Posts Tagged ‘VIA Rail Canada’

VIA Outlines Environmental Goals

April 22, 2022

VIA Rail Canada said it is working toward having about 90 percent of its proposed High Frequency Rail route between Toronto and Quebec City be electrified.

VIA CEO Cynthia Garneau told the Montreal Gazette that this is more than a written goal.

Some segments near urban areas in which VIA uses the tracks of other railroads will continue to see trains pulled by non-electric power.

The electrification is part of a five-year sustainability plan VIA recently released.

In a news release, VIA said it has reviewed its policies, practices and priorities in preparation for the creation of a sustainability plan.

By 2025 VIA will seek to offer zero-waste trains in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor; train all employees in sustainability practices; align 80 percent of community investments with the priorities of this sustainability plan; and  reach 80 percent integration of the responsible sourcing policy by suppliers.

By 2020 VIA will seek to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent or more by 2030.

The High Frequency Rail project involves separate, passenger-only rights-of-way on parts of the corridor.

Although the Canadian government has funded various studies of the proposal it has yet to agree to fund it. The projected cost of the project is C$12 billion.

Earlier this year the government said it would seek private-sector involvement in the project.

VIA to Restore Suspended Services

April 18, 2022

VIA Rail Canada plans to restore most suspended service by June.

The passenger carrier had suspended many services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week VIA said operations of the Canadian between Toronto and Vancouver would expand by two weekly roundtrips.

Other restorations include three weekly round trips for Ocean (Montreal-Halifax); three weekly round trips for trains connecting Jasper, Alberta, and Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

Service between Sudbury and White River, Ontario, will be restored in July .

Other restorations include Montreal and Senneterre, Quebec; and Montreal and Jonquière, Quebec. Both routes will be restored in late June.

VIA also plans to add additional trains in the Quebec City-Windsor, Ontario, corridor.

VIA Tests New Siemens Equipment

April 18, 2022

VIA Rail Canada last week test ran equipment built by Siemens Mobility, operating it for two days on corridor routes in Ontario.

The tests on April 13-14 reviewed track geometry and passenger loading and unloading.

The Siemens Venture cars were pulled by a Charger locomotive, also built by Siemens. The test train stopped at all station between Ottawa, Brockville and Toronto.

It also visited the Toronto Maintenance Centre for an “emergency rescue test” and then went west to Brantford, London and Windsor.

VIA is acquiring 32 train sets for C$989 million that are expected to be delivered by 2024.

For more information on the test runs go to https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/via-runs-test-train-of-new-siemens-equipment/

VIA Updates Accessibility Plan

March 19, 2022

VIA Rail Canada has outlined an accessibility plan that is designed to improve access to the 6.2 million Canadians who have identified as having a disability.

That includes both passengers and VIA employees, railroad officials said.

Among the highlights of the plan are creation of American Sign Language and la Langue des Signes Québécoise videos on VIA Rail’s website.

VIA also will conduct accessibility awareness training for all employees and improved equity in recruitment by seeking to eliminate “bias in the hiring process and making our accessible hiring policy more visible to job seekers.”

Another objective of the plan is “to incorporate accessibility early on in decision-making before projects are launched.”

VIA said it has formed a Universal Accessibility Advisory Committee that will defend the rights of people with disabilities and help the passenger carrier plan future accessibility projects.

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/

When VIA FPA-4s Were in Charge

February 17, 2022

VIA FPA-4 No. 6764 leads an eastbound out of Windsor, Ontario, on March 29, 1983. The image was made in Tecumseh and that is the Detroit skyline in the background.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

VIA to Reduce Service Due to Pandemic

January 15, 2022

With cases of COVID-19 surging VIA Rail Canada has decided to temporarily reduce service in its corridors between Windsor, Ontario, and Quebec City, Quebec.

VIA said the affected routes include Montreal-Ottawa, Quebec City-Montreal-Ottawa, Toronto-Kingston-Montreal, Toronto-Kingston-Ottawa, Toronto-London-Windsor and Toronto-London-Sarnia.

Business class seating has been suspended and business lounges are closed. VIA said it will gradually restore service during the spring.

In a statement, VIA said it will continue to offer “essential service” on all routes. The service reductions will take effect Jan. 19.

VIA LRC Double Dip

January 6, 2022

LRC locomotives no longer pull VIA Rail Canada trains. The last of them was retired in 2001 and two have been preserved.

LRC was an acronym for light, rapid and comfortable and at one time it heralded a new generation of intercity passenger equipment. Some LRC equipment appeared for a time on Amtrak’s International between Chicago and Toronto.

We turn back the clock to 1987 and view LRC equipment at work in two locations a month apart.

In the top image, made on July 31, 1987, in Newcastle, Ontario, VIA 6917 and its train has a second LRC-powered train added to run as one train. 

In the bottom image VIA 6913 is eastbound at Bayview Junction, Ontario, on Aug. 12, 1987.

Photographs by Robert Farkas