Passenger Rail Advisory Committee under the Federal Advisory Committee Act,” among other functions.

The Way it Used to Be

April 15, 2021

VIA Rail Canada announced this week that its flag ship long distance train the Canadian, will resume operating next month between Toronto and Vancouver.

The proud Canadian has been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic and then returned to run only between Vancouver and Winnipeg.

The news that the Canadian will again trek across Canada, though, came with some caveats. There will be no access to lounges and dome cars so scenes such as the one above of the two Canadians passing east of Hornepayne, Ontario, in May 2014.

There will be sleeping car service and passengers will be given reservations to eat breakfast and dinner in the dining car. But lunch will be served in your room.

Furthermore Nos. 1 and 2 will operate just one a week. In short, it won’t be the same experience that people from all over the world come to experience.

But at least it will be have some semblance of transcontinental service and the scenery hasn’t change.

Maybe some day the Canadian will once again be the Canadian.

VIA to Run Canadian Across Canada Again

April 15, 2021

VIA Rail Canada will reinstate the Canadian between Toronto and Vancouver on May 17 with one roundtrip per week.

The train has been operating only between Vancouver and Winnipeg for the past several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first westbound trip from Toronto will depart on May 23.

The Canadian will offer coach and sleeping car accommodations in roomettes and bedrooms. However, no berths will be sold and Prestige Class remains suspended through Sept. 15.

Due to health regulations there will be no access to such common areas as lounge cars and domes.

Sleeping car passenger will be able to make reservations for breakfast and dinner in the diner, but lunch will be served in passenger rooms. Coach passengers will be offered food and beverages from a cart.

VIA said the Montreal-Halifax Ocean continues to be suspended indefinitely. Service between Prince Rupert, British Columbia, and Jasper will operate weekly without the Touring Class Panorama dome.

Sleepers remain suspended on Winnipeg-Churchill, Manitoba, trains through Sept. 15.

Passengers who had booked trips on trains that have been canceled will receive refunds without financial penalty.

Stadtler to Head Virginia Rail Authority

April 15, 2021

The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority has named a former Amtrak executive as its executive director.

Appointed was Donald A. Stadtler Jr., who worked at Amtrak for 12 years. His positions at the intercity rail carrier included chief financial officer, chief operations officer, and chief administrative officer.

The Virginia agency, created last year, has a mandate to promote, sustain, and expand passenger and commuter rail service in the state.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine said in a statement that Stadtler’s appointment represents an opportunity for the state to focus on customer service, safety, and performance.

Bill Introduced to Create Front Range District

April 15, 2021

A bi-partisan bill has been introduced in the Colorado state senate to establish the Front Range Passenger Rail District.

The district would plan, build, operate and maintain passenger service connecting the major cities along the east side of the Rocky Mountains as well as provide a connection service to Amtrak’s Southwest Chief and California Zephyr.

Senate President Leroy Garcia, one of the sponsors of the legislation, said in a statement that establishing rail passenger service along the Front Range has been a top priority of his since being elected to the legislature.

The legislation calls for cooperation with the Denver-area Regional Transportation District and says that if appropriate the two agencies should share capital costs on a portion of the route. District members would be appointed by April 1, 2022, with the first meeting the following month.