Posts Tagged ‘VIA’s Ocean’

VIA Looks Toward Murky Future

June 2, 2021

VIA Rail Canada released this image of a new Charger locomotive that it recently received.

VIA Rail Canada officials during gave an overview of where things stand with the passenger carrier last week during an online presentation that showed how damaging the COVID-19 pandemic has been.

CEO Cynthia Garneau said VIA also suffered setbacks in early 2020 when First Nation groups and their supporters blockaded tracks used by VIA.

More than 1,000 trains were canceled in February 2020 due to the blockades.

More cancellations followed in the spring as the pandemic took root. Combined this led to ridership falling 77.1 percent even as expenses declined by 21.2 percent.

Garneau said VIA received Ca$135 million (US$112 million) in additional funding to cover the revenue shortfall.

VIA officials said no date has been set for the return of the Ocean service to the Maritime provinces because non-essential travel between provinces continues to be banned.

When the train does return it is expected to have consists of heritage and Renaissance fleet equipment.

Economy class passengers will ride in former Canadian coaches, while Renaissance sleeping, dining and service cars might be augmented with some Chateau-class stainless steel sleepers.

Service to Gaspe, Quebec, remains in limbo but VIA said trains will resume operations once the track is able again to host passenger service.

The Toronto-Vancouver Canadian is now operating once a week and VIA management expects to “fully resume the Canadian when conditions allow it.”

However, the planned  “fleet modernization” of 71 heritage cars used on the Canadian won’t be completed until 2024.

VIA officials said they are studying fleet replacement for the Canadian and other regional trains, but gave no indication as to when that might occur.

In the meantime, VIA will be taking delivery of new equipment being built by Siemens, but that equipment will be used only in corridor service between Quebec City and Windsor via Montreal and Toronto.

The new equipment will be tested later this year and is expected to begin revenue service in 2022.

Although VIA continues to work toward establishing passenger-only routes between Quebec City and Montreal, and between Ottawa and Toronto, it has no timeline for when that project will be realized.

The plan calls for building tracks on abandoned Canadian Pacific right of way that is now a trail in some places. VIA trains could continue to use Canadian National track in Toronto and Montreal.

No funding has been secured for the project and its cost remains undetermined.

In an unrelated move, VIA said this week that ridership and revenue in the first quarter of 2021 were down 80.2 percent and 80.9 percent respectively when compared with the same period in 2020.

Operating expenses were down by 34.1 percent. In a statement, Garneau said VIA “continued to deliver our public service when circumstances allowed it, and to work on and adjust our resumption plan to ensure that we are ready to welcome all our passengers back once the situation improves.

She said VIA remains committed to resuming all routes across the country “once conditions permit us to do so.”

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 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.

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.

VIA Report Says Canadian Not Sustainable

November 27, 2020

VIA Rail Canada said recently it doesn’t expect to operate a third Toronto-Vancouver roundtrip of the Canadian.

The intercity rail operator said that although it expects to continue operating its flagship long-distance train, its current business model is “no longer sustainable.”

Those conclusions were shared in a summary for the passenger carrier’s 2020-24 corporate plan, which is posted on the VIA website.

The document said the finances of the Canadian’s model have been hindered “predominantly due to host railroad actions.”

That has created a service incapable of serving short-distance travelers and the tourism market.

The Canadian has suffered from poor on-time performance with some delays stretching up to 43 hours. In 2019 the Canadian’s on-time performance was 55.9%.

In recent years the scheduled running time of Nos. 1 and 2 has been lengthened by 10 hours. Revenue growth has stalled while operating costs have risen.

VIA said it will explore options to revitalize the Canadian and other services in Western Canada but did not say what that might involve.

The Canadian last operated three times a week in 2019. It has been suspended for much of this year due to the CVOID-19 pandemic.

VIA also said a tri-weekly Canadian needs five train sets but it lacks enough equipment to create a fifth set because some equipment has been diverted to the Ocean, which operates between Montreal and Halifax.

Modernization of VIA’s heritage fleet has been scaled back due to “unexpected issues.”

Some of the heritage fleet is more than 70 years old and needs to be replaced.

VIA also said it continues to work toward creating its own dedicated right-of-way for portions of its Toronto-Montreal-Quebec City corridor.

It also plans to address the need to ensure access to Toronto Union Station and Montreal Central Station, where 46 percent of its passengers begin or end their trips.

That will require access agreements with host railroads that “feature best practices regarding punctuality and capacity management.”

The report said that in 2019, only 67.3percent of VIA’s corridor trains were on time.

VIA said its base funding level need to increase from $146.8 million to $300 million, with “extended funding” of $550 million, or $110 million per year, to address a current funding gap and allow for long-term planning throughout the five-year period of the plan.

VIA Rail Caused 2019 VIA Ocean Derailment

October 1, 2020

Canadian safety authorities have concluded that a broken rail triggered the 2019 derailment of VIA Rail Canada’s Ocean in New Brunswick that left three passengers injured.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said the rail broke at the Lakeville Road crossing near Coal Branch on April 4, 2019.

The web of the north rail — the narrow section between the head and foot — fractured as the train passed over it.

The last two cars of the train derailed, but remained upright. The train was traveling 60 mph at the time of the derailment.

Passengers in the last car, a dome-lounge-observation, were unable to reach the emergency brake and a crew member in the car was unable to contact the locomotive engineer because his portable radio was thrown out of reach.

The report said the Montreal to Halifax train continued for another mile beyond the derailment point before it stopped.

Investigators said a 119-inch section of rail broke at the derailment site with the break having been exacerbated because of the use of road salt.

The Safety Board expressed concerns in its conclusion about the lack of rail inspection requirements at such locations.

Although Transport Canada requires track inspection and maintenance, its rules do not specifically address corrosion.

The Safety Board said a lack rail web inspections at grade crossings could lead to similar failures elsewhere.

VIA Extends Suspension of BC Service

May 15, 2020

VIA Rail Canada has extended the suspension of service in British Columbia Columbia to Aug. 1.

In a news release, the carrier cited “continued infrastructure issues” for the decision that affects trains operating Jasper-Prince George-Prince Rupert.

The news release did not elaborate on what those infrastructure issues involved.

VIA earlier extended the suspension of its Toronto-Vancouver Canadian and Montreal-Halifax Ocean to Nov. 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

VIA Extends Long-Distance Suspensions to Nov. 1

May 8, 2020

The suspension of the Canadian and Ocean of VIA Rail Canada has been extended through Nov. 1.

In a news release, VIA said sleeper class service on its Winnipeg-Churchill, Manitoba, trains has also been suspended through the same date.

“While there is still a great deal of uncertainty as to when both domestic and international travel will resume, VIA Rail will continue to assess how it can support the recommendations of the public health authorities in their response to the pandemic and in preparation for the progressive service recovery,” the company said in the news release.

VIA said that during the service suspension it will accelerate an inspection and modernization program for its heritage passenger equipment that began in 2018.

The carrier said it will contact passengers who held reservations for travel on the affected trains about reimbursing their fare.

Passengers holding tickets during the suspension period also are encouraged to contact VIA by email at service@viarail.ca

VIA can be reached by phone at 888-VIA-RAIL(888-842-7245).

VIA CEO Cynthia Garneau said the carrier will continue to assess and identify which measures to implement in order to get back on track as soon and as safely as possible.

Garneau said the equipment overhaul program will enable VIA to progressively bring back its long-distance trains to full capacity for the 2021 peak season.

VIA has reduced the number of seats available on trains that are still operating as a way to promote social distancing.

VIA Suspends Trains, Reduces Service Levels

March 17, 2020

VIA Rail Canada has also announced that it has suspended its Canadian, Ocean and long distance eastern and western routes until March 27 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canadian intercity rail passenger carrier has also reduced service in its corridor linking Windsor, Ontario, and Quebec City by 50 percent.

Onboard meal service has been modified to conform to social distancing guidelines.

Aditional workers are being added to conduct sanitization procedures, which may result in trip delays and late departures.

VIA to Stop Taking Cash on Some Trains

October 16, 2019

VIA Rail Canada will stop accept cash and only take regular and prepaid credit cards and VIA Rail gift cards will be accepted to pay for food and beverage purchased aboard its Halifax-Montreal Ocean and all Toronto-Quebec corridor trains effective Oct. 29.

The carrier also plans to end cash purchases on trains serving remote regions between Montreal and Senneterre, Quebec, Jonquiere, Quebec, and the Sudbury-White River, Ontario, triweekly Rail Diesel Cars.

For the time being cash will still be accepted aboard the Toronto-Vancouver Canadian, and the Winnipeg-Churchill and Jasper-Prince George-Prince Rupert trains.

“In response to a long-standing customer request, VIA is introducing an electronic payment terminal (that will) optimize frontline operations while streamlining our back-end food management systems,” VIA spokeswoman Marie-Anna Murat told Trains magazine.

“Eliminating cash will make VIA’s onboard transactions more efficient, allowing our employees to spend more time serving passengers; this change reflects the transportation industry trend towards cashless transactions.”

Murat said VIA employees will be flexible in the weeks following the launch.