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VIA Rail

roger1818

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The train follows a predictable route. They lay over at stations. You can charge at the end of the line during layovers. It's not that hard.

I agree, though I still think charging at most if not all stations would help.

Also solar panels should help with charging,

I think only thin film solar panels would be appropriate for trains and I am not sure if the technology is quite ready yet.

and possibly a small diesel motor for emergencies.

It all depends how much reserve capacity there would be in the battery, but that would be an option.
 

kEiThZ

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The train follows a predictable route. They lay over at stations. You can charge at the end of the line during layovers. It's not that hard. Also solar panels should help with charging, and possibly a small diesel motor for emergencies.

Don't need any of that. Just run diesel trains until battery/hydrogen fuel cell tech is good enough to avoid installing catenary on the long, lightly used stretches.

^Unlike GO - which needs to string wires asap, IMhO - VIA could well afford to stick with diesel until battery technology is proven and reliable. The Charger locos will be reliable and low maintenance for their first decade. They have relatively advanced power management capability and hence fuel efficiency and emission control.
The capital required to string wires might be better spent on Phase II track and route improvements and expansion. Ridership gains will matter more in HFR’s first decade than the relative gains in green, considering that getting people out of cars and onto HFr in the first place is the big green improvement.
The batteries are coming, it’s just a matter of how soon. I’m not a fan of buying the 1.0 version of anything. The 2.0 battery locos will be a better buy. Patience is sometimes a virtue.

- Paul

Exactly. The Charger/Venture fleet is only entering service in 2022. Full delivery won't be done till 2024. It'll be 2025, if options are exercised for HFR. That leaves a ton of time to let GO finish electrifying tracks, fine tune the electrification strategy and figure out where to redeploy the fleet. Realistically, this would mean nothing before 2035. By that point batteries could be potent enough that they may not need charging infrastructure between the GTA and Ottawa at all, and the packs will last a decade while charging at hundreds of kilowatts several times per day. The billions they would spend stringing OCS, would be better spent expanding the network. I hope they can get to London (via Kitchener) by 2030 and Windsor by 2035.
 

micheal_can

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Let me guess, you don't own a BEV. You don't drive them with the same mindset as an ICEV (where you only fill it when the tank gets close to empty). With BEVs, you quickly plug it in whenever you can (if needed) while doing other things (one of the best things about BEVs is it saves you time, since you never have to waste time going to a gas station).

Trains are even easier to manage, since it is much easier to charge while it is moving than it is with a car (yes they are working on induction chargers for highways, but they would be incredibly expensive to install and not really necessary). By putting catenary at and near every station (where they likely already have access to power) and maybe sidings, you can not only charge the batteries in the places the train is spending the most time over the shortest distance (minimizing installation and maintenance costs), but you can power the wheels directly when the motors need the most power (when accelerating up to speed from a stop). Once the train is up to speed, you only need enough battery power (with some reserve) to maintain the speed until the train gets to the next stop (you don't need to fully recharge the battery every time). The batteries will also get some charge from regenerative breaking. The only time the train will likely have a full charge is when it leaves the shed in the morning, after charging all night. The battery will do a zig zag decay throughout the day before charging back up to full again. You just need to make sure there is enough reserve to cover eventualities.

Remember, we are talking corridor trains here, not long distance trains, which would need a completely different solution.



True, but there is even more to it than that. It is kind of like Tesla's million mile battery in that one way to increase the life (in distance traveled) of the battery, is to increase the capacity of the battery (each cell is rated for a certain number of charge/discharge cycles, and if you increase the battery's overall capacity, you reduce the number of times each cell needs to be charged and discharged to travel a set distance, thus prolonging the life of the battery). There is a corollary to that for charging train batteries. Assuming effective battery thermal management, the maximum charging rate of the battery is the product of the number of cells in the battery by the maximum charging rate of each cell. Since train batteries will be significantly larger than a EV battery (they need to tow a significantly heavier vehicle, at a higher speed, with a larger overall drag coefficient), the maximum charge rate for the battery will also be much higher.

I still cannot see Via doing that. I can see Via having dual mode trains and run electric where the lines are.

I don't own an EV yet. The issue is that I need one that fits my driving style and my needs.

^Unlike GO - which needs to string wires asap, IMhO - VIA could well afford to stick with diesel until battery technology is proven and reliable. The Charger locos will be reliable and low maintenance for their first decade. They have relatively advanced power management capability and hence fuel efficiency and emission control.
The capital required to string wires might be better spent on Phase II track and route improvements and expansion. Ridership gains will matter more in HFR’s first decade than the relative gains in green, considering that getting people out of cars and onto HFr in the first place is the big green improvement.
The batteries are coming, it’s just a matter of how soon. I’m not a fan of buying the 1.0 version of anything. The 2.0 battery locos will be a better buy. Patience is sometimes a virtue.

- Paul

Exactly!
I don't see batteries on a Via train for a long time.

Don't need any of that. Just run diesel trains until battery/hydrogen fuel cell tech is good enough to avoid installing catenary on the long, lightly used stretches.



Exactly. The Charger/Venture fleet is only entering service in 2022. Full delivery won't be done till 2024. It'll be 2025, if options are exercised for HFR. That leaves a ton of time to let GO finish electrifying tracks, fine tune the electrification strategy and figure out where to redeploy the fleet. Realistically, this would mean nothing before 2035. By that point batteries could be potent enough that they may not need charging infrastructure between the GTA and Ottawa at all, and the packs will last a decade while charging at hundreds of kilowatts several times per day. The billions they would spend stringing OCS, would be better spent expanding the network. I hope they can get to London (via Kitchener) by 2030 and Windsor by 2035.

So, why push for the switch before 2030?
 

roger1818

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^Unlike GO - which needs to string wires asap, IMhO - VIA could well afford to stick with diesel until battery technology is proven and reliable. The Charger locos will be reliable and low maintenance for their first decade. They have relatively advanced power management capability and hence fuel efficiency and emission control.
The capital required to string wires might be better spent on Phase II track and route improvements and expansion. Ridership gains will matter more in HFR’s first decade than the relative gains in green, considering that getting people out of cars and onto HFr in the first place is the big green improvement.
The batteries are coming, it’s just a matter of how soon. I’m not a fan of buying the 1.0 version of anything. The 2.0 battery locos will be a better buy. Patience is sometimes a virtue.

I do tend to agree with you. My only concern is if the advancements in battery technology continues at the same pace over the next decade as it has over the past decade (a near doubling of energy density and a decrease in cost per kWh by an order of magnitude), we could see a situation where the transition to ZEVs goes significantly faster than the government's current target. In that case, we could have a situation where by the mid 30's, the majority of road users aren't paying any carbon taxes but VIA is.

I am not saying this is a probable outcome (there are good reasons why, especially on the cost front, battery progress won't continue at the same rate), but it is possible.
 

crs1026

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I do tend to agree with you. My only concern is if the advancements in battery technology continues at the same pace over the next decade as it has over the past decade (a near doubling of energy density and a decrease in cost per kWh by an order of magnitude), we could see a situation where the transition to ZEVs goes significantly faster than the government's current target. In that case, we could have a situation where by the mid 30's, the majority of road users aren't paying any carbon taxes but VIA is.

I am not saying this is a probable outcome (there are good reasons why, especially on the cost front, battery progress won't continue at the same rate), but it is possible.

A battery loco fleet will be only so expensive. Worst case, suppose it’s $15M a copy in 2021 dollars. Even 50 units would only cost $750M (plus inflation). Saving $1B plus now by not stringing wires, against having to spend $750M (escalated) at some future date, seems like a good deal.

If the carbon tax proves painful, and the technology really soars in a hurry, VIA could partially or gradually replace diesel with battery, and reap whatever level of benefit it can afford.

Diesels typically depreciate in 15 years - so if the Chargers were written off after ten years its’s not a crippling hit to the balance sheet. Whereas the wires will be a pay-upfront, long-term depreciation proposition - and not scalable. So one has to think that the wires are a riskier investment and potentially a bigger stranded asset if battery comes on strong.

- Paul
 

Urban Sky

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Happy new year, everyone!

Falling increasingly tired of the lack of focus in the truckloads of posts we've seen in the last days, I was reminded of @roger1818's observation that this thread has grown to proportions which make it impossible to any new entrant to even remotely obtain an overview over what has already been discussed:
It is kind of the nature of the beast with forums. While it is good practice to go back and read old posts before posting, this thread is up to 548 pages which makes that a challenge.

I got curious as to how on earth we got to more than 500 pages and more than 8000 posts and therefore did a little statistical analysis in which I plotted the monthly tally since this thread's creation almost exactly 6 years ago:
1609558534592.png


Whereas the historical average is 116 posts per month (i.e. just under 4 posts per day), last month has seen almost six times as much (680 posts, or 42 pages) and was only the third month to exceed 300 posts. December 2018 (320 posts) was just after Siemens was revealed as the winning bidder for the ongoing Corridor fleet renewal and we apparently had some very engaged discussions about HFR and its various routing options in July 2019 (353 posts), but does anyone remember any discussions last month which would have deserved it to achieve a higher post count than the second- and third-most active months combined?

Therefore, I have created the following thread:

General railway discussions


As I've outlined in its opening post, that thread is dedicated to all kinds of rail-related discussions which don't really relate to any specific rail operator, its current or past operations (routes, schedules, fleet) or future plans, including (but certainly not limited to!):

  • Pros and Cons (or any kind of comparative analysis) of various rail (or non-rail) modes, including Monorails, Maglevs or Hyperloops
  • Pros and Cons (or any kind of comparative analysis) of various rail propulsion technologies, including discussions about different electrification technologies
  • Pros and Cons of transport infrastructure investments (including social impacts like housing prices)
  • Any kinds of rail-related discussions which concern multiple railroads or a railroad to which no thread has been dedicated so far

In short, I would welcome if we could limit the discussions in this thread to those concerning or directly affecting the operations, routes and fleet of VIA Rail (past and present) and its on-going projects (especially, but not limited to: HFR and the ongoing fleet renewal).

I would like to invite everyone in this forum to reflect on what discussions they engage with and how closely they relate to the topic of this thread, so that we can hopefully keep the discussions in this thread more focused by outsourcing tangential discussions into more pertinent threads...

Thank you very much for your consideration and have a great 2021! :)
 
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SFO-YYZ

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Happy new year, everyone!

Falling increasingly tired of the lack of focus in the truckloads of posts we've seen in the last days, I was reminded of @roger1818's observation that this thread has grown to proportions which make it impossible to any new entrant to even remotely obtain an overview over what has already been discussed:


I got curious as to how on earth we got to more than 500 pages and more than 8000 posts and therefore did a little statistical analysis in which I plotted the monthly tally since this thread's creation almost exactly 6 years ago:
View attachment 292056

Whereas the historical average is 116 posts per month (i.e. just under 4 posts per day), last month has seen almost six times as much (680 posts, or 42 pages) and was only the third month to exceed 300 posts. December 2018 (320 posts) was just after Siemens was revealed as the winning bidder for the ongoing Corridor fleet renewal and we apparently had some very engaged discussions about HFR and its various routing options in July 2019 (353 posts), but does anyone remember any discussions last month which would have deserved it to achieve a higher post count than the second- and third-most active months combined?

Therefore, I have created the following thread:

General railway discussions


As I've outlined in its opening post, that thread is dedicated to all kinds of rail-related discussions which don't really relate to any specific rail operator, its current or past operations (routes, schedules, fleet) or future plans, including (but certainly not limited to!):

  • Pros and Cons (or any kind of comparative analysis) of various rail (or non-rail) modes, including Monorails, Maglevs or Hyperloops
  • Pros and Cons (or any kind of comparative analysis) of various rail propulsion technologies, including discussions about different electrification technologies
  • Pros and Cons of transport infrastructure investments (including social impacts like housing prices)
  • Any kinds of rail-related discussions which concern multiple railroads or a railroad to which no thread has been dedicated so far

In short, I would welcome if we could limit the discussions in this thread to those concerning or directly affecting the operations, routes and fleet of VIA Rail (past and present) and its on-going projects (especially, but not limited to: HFR and the ongoing fleet renewal).

I would like to invite everyone in this forum to reflect on what discussions they engage with and how closely they relate to the topic of this thread, so that we can hopefully keep the discussions in this thread more focused by outsourcing tangential discussions into more pertinent threads...

Thank you very much for your consideration and have a great 2021! :)
Thanks Urban Sky, and completely agree with the above sentiment.

Over the past month, it has become increasingly hard to follow the various side-track convo, where for most readers on UT they probably just wanted to find out where HFR is at right now, any new updates on the Siemens rollingstock/fleet renewal project, and other VIA-related discussions that impact the masses. Would appreciate if we could stick to these topics.
 

roger1818

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Happy new year, everyone!

Falling increasingly tired of the lack of focus in the truckloads of posts we've seen in the last days, I was reminded of @roger1818's observation that this thread has grown to proportions which make it impossible to any new entrant to even remotely obtain an overview over what has already been discussed:


I got curious as to how on earth we got to more than 500 pages and more than 8000 posts and therefore did a little statistical analysis in which I plotted the monthly tally since this thread's creation almost exactly 6 years ago:
View attachment 292056

Whereas the historical average is 116 posts per month (i.e. just under 4 posts per day), last month has seen almost six times as much (680 posts, or 42 pages) and was only the third month to exceed 300 posts. December 2018 (320 posts) was just after Siemens was revealed as the winning bidder for the ongoing Corridor fleet renewal and we apparently had some very engaged discussions about HFR and its various routing options in July 2019 (353 posts), but does anyone remember any discussions last month which would have deserved it to achieve a higher post count than the second- and third-most active months combined?

Therefore, I have created the following thread:

General railway discussions


As I've outlined in its opening post, that thread is dedicated to all kinds of rail-related discussions which don't really relate to any specific rail operator, its current or past operations (routes, schedules, fleet) or future plans, including (but certainly not limited to!):

  • Pros and Cons (or any kind of comparative analysis) of various rail (or non-rail) modes, including Monorails, Maglevs or Hyperloops
  • Pros and Cons (or any kind of comparative analysis) of various rail propulsion technologies, including discussions about different electrification technologies
  • Pros and Cons of transport infrastructure investments (including social impacts like housing prices)
  • Any kinds of rail-related discussions which concern multiple railroads or a railroad to which no thread has been dedicated so far

In short, I would welcome if we could limit the discussions in this thread to those concerning or directly affecting the operations, routes and fleet of VIA Rail (past and present) and its on-going projects (especially, but not limited to: HFR and the ongoing fleet renewal).

I would like to invite everyone in this forum to reflect on what discussions they engage with and how closely they relate to the topic of this thread, so that we can hopefully keep the discussions in this thread more focused by outsourcing tangential discussions into more pertinent threads...

Thank you very much for your consideration and have a great 2021! :)

And Happy New Year to everyone. I agree with you and apologise for my part in any of the off topic discussions in this thread. I will try to keep my posts on the topic of VIA rail in the future. To keep this post on topic.

A battery loco fleet will be only so expensive. Worst case, suppose it’s $15M a copy in 2021 dollars. Even 50 units would only cost $750M (plus inflation). Saving $1B plus now by not stringing wires, against having to spend $750M (escalated) at some future date, seems like a good deal.

If the carbon tax proves painful, and the technology really soars in a hurry, VIA could partially or gradually replace diesel with battery, and reap whatever level of benefit it can afford.

I do tend to agree that VIA is likely better off waiting to see which technologies become feasible, it is just that the timing appears to be unfortunate.

Diesels typically depreciate in 15 years - so if the Chargers were written off after ten years its’s not a crippling hit to the balance sheet. Whereas the wires will be a pay-upfront, long-term depreciation proposition - and not scalable. So one has to think that the wires are a riskier investment and potentially a bigger stranded asset if battery comes on strong.

I am not sure I agree with your 15 year timeframe. The press release for the new fleet (which includes the Chargers) says it is expected to have a 30 year life. Some might say that is only for the coaches, but looking at VIAs existing locomotives, the F40PH-2's are already over 30 years old and the P42DC's, are 19 years old and the 2017-2021 Corporate Plan said, "They are due for a half-life overhaul." This indicates to me that VIA expects at least 30 years out of their locomotives, not 15 years.

One question about using the Chargers on reginal and long haul services, will they have Type H Tightlock or semi-permanent couplers to connect them to the train? A Type H would mean they would mean the Business 3A coaches would need to have a Type H coupler at one end (all documented train configurations have a Business 3A coach at the front), but that would be very restrictive. Using a semi-permanent couplers would improve flexibility with the new fleet, but would make it harder to use them with legacy coaches, unless they coupled two Chargers back to back as they have a standard coupler on the front. They could also make transition cars for trains that don't need two locomotives.

One other question about the new fleet. VIA has ordered 32 new trainsets (with the option to buy more), but they currently have 40 locomotives assigned to the corridor (19 F40s and 21 P42s). I know some locomotives are wasted by trains having one at each end but do they have 8 trains like that? On top of that, the new fleet has capacity for 9120 passengers (6336 economy and 2784 business), but doing the math on the existing corridor fleet, they currently have capacity for 9536 passengers (7160 economy and 2376 business). This is a significant reduction in overall capacity (and especially in economy capacity, but an increase in business capacity). Is this because VIA believes they can increase efficiency by using bi-directional trains?

Here is my math on the existing corridor fleet:

TypeNumberCapacityTotal Capacity
LRC Economy71684828
LRC Business26441144
LRC Total975972
HEP II Economy23681564
HEP II Business1056560
HEP II Total332124
Ren. Economy1648768
Ren. Business1448672
Ren. Total301440
Econ. Total11065.17160
Bus. Total5047.52376
Total1609536
 

dowlingm

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While I normally avoid discussion of rolling stock, I thought this video might be of interest here. The context is simply my looking forward to what the new Chargers will present for the average traveller. The reviewer's comments may hint at some positive things that hopefully Siemens does just as well, and some things that they might improve on over this product.

Given past discussion here about DMU, the contrast between the interior experience during the electric and DMU portions of this train's journey is interesting.

It's just one reviewer's opinion, and I'm not pro or con this train product... it's the things the reviewer thinks are worth pointing out that are interesting.

The reviewer giving tugs and taps to the fixtures and finishes. To be fair, if I was riding in a Pistoia built product I might be doing the same. It may say Hitachi on the builder plate, but...
 

kEiThZ

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I am not sure I agree with your 15 year timeframe. The press release for the new fleet (which includes the Chargers) says it is expected to have a 30 year life. Some might say that is only for the coaches, but looking at VIAs existing locomotives, the F40PH-2's are already over 30 years old and the P42DC's, are 19 years old and the 2017-2021 Corporate Plan said, "They are due for a half-life overhaul." This indicates to me that VIA expects at least 30 years out of their locomotives, not 15 years.

What VIA plans for and what is the depreciation timeframe are two different things though. VIA can plan to use them for 30 years, with the locos having substantially reduced economic values after 15 years. Basically, the point at which they need a midlife overhaul is the best time to try and sell them. Get someone else to pay for the overhaul and a good time for VIA to buy the latest and greatest.

Also, there's just so many variables with electrification going on in the Corridor. Giving it 10-15 years to shake out makes sense. GO won't really by sorted out until the 2030s. And nobody knows if, how and when Exo will electrify. They have lost their only electrified corridor to REM.

One other question about the new fleet. VIA has ordered 32 new trainsets (with the option to buy more), but they currently have 40 locomotives assigned to the corridor (19 F40s and 21 P42s). I know some locomotives are wasted by trains having one at each end but do they have 8 trains like that? On top of that, the new fleet has capacity for 9120 passengers (6336 economy and 2784 business), but doing the math on the existing corridor fleet, they currently have capacity for 9536 passengers (7160 economy and 2376 business). This is a significant reduction in overall capacity (and especially in economy capacity, but an increase in business capacity). Is this because VIA believes they can increase efficiency by using bi-directional trains?

I brought this up a while ago. I was equally concerned about a drop in capacity. But:

1) Higher fleet availability should boost capacity. The maintenance/spare ratio should be lower.

2) New operational strategies like the Kingston Hub, HFR and bi-directional operation should allow for faster trips, reduced layover times and higher utilization driving up actual capacity offered.

And honestly, trading an 8% drop in Y seats for a 17% boost in J seats is a sensible decision. VIA really does need to expand business class. It's getting a lot more business travelers. But has to charge exorbitant prices thanks to yield management of just one car of business pax. That small cut in Y pax will mean less Y discounting though.
 
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crs1026

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I brought this up a while ago. I was equally concerned about a drop in capacity. But:

1) Higher fleet availability should boost capacity. The maintenance/spare ratio should be lower.

2) New operational strategies like the Kingston Hub, HFR and bi-directional operation should allow for faster trips, reduced layover times and higher utilization driving up actual capacity offered.

@kEiThZ captured my depreciation point.... it’s an accounting/book value thing. At 15 years one typically either rebuilds the loco (a capital, rather than operating, line item) or moves on to something new. It’s a need new new capital every 15 years proposition either way.

In my usual black-hat way I’m not thrilled either with the seat-for-seat approach to replacing the fleet. There will be better utilization, but ultimately it constrains VIA’s ability to grow. It boggles my mind that some HEP equipment is to be retained as a contingency fleet. Fits my abandonment by Federal Government neglect conspiracy theory mentality.

The big difference I see is that VIA is rebuilding its maintenance shops so that trainsets can be maintained without uncoupling. That applies to locomotives also. That’s pretty common elsewhere, and I’m assuming that there is data showing that trainset availability doesn’t suffer. If so, there is less need for locomotive spares, so a fleet of only one loco per trainset is feasible.

It’s interesting to see VIA retaining its own maintenance operation in-house. Overseas, one sees plenty of new maintenance facilities with the equipment builder’s name on the wall, often custom built for the specific trainset model. I’m not arguing for that, but it’s interesting that VIA and Siemens didn’t go there.

- Paul
 
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henrydm

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In an ideal world, we could make the double-tracked CN tracks and the double-tracked CP tracks that run parcel to each other from Dorion to Lachine government owned. CN and CP could use tracks that would be separate from tracks that EXO and VIA use. The Exo and Via tracks could be electrified too
 

roger1818

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What VIA plans for and what is the depreciation timeframe are two different things though. VIA can plan to use them for 30 years, with the locos having substantially reduced economic values after 15 years. Basically, the point at which they need a midlife overhaul is the best time to try and sell them. Get someone else to pay for the overhaul and a good time for VIA to buy the latest and greatest.

There is difference between the residual value of the locomotive and the cost of replacement. It is usually cheaper to refurbish an existing locomotive than it is to replace it (assuming it is in otherwise good condition).

Who would VIA sell them to? If the conditions have changed such that VIA needs to replace them with some type of fully electric locomotive, I don't know how much market there will be for used diesel-electric locomotives. Even if there is a market, they would be getting pennies on the dollar. Another option, since the Charger is partially based on the Siemens ACS-64, is it might be possible to electrify them at time of refurbishment. That could be cheaper (and more politically acceptable) than replacing them. They might even be able to remove the Cummins QSK95 diesel engine and the fuel tank and replace them with batteries. Granted this wouldn't be as good as a new, purpose built locomotive, but it might be an option.

Also, there's just so many variables with electrification going on in the Corridor. Giving it 10-15 years to shake out makes sense. GO won't really by sorted out until the 2030s. And nobody knows if, how and when Exo will electrify. They have lost their only electrified corridor to REM.

I do tend to agree. I just wouldn't be surprised if the decision is made to electrify HFR. That would most likely be a political decision, not an economic one though.

I brought this up a while ago. I was equally concerned about a drop in capacity. But:

1) Higher fleet availability should boost capacity. The maintenance/spare ratio should be lower.

That is true. I gather the Resonance trains especially have very high maintenance requirements.

2) New operational strategies like the Kingston Hub, HFR and bi-directional operation should allow for faster trips, reduced layover times and higher utilization driving up actual capacity offered.

I already mentioned bi-directional operation. The Kingston Hub only occurs if HFR is approved and if that happens, VIA has the option to purchase 12 additional trainsets from Siemens, which would be a significant boost to capacity.

And honestly, trading an 8% drop in Y seats for a 17% boost in J seats is a sensible decision. VIA really does need to expand business class. It's getting a lot more business travelers. But has to charge exorbitant prices thanks to yield management of just one car of business pax. That small cut in Y pax will mean less Y discounting though.

Except when you look at the 4 different trainset layouts VIA is planning on using, the short and extra short layouts only use 1 business coach and the extra long layout doesn't have any extra business coaches. This means that unless they convert some of business coaches to economy coaches (either in the existing order of 32 or, as @Urban Sky suggested, in the option to buy more), they will have a bunch of business coaches sitting around collecting dust. If you look at the different configurations, the standard (long) configuration has the highest percentage of business seats.

TypeTotal SeatsEconomy SeatsBusiness SeatsPercent Business
Extra short1761324425.0%
Short2421984418.2%
Long2851988730.5%
Extra long4183318720.8%
 
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kEiThZ

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Who would VIA sell them to?

Mostly because they might not need them if funding comes through for BEMUs.

Again, we're all looking at all these discussions through the lens of VIA as they are today. But the Charger/Venture fleet won't be fully delivered till 2024 (2025-2026 for VIA). So 15 years from that is the late 2030s. That is a long ways away. In that time, assuming HFR is built and hopefully even extended, VIA will be a substantially different entity. GO will have hopefully finished the RER buildout and may even be considering service and electrification partly or fully on the HFR corridor to Peterborough. Battery tech may be so good that BEMUs capable of doing 300 km at 200 kph will be available. At that point, it becomes logical for VIA to consider whether a midlife update makes sense or they would be better off selling the whole Charger/Venture fleet to some developing country and get a brand new BEMU fleet, or even just sell the locos and get an electric tractor (like the ACS-64). We'll also have a much higher carbon tax at that point, improving the business case for moving away from diesel substantially.

Except when you look at the 4 different trainset layouts VIA is planning on using, the short and extra short layouts only use 1 business coach and the extra long layout doesn't have any extra business coaches. This means that unless they convert some of business coaches to economy coaches (either in the existing order of 32 or, as @Urban Sky suggested, in the option to buy more), they will have a bunch of business coaches sitting around collecting dust. If you look at the different configurations, the standard (long) configuration has the highest percentage of business seats.

They are going to plan for a lot more configurations than they will actually use. And none of us will know how that works out till the fleet is in service. There's also the potential HFR order which will then have them ordering different sets of cars to rebalance the fleet for HFR, the Kingston hub and service to Southwestern Ontario. I see them taking all the new fleets with the Long config. And then deploying Extra Long on TOM HFR, Short on Montreal-Quebec HFR and Kingston hub, and Long on the Southwestern Ontario routes.

I get what you're thinking with the percentages of business seats. But that's not exactly how it works. The market for business travelers is somewhat independent to the market for economy travelers. It's not that they'll have 20% or 30% of J class bookings on a given route but that maybe the route will consistently support 1.5 cars worth of business pax.

Lastly, I don't think VIA has planned this far, but airlines to offer upgrades to frequent flyers and that helps retain loyalty. Having a little bit more business capacity would let VIA occasionally bump up frequent users as a reward.
 
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