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VIA Rail

Urban Sky

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I am just curious, are the names attached to departures relevant to VIA anymore? I have not heard references to any names except "The Canadian" and to lessor extent "The Ocean" for years, even close to decades.
During my six years at VIA, I also heard the Jasper-Prince Rupert service regularly called as „Skeena“ and maybe the Gaspé train as „Chaleur“. That said, I believe that these legacy Corridor train names still show up when you look up the train in ReserVIA or other internal systems…
 
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nfitz

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I am just curious, are the names attached to departures relevant to VIA anymore? I have not heard references to any names except "The Canadian" and to lessor extent "The Ocean" for years, even close to decades.
It's useful for those of us who travelled it regularly back in the day ... the Bonaventure (55/56) was the almost 6-hour late-afternoon milk run that you tried to avoid, being better off on the preceding Turbo (66/67 - later on the Renaissance - which was typically LRC equipment and sometimes scheduled for under 4 hours but more often 4.5 hours), or the following Simcoe (68/69 which took about 5 hours - sometimes better).
 

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It's useful for those of us who travelled it regularly back in the day ... the Bonaventure (55/56) was the almost 6-hour late-afternoon milk run that you tried to avoid, being better off on the preceding Turbo (66/67 - later on the Renaissance - which was typically LRC equipment and sometimes scheduled for under 4 hours but more often 4.5 hours), or the following Simcoe (68/69 which took about 5 hours - sometimes better).
If HFR is built could they bring back the night train with a midnight departure and 8am arrival in Quebec city?
 

nfitz

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If HFR is built could they bring back the night train with a midnight departure and 8am arrival in Quebec city?
They could. But was there ever one to Quebec City - I thought it was Toronto to Ottawa/Montreal splitting at Brockville (and sitting there for a couple of hours or so, to get a good sleep)?

Would there be a demand though - and how much would it cost to run compared to pricing (though the price of downtown Toronto hotels these days ... though looks cheap than the summer - I see some under $200 now - couldn't find much under $400 last time I looked).

My guess, is that this one is for the history books.
 

Bordercollie

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They could. But was there ever one to Quebec City - I thought it was Toronto to Ottawa/Montreal splitting at Brockville (and sitting there for a couple of hours or so, to get a good sleep)?

Would there be a demand though - and how much would it cost to run compared to pricing (though the price of downtown Toronto hotels these days ... though looks cheap than the summer - I see some under $200 now - couldn't find much under $400 last time I looked).

My guess, is that this one is for the history books.
Sometimes hotels in Toronto can be in the 300+ range for anything better than holiday inn. Especially in the downtown core.

You would need almost lie flat seats or something similar to first class on an airline. But you get free booze so that's a bonus.
 

nfitz

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Sometimes hotels in Toronto can be in the 300+ range for anything better than holiday inn. Especially in the downtown core.
I think the Holiday Inn was around $400 in the summer, downtown! I was looking at some options in London, UK, and the prices there this summer were about 1/3 of the price here!

I never saw anything like that pre-Covid ... and it's a bit puzzling, as I thought tourism was still below pre-Covid levels - airline passenger numbers were still.
 

Bordercollie

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I think the Holiday Inn was around $400 in the summer, downtown! I was looking at some options in London, UK, and the prices there this summer were about 1/3 of the price here!

I never saw anything like that pre-Covid ... and it's a bit puzzling, as I thought tourism was still below pre-Covid levels - airline passenger numbers were still.
Apparently airlines that had flight cancellations could not find a single room in the city to accomodate customers who were stranded and told them too bad so sad.

I don't know if that's just near the airport but I've seen flight crews even staying at the Novotel at North York Centre so that must mean that every reasonably priced room was sold out. (not sure about the four seasons or the Ritz-Carlton.).

VIA and airlines probably have bulk agreements with certain hotels and they may not be able to book rooms outside of that scope. Not sure how it works though.
 

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Has VIA ever considered using or used the dining cars in the corridor (excluding the Canadian)?
I realize this thought is mostly futile with the deployment of the new corridor fleet...
 

Urban Sky

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Has VIA ever considered using or used the dining cars in the corridor (excluding the Canadian)?
I realize this thought is mostly futile with the deployment of the new corridor fleet...
Taking aside the obvious economic hurdles, how do you want to ensure a consistent passenger experience if you don’t have enough diners to serve all departures, even on one single route like Montreal-Toronto?
 

Northern Light

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Taking aside the obvious economic hurdles, how do you want to ensure a consistent passenger experience if you don’t have enough diners to serve all departures, even on one single route like Montreal-Toronto?

Perhaps I could rephrase @SamStar 's question.

Has consideration every been given to including diners in the corridor fleet? (I assume the answer is no, but do correct me if I'm wrong!)

Irrespective of the answer, perhaps you could help those less familiar with the business modelling here as to why that would or would not make sense.
 

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Perhaps I could rephrase @SamStar 's question.

Has consideration every been given to including diners in the corridor fleet? (I assume the answer is no, but do correct me if I'm wrong!)

Irrespective of the answer, perhaps you could help those less familiar with the business modelling here as to why that would or would not make sense.
The answer starts with an obvious question: what would be the problem which deploying dining cars might fix?

As for the Economics, suppose that I can sell each seat for an average fare of $50 and that I need one service attendant for every two cars. With any kind of dining facilities, I lose multiple seats (resulting in lower ticket revenues), while having at least one additional crew member to pay (resulting in higher operating costs). As much as I love them, there are unfortunately very good reasons why dining car are steadily retreating from Western Europe and virtually extinct in Japan…
 
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Northern Light

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The answer starts with an obvious question: what would be the problem which deploying dining cars might fix?

A fair question, particularly for shorter duration runs like Toronto-Ottawa or Ottawa-Montreal.

However, on a longer, continuous trip (which would be less common in the corridor, obviously), say a Toronto-Quebec City; or a London-Montreal, I think there is certainly a creature comfort appeal to a more pleasant dining experience, and being able to allow customers/encourage customers to stretch their legs and shift cars during the course of their journey.

Obviously, if this means net adding one additional car, for which tickets are not sold there is a cost in fuel and crew.

As for the Economics, suppose that I can sell each seat for an average fare of $50 and that I need one service attendant for every two cars. With any kind of dining facilities, I lose multiple seats (resulting in lower ticket revenues), while having at least one additional crew member to pay (resulting in higher operating costs). As much as I love them, there are unfortunately reason why dining car are steadily retreating from Western Europe and virtually extinct in Japan…

I wouldn't really disagree with any of the above, except to say, the argument in favour (which may not pass muster) would probably go something like this:

1) The dining car represents a net addition, not a loss of seats; obviously at the cost of additional fuel, car maintence and crew.

2) If the dining car drives up food/drink sales with decent margins, as least some portion of that cost may be recoverable.

3) If the option of the dining car appeals sufficiently to the broader public, it may be accretive on ticket pricing.

Note, I'm fully aware, that the above likely doesn't work out on most runs; and the question of preserving an amenity that might not be available on all or most runs has its own complexities in terms of cost and consistent customer experience.

I just thought there might be more statistical insight/study examining the above that you could shed light on.
 

crs1026

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^If you look to the sad on-and-off history of dining car (and meal/snack service generally) in the US, a succession of Congresses have held Amtrak’s feet over the coals and forced various economy regimes that diluted dining car meal service to mediocrity - there is a lot of data suggesting that Amtrak, at least, cannot cover the costs of enhanced meal service no matter how hard they try.
I don’t have any data at hand about that, but just the many media reports and service offerings over the years seems to be pretty consistent with that point.
If there were a formula that worked, I’m sure Amtrak would have found it by now. VIA has never faced this kind of challenge for its long distance trains, likely because its silver and blue service charges more overall and quality meal service is inextricable from that service model.
But in Corridor service - the Business Class meal is respectable, and the cost/pricing of having that sort of meal at a table with table cloth and silverware, and with sufficient time at the table to have a full ”dining room” experience, is clearly not going to make a ticket more attractive, incremental to the current business class experience.
There is also the anecdotal evidence of several attempts at a luxury experience in more than one Amtrak corridor, where private operators attached their own cars to scheduled Amtrak trains and marketed “luxury” parlour car service which included sit-down meals. None of these have proved sustainable.

- Paul
 
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crs1026

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As a PS - my own anecdote about Amtrak diner meal service during austerity regimes is - on the California Zephyr, the server dropped my salad when the train lurched badly. The server looked sick - it turned out the concern was not because it was a customer fail, or required cleanup….. but because the paperwork required to account for ordering a replacement salad was a nightmare.
It didn’t just consume their time….. I had to help fill out the form, signing to attest that yes the initial salad had been rendered inedible, that I did indeed wish a replacement salad, etc etc. … giving my contact information so an auditor could verify that the dining car wasn’t giving out free food or fudging its inventory.
Things may be different with the current regime, but it speaks to how closely dining car pennies are counted by Congress..

- Paul
 
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