VIA Rail’s 2017-2021 Corporate Plan: what’s in it for Atlantic Canada?

Rust spots are showing through on this Renaissance sleeper, a common sight on many of these cars in 2018. Corrosion has been the source of many problems with this equipment, and after only 15 years in service on the Ocean, VIA is already planning to retire the fleet in the next few years. (PHOTO – Tim Hayman)

[Originally published in the Spring-Summer 2018 edition of “The Bulletin”]

Early in 2018 VIA released their 2017-2021 Corporate Plan. These documents, released each year and looking ahead for the next five, offer a synopsis of the state of the railway and tend to provide insight into what VIA is looking at moving forward. In the last few years these plans have focused heavily on VIA’s need for new equipment, and some of the challenges (e.g. deteriorating on time performance on many routes, rising costs) and successes (e.g. ridership growth), as well as a look at their plans across the entire system. This latest corporate plan, which can be found in full online (http://www.viarail.ca/sites/all/files/media/pdfs/About_VIA/our-company/corporate-plan/CorporatePlan_2017-2021.pdf) has some specific items of interest for Atlantic Canada.

There is a blurb describing the operation of the Ocean, which has some new phrasing this year. It reads: “During the holiday season, VIA Rail adds extra departures.” That is a change from past years, which used past tense phrasing (e.g. last year it said “during the holiday season, VIA Rail added six extra departures”). This seems to imply that the holiday frequency expansion is now considered a standard annual practice. This is further confirmed in the following section. *EDIT: Since publication, we have learned that VIA will not be running any extra trains this holiday season. More details to come soon, but it seems a major factor this year is that the normal dates of operation fall rather optimally around the Christmas and New Years holidays. In any case, it is still a reduction of capacity, and disappointing news.*

Under “operational issues” for the Ocean, there is a notable recognition that VIA’s reduction of frequency on the Ocean has been problematic (italics added for emphasis): Continue reading “VIA Rail’s 2017-2021 Corporate Plan: what’s in it for Atlantic Canada?”

Our Canada includes passenger trains…and it doesn’t end at Quebec City.

passengers boarding VIA Rail train at Moncton
The troublesome British-built Renaissance cars used in VIA Rail’s downsized Atlantic Canada service were never designed for life in Canada, and are in urgent need of replacement.  But Budget 2018 makes provision only for fleet renewal in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor.

[Originally published in the Spring-Summer 2018 edition of “The Bulletin”]

After four decades of neglect by successive federal governments, there finally seems to be some significant support in Ottawa for passenger rail.  In certain parts of Canada – that is.  That was the gist of a significant appropriation contained in the Trudeau Government’s Budget 2018, tabled on February 27.

The first commitment to new rolling stock in 40 years promises a complete renewal of VIA Rail Canada’s aging and tired corridor fleet.  No actual cost figures were given because of the pending procurement process, but it’s clearly an investment in the billion-plus category. VIA subsequently posted a summary of the fleet renewal program on its website, and on June 18 announced a short-list of four qualified suppliers that will have until October 5 to submit proposals.  A contract is expected to be awarded before the end of 2018, with the first of the new rolling stock in service within four years.

In short, the plan calls for 32 new bi-directional trainsets for use in the Quebec City to Windsor corridor.  Primarily the new rolling stock will replace the so-called LRC equipment, built in the early 1980s, and now rapidly approaching the end of its useful life.  Many LRC cars will need to be retired before the new orders are delivered. Continue reading “Our Canada includes passenger trains…and it doesn’t end at Quebec City.”

TAA 2018 AGM – this Saturday!

Transport Action Atlantic’s Annual General Meeting will be held in Moncton, New Brunswick, this coming Saturday. All are welcome to attend!The Transport Action Atlantic logo, a green maple leaf with a right facing arrow

Saturday, May 5 at 2:00 p.m

CN Pensioners Centre

1 Curry Street

(off Donald Avenue)

Moncton NB

This year’s feature will be an engaging presentation – Why Canada Needs Passenger Trains  –  A serious message, with a touch of humour, from our keynote speaker Marshall Button. 

Marshall Button
Marshall Button – Actor, Host, Playwright, Director, artist-in-residence at the Capitol Theatre. Creator of Lucien, NB’s Blue-Collar Philosopher–and full of opinions! (as described in his Twitter bio)

Further, in addition to the usual business agenda and opportunity to discuss ongoing transportation issues in the region, we will also be presenting the John Pearce Award to its second recipient, an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to public transportation advocacy in Atlantic Canada.

We hope to see you there, and look forward to hearing your thoughts!  As always, our AGM is open to the general public and the media.