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VIA Rail

cplchanb

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I think it would be more politically challenging to cancel The Canadian than order new rolling stock. HFR and The Corridor in general are obviously where VIA needs to focus on expansion, but I think cancelling The Canadian because the government didn't want to replace the rolling stock would open a whole can of worms politically. Hopefully they can keep going with the Budd equipment long enough that they're able to get the investment in HFR going without any drama regarding expanding service in Quebec and Ontario while possibly discontinuing it in the west. I think the subtle deal with rail service in this country is VIA maintains a skeletal service from coast to coast and people don't complain (too much) that most of the service is concentrated in Ontario and Quebec (where it makes the most economic sense).
Perhaps with this replacement reality coming up its going to give the impetus to divest Via into a private company with govt mandates. Apart from the couple of panoramic cars in the 2000s I dont think Via has ever invested anything in new rolling stock since they were formed.
They will probably offload the Canadian and the Ocean first before they buy more trains.
 

roger1818

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We will never get a fleet replacement of the Canadian. The only thing that will ever happen to that will be its eventual selling off to someone like Rocky Mountaineer as a tourist train.

Replacing that money pit with a new fleet would be political suicide.

If it is a money pit like you claim, who would buy it?
 

Bordercollie

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If it is a money pit like you claim, who would buy it?
I think it would be very politically unpopular to discontinue a service that has been mandated as essential for God knows how long.

And with a focus on a greener economy, it would be good PR for the government to invest in railways. Plus it can be presented as a make work project after covid to help the economy.

Not sure what Erin O'Toole mandate would look like but I don't think there is a chance that he's going to get elected with a majority mandate anytime soon.

And in a minority, the NDP, Greens and Liberals would not let VIA dissaperar.

With Amtrak Biden in the white house and a Multi billion dollar hole in the capital budget for Amtrak there is a possibility that VIA has an opportunity to tack on to an Amtrak order. It happened with the P42's and the new corridor fleet, what's to say it won't happen again.
 

Urban Sky

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If it is a money pit like you claim, who would buy it?
Thankfully, it isn’t a money pit and with direct revenues representing 101.2% of direct costs in 2017 and 90.2% in 2018, Canadian taxpayers would be worse off without the Canadian, at least after accounting for the direct (sales tax paid on the ticket price) and indirect (sales and other consumption taxes on any other goods and services consumed by international tourists, which would otherwise probably have benefitted the taxpayers of a different country) tax revenues it generates:

Source: re-post from post #6,707 and #7,870

However, given that no railroad can capture these direct and indirect tax revenues it generates, the Canadian in its current (pre-CoVid) state is economically viable only for a public railroad, but not a private one. You just have to compare its offerings with that of RMR or the Indian Pacific or Ghan in Australia to estimate what privatizing it would do to keeping transcontinental rail service accessible to most Canadians...
 
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Bordercollie

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Plus to mandate a private company to provide an essential service will require a subsidy. Is that cheaper than doing it yourself? Since now they can take the earnings from the corridor and put it towards the Canadian and Ocean. But without that, it's going to be less economically viable.
 

trebello

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I think that's a good point - - I've heard people claim The Canadian is effectively the government subsidising wealthy tourists, but in reality it would cost Transport Canada a lot more to subsidise a mandated essential service if there wasn't a bunch of tourists paying top dollar to ride in prestige class. In a way those tourists are helping to subsidise an essential service instead of having taxpayers doing it. Privatising the service would obviously still require a subsidy if essential service was to be offered in areas that aren't profitable for a private operator (e.g. in Northern Ontario in the winter). If Australia is any indication (the Indian Pacific as Urban Sky mentioned), the subsidy to a private company would eventually prove unpopular and be dropped, leaving only a trans-continental Rocky Mountaineer type train. Once, about 10 years ago on the Canadian a staff member told me they'd heard of a possibility of VIA somehow partnering with RMR in some way, but this was back in the Steven Harper days and I haven't heard a thing about it since (if it was even true in the first place).
 

roger1818

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Given that the seating in business class is 2+1 but in economy it is 2+2, there is a good chance that the seats are wider in business class.

I stumbled across some evidence to back this up. According to Wikipedia, Brightline's "Select" coaches (their name for business class) have "21-inch (530 mm)-wide seats" while their "Smart" fare coaches (economy) have "narrower 19-inch (480 mm)-wide seats." Now there is no guarantee that VIA will use the same seats as Brightline, but there is a good chance they will since they are going for the same 2x1 seating arrangement in business class.
 

roger1818

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I think that's a good point - - I've heard people claim The Canadian is effectively the government subsidising wealthy tourists, but in reality it would cost Transport Canada a lot more to subsidise a mandated essential service if there wasn't a bunch of tourists paying top dollar to ride in prestige class. In a way those tourists are helping to subsidise an essential service instead of having taxpayers doing it. Privatising the service would obviously still require a subsidy if essential service was to be offered in areas that aren't profitable for a private operator (e.g. in Northern Ontario in the winter). If Australia is any indication (the Indian Pacific as Urban Sky mentioned), the subsidy to a private company would eventually prove unpopular and be dropped, leaving only a trans-continental Rocky Mountaineer type train. Once, about 10 years ago on the Canadian a staff member told me they'd heard of a possibility of VIA somehow partnering with RMR in some way, but this was back in the Steven Harper days and I haven't heard a thing about it since (if it was even true in the first place).

The media likes to divide any subsidy that can even remotely be attributed to the Canadian equally among the passengers, regardless of whether they are paying several thousands dollars or a few hundred dollars per person. That isn't really fair as the person paying more is likely paying more than their share of the costs of operating the train (even if you consider the extra costs of providing premium service). It makes for good headlines though, regardless of how misleading it is.
 

kEiThZ

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I stumbled across some evidence to back this up. According to Wikipedia, Brightline's "Select" coaches (their name for business class) have "21-inch (530 mm)-wide seats" while their "Smart" fare coaches (economy) have "narrower 19-inch (480 mm)-wide seats." Now there is no guarantee that VIA will use the same seats as Brightline, but there is a good chance they will since they are going for the same 2x1 seating arrangement in business class.

Will add that this is way more comfortable than bus or plane. A 20 -21" wide seat is what you get on domestic business class. And a 17-18" wide seat is what you get in economy. The CSeries/A220 has 18" wide seats with one 19" wide seat or airlines can opt for 18.6" wide seats across the whole row. That's the closest you'll come in the air to what VIA is probably likely to offer with the new fleet. Never have to worry about armrest wars on the train.
 

crs1026

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The media likes to divide any subsidy that can even remotely be attributed to the Canadian equally among the passengers, regardless of whether they are paying several thousands dollars or a few hundred dollars per person. That isn't really fair as the person paying more is likely paying more than their share of the costs of operating the train (even if you consider the extra costs of providing premium service). It makes for good headlines though, regardless of how misleading it is.

It's not just the media. It's the lobbyists, and by extension the people they are lobbying, and anyone making speeches. It's so important for VIA to be able to counter all of this with independent transparent actual facts.

- Paul
 

trebello

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I have what might be a silly question, but I can't find the answer: how does VIA set train numbers? I ask because there seems to generally be a pattern where corridor services are two digit numbers above 20 and most remote services are three digit numbers that usually start with a six (e.g. Winnipeg Churchull, northern Quebec) ... but then there are strange exceptions like train 643 (Ottawa - Kingston - Toronto) listed in with trains 53 and 59 between the same cities. Why are a few corridor trains three digits numbers starting with a six?
 

roger1818

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I have what might be a silly question, but I can't find the answer: how does VIA set train numbers? I ask because there seems to generally be a pattern where corridor services are two digit numbers above 20 and most remote services are three digit numbers that usually start with a six (e.g. Winnipeg Churchull, northern Quebec) ... but then there are strange exceptions like train 643 (Ottawa - Kingston - Toronto) listed in with trains 53 and 59 between the same cities. Why are a few corridor trains three digits numbers starting with a six?

They seem to have drifted from this standard, but from my observations, it used to be that in the corridor 2 digit trains were for weekday (and weekend if it used the same schedule) trains and were numbered as follows, with even train numbers for eastbound and odd numbers for westbound:
2x - Quebec-Montreal​
3x - Montreal-Ottawa​
4x - Ottawa-Toronto​
5x&6x - Montreal-Toronto​
7x - Toronto-Windsor​
8x - Toronto-London/Sarnia​
9x - Toronto-Niagara Falls​
If a train only ran on weekends, it would be 3 digits with the same format but prefixed by a 6 (Saturday is day 6 on VIA schedules).

The problem was, that meant there was a limit of 5 trains a day each way for all routes (except Montreal-Toronto which could have 10), so lately they have been also using the 6 prefix to allow more than 5 trains a day. They also seem to have moved the 5x numbers to Ottawa-Toronto. There also seem to be other exceptions.

It will be interesting to see what VIA does with train numbers after HFR.

EDIT: Added 9x Niagara Falls trains to make list more complete, thanks @smallspy
 
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