Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

VIA Restoring Service, Onboard Amenities

March 15, 2022

Passengers enjoy the view from a dome car aboard the eastbound Canadian in May 2014.

VIA Rail Canada is again allowing passengers to sit in the dome sections of dome cars and to use onboard lounge facilities.

Trains magazine reported on its website that these are among the service changes VIA made on March 1 that rescind restrictions imposed since March 2020 in response to health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other changes include restoration of full dining service for sleeping-car passengers to the Canadian, which operates between Toronto and Vancouver; and to the Ocean, which operates between Montreal and Halifax, Nova Scotia.

However, Panorama cars are still not operating on VIA trains and no date has been set for their return.

The frequency of operation of the Canadian is slated to increase to twice weekly from weekly.

Effective April 29 the Canadian will depart Vancouver on Monday and Friday while starting May 4 it will depart Toronto on Sunday and Wednesday.

Since December 2020 VIA Nos. 1 and 2 have departed Vancouver on Monday and Toronto on Sunday.

Starting April 4 VIA will resume offering Prestige Class bedrooms and upper and lower berths on the Canadian.

The Trains report noted that open section accommodations have already been restored to trains operating between Winnipeg and Churchill, Manitoba.

Also effective on March 1 were additional trains operating in the Quebec City-Windsor, Ontario, corridor.

A VIA spokesman told Trains the passenger carrier will return Chateau cars to the Ocean on April 4. These are former Canadian Pacific stainless-steel sleepers converted to head-end power.

They supplement European-built Renaissance equipment.

Trains said it is unclear when or even if the Ocean’s Wednesday and Sunday departure days in each direction will be adjusted to restore a third weekly round-trip. To read the article visit https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/vias-canadian-restores-dome-access-will-add-second-round-trip-in-april/

Transport Canada Seeks Advice for Rail Project

March 13, 2022

Transport Canada has issued a request for expressions of interest for advice regarding a proposed high frequency rail project. Interested parties are asked to respond by May 2022.

In a news release, Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra touted the project as the largest transportation infrastructure project that Canada has seen in decades.

It would seek to provide faster, more sustainable service to southern Ontario and Quebec.

The next step beyond information gathering will be a request for  request for qualifications in fall 2022 and the request for proposals in spring 2023.

The project, if implemented as envisioned, would be finished in the early 2030s.

VIA Rail Canada is expected to play a significant role in the advancement of the project.

Analysis Concludes VIA Facing Shaky Future

February 18, 2022

There was an interesting and insightful analysis published this week on the website of Railway Age arguing that VIA Rail Canada faces an existential crisis.

Journalist David Thomas said VIA faces challenges caused by lost ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic, an aging fleet, competition with commuter rail trains for station slots, and the fact that many Canadians have found alternative ways to travel other than by rail.

Even worse, VIA can’t rely on a federal infrastructure stimulus program such as that approved last year by the U.S. Congress to help save it.

Thomas said VIA’s gloomy future is foreshadowed in an obscure corner of its 2021-2025 Corporate Plan and almost hidden away on its website.

In his assessment, Thomas said if current trends continue, VIA will be left with a withered network of routes and services with even the carrier’s longtime flagship train, The Canadian, at risk of extinction.

Thomas writes that VIA itself appears “downright gloomy about its prospects” due to its dependence upon freight railroads and terminal operators whose self interests often clash with those of VIA.

“Because it cannot readily add frequencies, control departure, arrival and trip times or on-time performance, the company will eventually reach a saturation point where no tactical or strategic improvements can compensate these material operating constraints,” Thomas wrote.

“The eventual outcome to not addressing these elements will be both financial and reputational. Fewer passengers will imply lower revenues, poor operating conditions will increase costs, and the combination of those conditions will result in increased government subsidies and harm to the corporation’s brand.”

There have been a few glimmers of hope in recent months, including resumption of some services suspended during the pandemic. These include the Montreal-Halifax Ocean and the thrice-weekly Winnipeg to Churchill service.

VIA has taken delivery of new equipment from Siemens Mobility that will be used in corridor service on the Quebec City-Montreal-Toronto-Windsor route.

As Thomas sees it, VIA’s short term future hinges on a rebound of domestic travel and global tourism. Its long term future will depend on the willingness of the federal government to commit to large-scale funding of the service.

The analysis can be read at https://www.railwayage.com/news/for-via-rail-an-existential-crisis/

Canada to Issue RFP for Rail Project

July 8, 2021

Canadian authorities said this week that they will be issue a request for proposals for new train service in the Toronto-Quebec City Corridor.

Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra said the move is part of an effort to create VIA Rail Canada high frequency rail service.

He called the plan the largest transportation infrastructure project seen by Canada in decades.

The request for proposals for the procurement process is expected to be issued this fall.

The proposals must address how the new service would include shorter travel times and faster trains that would reduce average trip times between Toronto and Ottawa by up to 90 minutes.

Other requirements include more reliable on-time arrival performance up to 95 percent from a current average of 67 percent.

There are expected to be more direct routes with improved connectivity between cities and to other modes of transportation; and new services to communities, such as Peterborough, Trois-Rivieres and Laval, and new stations in targeted locations including near Jean Lesage Airport.

VIA Issues New Timetable

January 13, 2021

VIA Rail Canada released a new timetable issued this week that includes some service cuts.

The intercity rail operator is running six daily Montreal-Toronto round trips and between one and three round trips daily on other routes in Quebec City-Windsor corridors.

The Montreal-Halifax Ocean remains suspended as does cross-border service via Amtrak.

The Canadian remains suspended between Toronto and Winnipeg, and is operating one day a week between Winnipeg and Vancouver.

Service between Jasper and Prince Rupert is operating once a week while service between Winnipeg and Churchill is operating twice weekly.

VIA is describing its current service offerings, which began effective Jan. 12, as temporary and subject to change without advance notice.

Rocky Mountaineer Delays Season Until July 1

April 1, 2020

Luxury train excursion operator Rocky Mountaineer is delaying the opening of its 2020 season until July 1.

The excursion service operates between Vancouver, British Columbia, and the Canadian Rockies. Ordinarily trains would being operating on April 13.

The company said the delay was due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Passengers who have already purchased tickets will receive a future travel credit for 110 percent of the value paid, which can be applied to a new departure in the 2020, 2021 or 2022 travel seasons.

“With the Canadian borders closed to international travelers until June 30 and other global travel mandates, it has become impossible for us to operate while these restrictions are in place,” said Steve Sammut, president and chief executive officer in a statement.

The company said it has waived all fees associated with changing travel dates.

VIA Working to Finish Restoring Service

March 6, 2020

VIA Rail Canada is expected to have nearly all of its passenger trains rolling again by Sunday.

The carrier suspended most service and laid off 1,000 employees in the wake of blockades on Canadian railroads.

The blockades were led by protestors of a plan to build a natural gas pipeline across First Nation land in northern British Columbia.

The hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation have opposed construction of the pipeline and most of the blockades were staged in support of their opposition.

The Toronto-Montreal VIA route will resume full service on Saturday while full service on the Toronto-Ottawa route will resume on Sunday.

The Canadian between Toronto and Vancouver resumed service on Wednesday.

Prince-Rupert – Prince-George – Jasper service remains suspended and VIA said it is working with host railroad Canadian National on a resumption timeline, VIA said.

All other VIA Rail routes are back to full service.

In a news release, VIA said it began canceling service on Feb. 13 and laid off employees starting on Feb. 19. VIA said it expects to recall the majority of those laid off.

VIA Restoring Service Disrupted by Blockades

March 3, 2020

A tentative deal has been reached to end the blockades of Canadian rail lines by protesters opposed to construction of a natural gas pipeline in British Columbia.

However, some indigenous groups said they will continue to seek to block rail lines despite the pact.

The blockades have halted freight and passenger traffic on routes of Canadian National and Canadian Pacific and at one point disrupted Amtrak service into Canada.

News reports indicate that the deal will allow construction of the pipeline to continue but will address future land-rights disputes.

The pipeline is being built across land of the Wet’suwet’en First Nations group, whose ancesteral tribal leaders objected to the constructkion.

Other indigenous groups soon joined in the protests.

Leaders of the Wet’suwet’en said they would review the deal, a process expected to take two weeks.

CN has begun recalling some of its 450 laid off workers and VIA Rail Canada expects to restore this week most service that had been suspended.

VIA had canceled 940 trains through late last week.

The expected timetable for service restoration includes Montreal-Toronto and Ottawa-Toronto on, March 3; Senneterre-Jonquiere, Quebec, on Wednesday, March 4; the westbound Canadian on, March 4; and the eastbound Canadian on, March 6.

Funding Committed to Rebuilding ex-VIA Route

September 14, 2019

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has said that it will spend $35 million to repair a rail line once used by VIA Rail Canada’s Montreal-Gaspe train.

That service, once named the Chaleur, has been suspended since August 2013 although portions of the route has been suspended in December 2011.

Defects in several bridges that cross the Grande Rivere near Pabos Mills, Quebec, and a trestle between Perce and Gaspe led to the service suspension.

The government of Quebec in 2017 agreed to spend $73 million to rebuild the track as far as Port Daniel-Gascons.

The federal funding will be used to rebuild 10 segments on 79 miles from Port Daniel to Gaspe.

The funding will be taken from the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund.

VIA said it would resume service over the route once the tracks are rebuilt and passenger operations can be safely undertaken.

The repairs are expected to take more than a year. The line in question was once the National branch of Canadian National.

VIA Reports Higher Ridership, Revenue in 2018

May 9, 2019

Ridership of VIA Rail Canada trains last year rose by 8 percent to 4.7 million, the carrier said this week.

Revenue was CA$392 in 2018, an increase of 7.4 percent over 2017.

The bulk of VIA ridership was concentrated in the corridor between Windsor, Ontario; and Quebec City, Quebec, where VIA carried 4.5 million passengers.

Last year marked the fourth consecutive year of ridership increases at VIA.

In a statement, VIA CEA Yves Desjardins-Siciliano said the results were a good way to mark the passenger carrier’s 40th anniversary.

“In all areas of the business, employees are working hard to attract more passengers, making them feel welcome and well-treated,” he said. “Thanks in large part to their efforts, the number of passenger miles traveled on VIA Rail has increased by 23 percent since 2014.”

Total 2018 operating expenses were CA$665 million, an increase of CA$34 million compared with 2017 expenses. VIA officials attributed that to additional expenses associated with added capacity.

Yves Desjardins-Siciliano said the rise in revenue combined with efficient cost management and economies of scale have helped the company reduce the cost of mobility on Canadian taxpayers by 15 percent (subsidy per passenger mile, excluding pension past service cost).