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VIA Rail

Urban Sky

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well,at least in the BC rail version there’s a reduction in total mileage operated equivalent to the eastern portion of the Skeena, while also reopening service on what was treated as an essential remote corridor until BC a rail was sold.
It still is considered as such and ready for a ride Fridays or - if you don’t mind staying overnight in Seton Portage - any other day:

Update Here is the schedule:
2D3E3C8D-5126-47A3-8DF6-B48AD505C34A.jpeg

Source: Canada and Alaska Timetable (May 2022 Edition)

Honestly, my preferred solution would be to build HFR West, re-route Canadian via Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon AND Regina while abandoning the pretext of the Skeena being a single train, rather operating three services: Edmonton - Prince George, Prince George - Prince Rupert and Vancouver - Prince George, scheduled to retain the overnight connection in Prince George. That, however, has no upside to someone who’s line of thinking is that VIAs mandate should be to minimize losses.
I’m not against rethinking VIA’s network, I just believe that every suggestion should have clear advantages over the Status Quo and not target markets to which the kind of service VIA can offer would be inherently irrelevant, given the constraints under which it operates…
 
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C_Johnson_1995

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Related to the Skeena, what is the purpose of keeping that train running? The route is paralleled by highways and I would imagine given the length of the consist and the potential ridership that the train is horribly inefficient compared to busses. What keeps that service alive?
 

Urban Sky

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Related to the Skeena, what is the purpose of keeping that train running? The route is paralleled by highways and I would imagine given the length of the consist and the potential ridership that the train is horribly inefficient compared to busses. What keeps that service alive?
Most probably: inertia, as all the VIA routes which have disappeared since 1990 were lost due to infrastructure issues, as I’ve already remarked two years ago:
[…] Despite the favorite narrative of most "rail entusiasts" and self-declared "rail experts" in this country, VIA's history is not dominated by cuts and decline. Granted, its first 15 years of existance saw a consolidation (mostly by rationalizing the overlapping CN and CP networks) in 1976-1979 and then some cuts in 1981 (partly reversed in 1985) and of course the devastating cuts in 1990. However, since 1990, VIA's network has been remarkably stable and seen considerable growth in the Corridor (just look at QBEC-MTRL, MTRL-OTTW and OTTW-TRTO, which all grew from 3 trains per day to 5, 6 and 10 trains today). In fact, all five routes which disappeared in the last 30 years (the Atlantic, the Chaleau, Senneterre-Cochrane, Pukatawagan-Lynn Lake, Victoria-Courtenay) were lost due to infrastructure issues (and we are not talking about the downgrade-to-80-rather-than-100-mph category).

In the same way, the frequencies the federal government has allowed VIA to offer seem to generally respect the "minimum frequencies" outlined in Schedule 1 of the legislature enacting the 1990-01-15 cuts, which happen to match the January 1990 timetable. Besides the once-weekly mixed train Wabowden-Churchill and the third frequency of the The Pas-Pukatawagan train, all routes continue to operate at frequencies which respect the "minimum frquencies" I just mentioned. The only rupture were the 2012 cuts, when the federal government imposed a budget cut onto VIA, but gave VIA the liberty to decide where these cuts would do the least damage, which reduced the frequencies offered between London&Sarnia, Toronto&Niagara Falls and (during winter only) on the Canadian below the 1990 levels:
1590802356625-png.248556

Note: service levels below those of 1990 are highlighted in orange (when caused by infrastructure issues) or yellow (when caused by funding cuts)

Apart from the 1990 cuts, the federal government's approach to VIA seems to have been "the status quo with limited incremental changes" and it is not surprising that this has also become VIA's own approach during the last decades (one just needs to recall the obscure Friday-only stop of train 26 in Coteau, which has survived since 1992 in VIA's schedules...). […]


Anyways, given that the combined direct operating loss for all five remaining “remote” routes (i.e. JONQ, SENN, WHTR, CHUR and PRUP) accounted to only $20.0 million in 2018 (i.e. about half a Dollar per Canadian), what is the harm of running all of these services unchanged, even if the conditions based on which some of them were once classified as “remote” might have changed?
 
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lenaitch

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^^ Also, with the publicity over the 'Highway of Tears' over the last number of years, I imagine the government would be loathe to take any step that looks like it is removing a public transportation option. Even if it had nothing to do with it and busses would be a viable alternative, why give the opposition et al a talking point.
 

crs1026

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^^ Also, with the publicity over the 'Highway of Tears' over the last number of years, I imagine the government would be loathe to take any step that looks like it is removing a public transportation option. Even if it had nothing to do with it and busses would be a viable alternative, why give the opposition et al a talking point.

This is true, although at some point a “service to nowhere” does become a talking point anyways. Once the issue becomes rhetorical, the number of zeroes loses significance. It’s all fat-cat government waste once the Sun gets a hold of it.

To make a change, government has to announce a notional or real “improvement”. In the case of the Skeena, converting to a bus likely doesn’t fulfil that requirement. But maybe two buses a day, with some route tweaks that brings service to new communities or brings rider closer to services, might sell. One would have to do a fairly careful comparison to know which stakeholders and customers might come out ahead, or not.

In the case of the Canadian, I do foresee heavy weather when the equipment replacement decision becomes unavoidable. No government of any stripe would go out on a limb by killing the present service out of the blue, but spending half a billion dollars so VIa can continue doing same old same old (as good as it is) is politically unworkable, notwithstanding @Urban Sky ‘s very logical and valid explanation of all the functions the train serves. There will have to be some statement of a “newer” or “better” aspect before a government would stand behind the decision. I am suspicious that - especially if HFR is so packaged - the deal might be bundled as a P3 to obscure the capital cost and introduce a contractor to make the operation appear closer to a private-sector arrangement and less of a “government job”. That might be a good thing if it secures the service, but as I have observed before, those arrangements often mean the same people doing the same work for less remuneration while the contractor rakes in a cut. Personally, I like what VIA is doing and would like to see it continued…. but when the investment decision lands on the public’s radar screen, all bets are off.

- Paul
 
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Bordercollie

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This is true, although at some point a “service to nowhere” does become a talking point anyways. Once the issue becomes rhetorical, the number of zeroes loses significance. It’s all fat-cat government waste once the Sun gets a hold of it.

To make a change, government has to announce a notional or real “improvement”. In the case of the Skeena, converting to a bus likely doesn’t fulfil that requirement. But maybe two buses a day, with some route tweaks that brings service to new communities or brings rider closer to services, might sell. One would have to do a fairly careful comparison to know which stakeholders and customers might come out ahead, or not.

In the case of the Canadian, I do foresee heavy weather when the equipment replacement decision becomes unavoidable. No government of any stripe would go out on a limb by killing the present service out of the blue, but spending half a billion dollars so VIa can continue doing same old same old is politically unworkable, notwithstanding @Urban Sky ‘s very logical and valid explanation of all the functions the train serves. There will have to be some statement of a “newer” or “better” aspect before a government would stand behind the decision. I am suspicious that - especially if HFR is so packaged - the deal might be bundled as a P3 to obscure the capital cost and introduce a contractor to make the operation appear closer to a private-sector arrangement and less of a “government job”. That might be a good thing if it secures the service, but as I have observed before, those arrangements often mean the same people doing the same work for less remuneration while the contractor rakes in a cut.

- Paul
I think a few things need to be taken into consideration:

The government has a responsibility to reduce emissions by 2030.
Fuel prices have doubled
NEW gas cars will be phased out in 2030.
Flying is a pain - May be temporary
New Generation of Canadians drive less.
No National Bus transportation. (Greyhound).

With these factors taken into consideration there should be more demand for passenger rail at least in the corridor. Possibly spill over to some rural services.
 

kEiThZ

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Anyways, given that the combined direct operating loss for all five remaining “remote” routes (i.e. JONQ, SENN, WHTR, CHUR and PRUP) accounted to only $20.0 million in 2018 (i.e. about half a Dollar per Canadian), what is the harm of running all of these services unchanged, even if the conditions based on which some of them were once classified as “remote” might have changed?

This is true, although at some point a “service to nowhere” does become a talking point anyways. Once the issue becomes rhetorical, the number of zeroes loses significance. It’s all fat-cat government waste once the Sun gets a hold of it.

To some extent this criticism is not wrong here. It's wasteful to keep services going simply because of inertia and political expediency. And it's going to be a point of contention when the government does this while avoiding investing in major populated corridors. How do you tell someone from Alberta that VIA isn't wasteful while it keeps trains to Podunk nowhere going, but can't deliver service between Calgary and Edmonton. And while I get the history and politics of it all, if you were in their shoes, you'd see this as wasteful.

NEW gas cars will be phased out in 2030.

2035 actually.
 

roger1818

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The cynical side of me wonders if the reason the government is planning to move all corridor services to a P3 arrangement is a plan to kill off VIA's long distance and regional services. Without the income from corridor services, the subsidy required for the remaining services will skyrocket, and it will be politically much easier politically to defund without appearing to favour Ontario and Quebec. By also backing a P3 Calgary-Banff train, it shows that the government is willing to invest in rail anywhere in the country, where it makes financial sense to do so. They may also throw some money at private bus companies for a few years until the storm blows over. They may also work with First Nations to have them take over operation of routes that are important to them.

I am not saying this is a good plan, just that it may be an ulterior motive of the government.
 

robmausser

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The cynical side of me wonders if the reason the government is planning to move all corridor services to a P3 arrangement is a plan to kill off VIA's long distance and regional services. Without the income from corridor services, the subsidy required for the remaining services will skyrocket, and it will be politically much easier politically to defund without appearing to favour Ontario and Quebec. By also backing a P3 Calgary-Banff train, it shows that the government is willing to invest in rail anywhere in the country, where it makes financial sense to do so. They may also throw some money at private bus companies for a few years until the storm blows over. They may also work with First Nations to have them take over operation of routes that are important to them.

I am not saying this is a good plan, just that it may be an ulterior motive of the government.

Move all corridor services to a P3 arrangement? This is news to me...

VIA HFR will be P3. The corridor is going nowhere, in fact VIA has stated they will be increasing corridor services along with HFR.

HFR is NOT corridor services. It's a separate service and the existing corridor services, for the last time, are going nowhere.
 

crs1026

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The cynical side of me wonders if the reason the government is planning to move all corridor services to a P3 arrangement is a plan to kill off VIA's long distance and regional services.

Whether it's a plan, or just the collateral damage of the HFR planning outcome, I think it's likely that a VIA Rail Canada agency would cease to be sustainable as a freestanding agency once the Corridor operation is removed. This fact must be apparent and acceptable to the government as a consequence of separating HFR as a P3.

I raised the possibility of a P3 for long distance because I can't conceive of a scenario where a government justifies replacing the fleet, and thus committing to the long distance service for decades more, without some nod to transfer to the private sector. At the same time, I cannot imagine any private investors stepping in to buy the operation as a standalone business. Nor can I buy the premise that the service could be cancelled without a public outcry. I am not a fan of P3's, but it does provide a sellable win-win middle ground where someone other than government has accountability for running the service efficiently and the fiscal backstopping of risk and costs is retained by the government with appropriate curtains over the public spend.

- Paul
 

roger1818

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Move all corridor services to a P3 arrangement? This is news to me...

VIA HFR will be P3. The corridor is going nowhere, in fact VIA has stated they will be increasing corridor services along with HFR.

HFR is NOT corridor services. It's a separate service and the existing corridor services, for the last time, are going nowhere.

The Definitions section (pg. 63) of the HFR RFEOI defines "Existing VIA Services" as "Existing passenger railway services operated by VIA Rail within the Corridor until transfer of responsibility to the Private Partner."
 

kEiThZ

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The Definitions section (pg. 63) of the HFR RFEOI defines "Existing VIA Services" as "Existing passenger railway services operated by VIA Rail within the Corridor until transfer of responsibility to the Private Partner."

Reading this is worthwhile. To those who don't want to, you can watch the info session:

 

trebello

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Related to the Skeena, what is the purpose of keeping that train running? The route is paralleled by highways and I would imagine given the length of the consist and the potential ridership that the train is horribly inefficient compared to busses. What keeps that service alive?
It is on the opposite side of the river from the highway in many places. There are some very small communities without any road access (e.g. Dorreen and Bend), one community with only a seasonal ferry service (e.g. Usk), and a few with only a rough gravel road for access (e.g. Penny). DownieLive has a video showing some of the people using the Skeena to go get groceries (
)
 

Bordercollie

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The Definitions section (pg. 63) of the HFR RFEOI defines "Existing VIA Services" as "Existing passenger railway services operated by VIA Rail within the Corridor until transfer of responsibility to the Private Partner."
But they will still be mandated to provide services to the areas which they are required for.

It would be nothing different than Miller being contracted out to run the YRT buses.
 

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