VIA Rail’s services across Canada are nearing a critical point. The fleet that supports VIA’s long distance services, including the Ocean, VIA’s last remaining service in Atlantic Canada, is rapidly approaching the end of its serviceable life. If VIA is not able to launch procurement for new equipment as soon as possible, this could mean the end of all Canadian long distance passenger service in the early 2030s.
Transport Action Atlantic and our national and regional affiliates are working hard to tell the federal government that action is needed immediately.
There are two things that you can do today to help:
Fill out the Budget 2024 survey to voice your support for funding for VIA’s long distance fleet renewal.
Please read on below for more details on how to take action today, and please share this message with those you know who also support the future of passenger rail in this country.
As always, your support is critical to keep passenger rail on track in Atlantic Canada and beyond!
Tim Hayman President, Transport Action Atlantic ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
House of Commons Petition
A campaign is underway to help VIA Rail maintain its services and increase on-time performance as well as make other improvements to ensure it can deliver sustainable rail transportation across Canada, through a petition to the House of Commons.
Created by Transport Action Canada (www.transportaction.ca), a national public transportation and passenger advocacy group (TAA’s national affiliate), the petition asks that the government ensure funding to renew VIA Rail’s long-distance fleet is provided in the 2024 federal budget, to avert service cuts in Atlantic and Western Canada.
VIA is entering a second federal budget cycle asking for funding to replace its aging long-distance fleet. Engineering reports show that the fleet is nearing the end of its serviceable life, with many cars at 70 years of age. Given the timeline for ordering and manufacturing, if funding is not provided this spring to order a new, fully accessible, modern fleet, VIA will no longer be able to provide train service beyond the Quebec-Windsor corridor by the early 2030s.
This would mean the demise of ‘The Ocean’ between Montreal and Halifax, the world-famous Toronto-Vancouver ‘The Canadian’, and all other routes that serve smaller cities, remote, and Indigenous communities across the country, as well as the tourism sector.
The public rail operator also often suffers greatly from delays beyond its control, as new CEO Mario Peloquin made clear in an op-ed in the Globe and Mail in October. VIA’s on-time performance has declined to only 60% on railways where freight trains have right of way, while it is 90% on tracks owned by VIA — unfortunately VIA only owns 3% of the tracks it runs on.
The petition therefore asks the government to restore right of way for passenger trains, as envisaged in NDP MP Taylor Bachrach’s private member’s bill C-371, to ensure passengers arrive on time and reduce the padding in train schedules, which would also result in substantial cost savings.
“It’s not just a few hours. Three whole days have been added to the time it takes to travel from Halifax to Vancouver.” says Terry Johnson, President of Transport Action Canada
Advocates are also asking that the government and transport minister Pablo Rodriguez implement several other measures to help VIA Rail provide reliable and environmentally friendly transportation from coast to coast. This would include providing VIA Rail with a legislative mandate to maintain and expand passenger rail service in Canada, which the Crown Corporation has lacked since its creation in 1978; providing for passenger and worker representation on its board of directors, which contributes to the success of other national carriers in Germany and France; and addressing outsourcing concerns by ensuring the public operator’s continued role in the High Frequency Rail project.
The federal government is currently accepting submissions from Canadians with their priorities ahead of Budget 2024. This is a key opportunity to provide your input and voice support for public transportation issues that matter to you.
TAA will be making a formal pre-budget submission covering both passenger rail and other key transportation issues in the region (intercity buses, ferries, and freight rail), but we also encourage you to fill out the survey to voice your support. You can access the “Let’s Talk Budget 2024” form here: https://www.letstalkbudget24.ca/let-s-talk-budget-2024
The deadline to make submissions is Feburary 9th (this Friday), so please take a few minutes to fill out the questionnaire in the coming days.
If you’re looking for guidance on your submission as it relates to VIA Rail’s long distance fleet renewal, please see the sample below from TAA’s draft budget submission. Please also add your own perspectives on why maintaining and improving passenger rail service is important to you!
The federal government needs to immediately provide the funding for VIA Rail Canada to proceed with a formal procurement process to replace the entire train fleet used on its long distance, regional and remote services.
Critically, this funding should support an order for enough trains to provide at least daily service on long distance routes. In the case of the Ocean, this would mean sufficient equipment for 3 full trainsets (with appropriate spares). It is critical that VIA be able to use this opportunity to ensure a return to former levels of passenger rail service nationwide.
It’s time for Canadians across the country to be provided with a rail service that is modern, reliable, sustainable, and fully accessible.
Welcome back to Atlantic Transport News! We’ve been quiet through the last several months, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been lots going on, both in terms of regional transportation news developments and ongoing advocacy work from our members throughout the region.
As an all-volunteer organization, keeping these monthly newsletters going has always been a challenge, and through this summer we simply haven’t had the bandwidth to keep them going on a monthly basis. We’re always looking for help with submissions and assistance to keep these newsletters alive and going – please see the last item in this issue for more information, and consider if you or someone you know might be able to assist.
Here’s the run-down of what you’ll find in this “catch-up” issue:
VIA RAIL NEWS RECAP – NEW EQUIPMENT RFI, A NEW PRESIDENT, AND SUMMER SERVICE DISRUPTIONS
There has been a fair bit of news on the VIA Rail file over the past several months.
In May, the results of the testing of VIA’s HEP fleet finally came out, and the much maligned “buffer car” requirement was dropped. This had never had a significant impact on the Ocean’s current configuration, aside from restricting the ability to carry pets in the baggage car; but the need to use otherwise serviceable equipment as “buffers” had an impact on fleet availability.
At the end of April, VIA formally issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFI) to potential suppliers for its long distance fleet replacement program, marking a more formal step in this procurement. We were disappointed that the federal government did not provide funding for this much needed long distance fleet replacement in the last budget, but the fact that VIA continues to do the ground work on moving this program ahead is encouraging. Given the timeline for new
The launch of VIA’s much-anticipated and oft-delayed new reservations system continues to be pushed off. One unfortunate and unanticipated impact of this pending new system, which we discovered to great dismay earlier this year, is that all intermodal ticketing has been dropped by VIA. The new system, apparently, will not (at least initially) be able to accommodate this function, so interline ticketing with partners including Maritime Bus and the REGIM bus shuttles to Gaspé were dropped earlier this year. Even though the reservations system still hasn’t launched as of this fall, the REGIM shuttle was dropped for the entire summer. There was undoubtedly room for improvement in the intermodal partnerships, but this is a huge step backwards, and not the sort of “improvement” we hoped for with the new system.
TAA is generally encouraged by Péloquin’s background and what we’ve heard about his work in the VIA c-suite so far. We extended our congratulations to him on his appointment, and have also requested a meeting when the opportunity arises. We will be sure to update if and when we have such an opportunity.
At the end of August, VIA released their second quarter report for 2023. The news was generally positive, and for the Ocean, revenues for the quarter were up 55% over the previous year, with ridership up 46.4%. This is of course in part due to the fact that the train’s frequency for much of that quarter in 2022 was still only at 2 departures each way per week, increasing back to 3/week shortly before the end of the quarter. By contrast, the train has operated at the full 3/week frequency for all of the equivalent quarter in 2023. You can read the full report here: https://media.viarail.ca/sites/default/files/publications/VIA%20Rail_Second%20Quarter%20Report%202023.pdf
Locally, the Ocean has continued to operate in its new incarnation as usual this summer. Anecdotally, ridership appears to be consistent, though capacity on the trains continues to be less than what was offered pre-2020. This summer has once again been plagued by chronic delays, as a CN track work program on the Mont-Joli sub, compounded by heat related speed restrictions, has resulted in both trains 14 and 15 experiencing delays in excess of 2 to 3 hours (and on occasion as much as 6 to 8 hours) on the regular throughout this summer. This has resulted in the loss of early connecting trains in Montreal, and frequently late evening arrivals in Halifax. These issues are no doubt made worse by the ongoing long-term slow orders along many parts of the Newcastle Subdivision, for which there is no clear remedy in sight.
Train service was disrupted a few times by extreme weather events. In July, parts of Nova Scotia received unprecedented rainfall, with a number of washouts of the rail line including a major washout between Truro and Halifax. All service on the Bedford Subdivision was curtailed for nearly a week, while CN crews worked to repair the washout. VIA service was truncated at Moncton for several trips. Though VIA provided buses for the first trains affected by this washout, passengers going beyond Moncton were left to fend for themselves on the following trips. Fortunately, Maritime Bus stepped in to offer additional buses from Moncton to help accommodate passengers, a good move on their part and something we would have hoped to see coordinated by VIA.
Further train cancellations took place in September, with the arrival of post-tropical storm Lee. CN suspended all train operations in the region on Saturday, September 16th. VIA initially indicated that trains 14 and 15 would be delayed by 24 hours to avoid the storm, but they then cancelled both trains instead. Passengers were refunded, but offered no alternate transportation.
Both of these service interruptions highlight a change in VIA policy that TAA finds particularly troubling: a shift to cancelling trains with no accommodation for passengers, aside from offering refunds and in some cases additional travel credits. VIA once had a reputation for going to great lengths to accommodate disrupted passengers, but their current attitude seems to have shifted to a “sorry, you’re on your own” approach. While it’s entirely understandable that trains sometimes have to be cancelled due to extraordinary circumstances, the new approach to customer service seems more likely than ever to leave affected passengers thinking twice about returning to the rails.
PEI – FEDS TO PURCHASE NORWEGIAN FERRY REPLACE MV HOLIDAY ISLAND
After the MV Holiday Island burned last year, PEI has been borrowing a ferry from Quebec to provide a second vessel on the Caribou – Wood Islands service. In August, the federal government announced that they will be purchasing the Norwegian ferry MV Fanafjord as a replacement for the MV Holiday Island. This will allow the service to continue with two dedicated vessels starting in 2024 and until the Holiday Island replacement vessel is built and delivered, which won’t be earlier than 2028.
Meanwhile, as the respective parties bicker, the isthmus remains vulnerable and major work to protect it for the future continues to be put off.
HALIFAX TRANSIT – NEXT ROUND OF SERVICE CHANGES IS MORE POSITIVE, BUT ELECTRONIC FARE PAYMENT DELAYED AGAIN
Halifax Transit has announced their next round of service changes, coming November 20, and after a series of scale backs to routes due to shortages of drivers, it seems recruitment and retention efforts are finally starting to bear some positive fruit. The new changes include several added and adjusted routes, as well as the return of many departures that were previously cancelled due to low driver availability.
TRANSIT SYSTEMS AROUND THE REGION SEE CONTINUED PASSENGER GROWTH, PILOT NEW INITIATIVES
Municipal transit systems throughout the Maritimes have been continuing to see growth in passenger numbers, due to a combination of returns to pre-pandemic commuting patterns, population growth, and perhaps some shift to transit with increasing fuel prices.
We at TAA feel that these news updates are a useful way to keep our members and supporters updated on important transportation news in the region, and we’ve heard from folks who enjoy reading and following along. Unfortunately, this work is time consuming, and as an all-volunteer organization we are often stretched for bandwidth to keep these going, while also trying to focus on our core advocacy work.
We can always use help with this work. Do you have a particular story you’re interested in and following closely? Can you write up a short description of the issue, an update on developments, or some local perspective on what’s happening? As you can see from past issues, this doesn’t have to be lengthy or in-depth, but it always helps to have a bit of perspective from someone who has been following the issue. This doesn’t have to be a regular recurring contribution either – anything you can contribute in a given month is welcome!
We also have a publication for our membership, The Bulletin, which is focused more on longer-form content, analysis, and opinion pieces. We’re also always interested in submissions for this publications. If you’re interested, have a look at some recent past publications for ideas about what that content looks like, and please reach out if you have something you’d like to contribute.
If you have ideas for stories for either this newsletter or The Bulletin, feel free to reach out any time. You can email your stories, ideas, and any other feedback to email@example.com
We are also always looking for volunteers to support our advocacy work, and to potentially join our board of directors. If that’s something you’d be interested in and feel you could contribute to, please let us know.
A new addition to Marine Atlantic’s fleet is just a little more than a year away from entering service. The E-Flexer-class ferry is being built for international ferry operator Stena Line at the Chinese state-owned Jinling Shipyard. She was floated out of drydock on March 28, and is now in an adjacent water berth where the bulk of the mechanical, electrical, and interior outfitting will occur over the next several months.
On completion, the new ship – as yet unnamed – will be leased to the federal Crown corporation for a five-year term. Marine Atlantic will have an option to purchase at the end of that period if the vessel proves to be satisfactory to its needs. The company expects the new ferry will arrive in Canada in the spring of 2024, and plans to introduce her on the seasonal Argentia service next June. It hasn’t been officially confirmed, but it would appear that the lease on MV Atlantic Vision – an essential part of the fleet for some 15 years – will be terminated on delivery of the new ship. Although not designed as a “cruise ferry” like the Vision, the new build will offer a similar number of passenger cabins, with the added feature of “sleeping pods” to accommodate single travellers.
“The [new]vessel is designed to meet the changing needs of our customers, and combines key priorities such as improved maneuverability, safety and accessibility while minimizing environmental impacts, to provide a modern, efficient, and reliable ferry service,” said Marine Atlantic spokesperson Darrell Mercer.
A statement from Stena Line said the new ship is 202.9 metres long, 27.8 metres wide, and has a draft of 6.45 metres. It can accommodate 1,100 people and has a lane length of 2,571 metres, including a 476-metre lane for private cars.
Per Westling, managing director of Stena RoRo, said Marine Atlantic is an “old customer” of Stena, which delivered one ferry to the Crown corporation in 2000 and two more in 2010, all of which are still in operation. But the relationship actually dates back to the 1960s, when the first Stena vessel appeared on the North Sydney-Port aux Basques service.
“We focus on making the ship design meet the specific expectations of our customers,” Mr. Westling said. “Our E-Flexer vessels meet customer requirements, combining efficient dual-fuel engines and battery-hybrid solutions to minimize emissions.”
NORTHUMBERLAND STILL SEEKING REPLACEMENT SHIP FOR PEI
The seasonal ferry service between Wood Islands PEI and Caribou NS is set to return on May 1, but a second vessel for the summer peak period was still not confirmed as of this writing. While MV Confederation was undergoing refit at the Newfoundland Dockyard, officials of Northumberland Ferries Limited were working to finalize short-term arrangements for a second vessel to serve the run during the 2023 summer peak.
Company vice-president Mark Wilson was not in a position to reveal the target ship, but he told the Eastern Graphic that he was very confident of a successful outcome in the negotiations. Last year’s temporary replacement was leased from the Quebec provincial ferry corporation STQ, following an engineroom fire that put the 52-year-old MV Holiday Island permanently out of commission. The ancient veteran is currently being scrapped at Sheet Harbour NS, after it was determined that repairs could not be economically justified.
Mr. Wilson acknowledged that this season’s temporary replacement will likely come with strings attached, as did last year’s. He said a more consistent interim vessel will be needed over the next few years, and that’s what NFL is looking for.
“We don’t want to be repeating this process every summer,” he told the newspaper, noting that the 2022 emergency replacement was subject to being recalled at short notice, as it was the designated relief vessel for one of STQ’s regular routes. He added that his company recognizes how important the service is, agreeing with a comment from Blair Aiken, president of the Eastern PEI Chamber of Commerce.
“Every consideration must be given to the continuity of service that’s required for the eastern region of the Island,” Mr. Aiken said. “A temporary replacement, as much as it might be appreciated, isn’t really addressing the issue.”
Other observers – Transport Action Atlantic included – believe the federal government waited far too long to begin planning replacement of the aging Holiday Island, and that the process should have begun years before the shipboard fire that ended her long and faithful career. As it now stands, it will be at least four more years before a new ferry can be designed, tendered and constructed. And by then it will be time to plan for replacing the Confederation, which entered service in 1993.
NB GOVERNMENT HOSTS PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SYMPOSIUM
There’s some renewed optimism that the Government of New Brunswick may be adopting a more positive view on public transportation, in the wake of a well-attended symposium sponsored recently by the provincial Economic and Social Transit Corporation (ESIC). The two-day event at the Delta Fredericton attracted some 200 attendees from within the province and from other jurisdictions eager to share their advice and success stories. And, significantly, three members of Premier Blaine Higgs’ cabinet made an appearance with all three expressing their support for better transportation options in New Brunswick.
It just may mark a turning point in the governing PC Party’s attitude toward transportation in general and public transit in particular. The Higgs government has left millions in federal transit funding on the table in recent years, after declining to match the offer with matching provincial dollars. The premier once famously and flippantly remarked that “Fredericton doesn’t need a subway” – while ignoring the reality that the capital city certainly could benefit from more efficient bus transit with service seven days a week.
The minister responsible for ESIC, Dorothy Shephard, was brimming with enthusiasm in a statement released after the symposium concluded.
“The issue of transportation is important to everyone in our province,” she said, “allowing our residents to move for reasons such as employment, health, training and leisure. It was a pleasure to discuss various opportunities for our province with such a dedicated group of passionate and experienced participants and guest speakers.”
It would seem Minister Shephard supports the philosophy expressed by a number of symposium participants: that public transportation is for everybody – not just the socially disadvantaged. The event provided an opportunity to learn more about the current context in New Brunswick, leading models in the Maritimes and Canada, regulations and policy considerations, available funding, and networking. Municipal public transit as well as accessible and active transportation were also addressed.
The stated objective of the symposium was to lay the foundation for integrated regional transport strategies in connection with the reform of local governance and the provincial plan to overcome poverty. A key component is the development and implementation of regional plans to increase the accessibility, affordability and availability of transportation services.
“The Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation is pleased to have brought together stakeholders, funders and transportation providers during the symposium,” said Jean Allain, chair of the corporation’s board. “We need the collaboration of all stakeholders to ensure that residents of the province will benefit from partnership arrangements for transportation. I believe we are on track.”
DETAILS TRICKLE OUT ABOUT VIA HEP TESTING, WHILE FEDS GIVE LITTLE FUNDING SUPPORT
The testing of VIA Rail’s stainless steel “HEP” equipment has been underway since the beginning of the year, with several cars sent to CAD rail services in Montreal for tear-down inspections, and a smaller group sent to the National Research Council’s facility in Ottawa for destructive compression testing. The testing will confirm whether the cars are safe for continued operation, and what interventions may be needed to keep them operating for the remainder of their service lives. In the interim, all trains operating with HEP equipment have required unoccupied “buffer” cars at the front and rear of consists.
Formal details haven’t yet been released, but rail enthusiast and blogger Eric Gagnon received the most detailed breakdown of results to date via an Access to Information request, which he published on his Trackside Treasure blog. Overall, the results so far have been positive, and while some defects have been identified there does not appear to be anything of critical concern that would require the fleet to be withdrawn immediately. Based on both these reports and other unofficial sources, it sounds like the buffer car requirement may also be removed in the near future, a move that would help free up more equipment to be put back into revenue service.
Whether this testing goes well or not, it’s still clear that the extended service life of this equipment is limited and fleet replacement plans will need to continue moving ahead. VIA has begun this process and issued a request for information to interested suppliers earlier this year, but a formal procurement can’t get underway without government funding commitments. The 2023 federal budget didn’t offer anything for fleet replacement, though the budget does allocate $210 million over five years to “conduct maintenance on its trains on routes outside the Québec City–Windsor Corridor and to maintain levels of service across its network.” It’s not yet clear what this funding will actually cover, how much will be focused on the required repairs from the testing outcomes, or how much might be allocated to further refurbishment work. Regardless, the end of the line is still within sight, and fleet replacement plans need to continue to stay on the radar is there is to be any long-term future or true modernization of VIA’s long distance services.
NO GOOD NEWS FOR RAIL IN SYDNEY PORT ANNOUNCEMENT
There was a significant announcement on March 23 concerning the proposed Novaporte development on Sydney harbour – but it didn’t do anything to assure a more secure future for Cape Breton’s dormant and derelict rail line.
Construction is expected to start this year on land that had been set aside in the Sydney harbour for a proposed container terminal, but it won’t be what the developer initially sought. Instead, Novaporte plans to build a facility on Cape Breton Regional Municipality land that will import parts for large offshore wind turbines.
Company CEO Albert Barbusci said that he’s still working on the container terminal project, but an opportunity came up in what many expect will be a burgeoning offshore wind industry, and it would fit in with a container terminal.
“Really what we’ve done is we’ve doubled down. We’ve doubled the opportunity,” Mr. Barbusci told CBC News. The wind turbine facility will be operated by Blue Water Shipping of Denmark, a company with 25 years experience in European offshore wind logistics.
Both the municipality and the Membertou First Nation, which purchased a one-eighth stake in Novaporte several years ago, were delighted at the announcement.
“This is the first time since I’ve been on council that we’ve seen such a significant move forward and the asset is actually going to be used now to create that value, to create that economic driver for our community,” said Mayor Amanda McDougall. “It’s not a container terminal, but it’s a start. Passing up an opportunity to get into the offshore wind industry to me would be such a shame. and we would be in the same place as Cape Breton was decades ago when we lost coal and steel.”
Mr. Barbusci said he expects construction to begin later this year, with the turbine marshalling area ready to begin operating in 2026. The container terminal proposal is ready to go, he said, but it needs a working railway. The wind turbine marshalling project does not need rail. Ships would deliver the large parts for storage, and companies building offshore wind farms would pick up the components and assemble them at sea. But he clearly hasn’t given up on the container terminal plan.
“We want jobs. We want revitalization, but we can’t ignore this green opportunity. It’s too good. It’s too big, and it really will get done.”
UNION DISSATISFIED AT HALIFAX TRANSIT DRIVER SAFEGUARDS
The Halifax Regional Municipality has invited quotes to supply a driver protection system aboard Halifax Transit’s buses, but the Amalgamated Transit Union says the plan doesn’t go far enough. Local 508 president Shane O’Leary told CBC News that the protection systems are a starting point for ensuring driver safety, but more needs to be done.
The municipality’s request for quotation issued on April 1 invites pricing on up to 370 units of “slide and stow” protection systems that have “a sliding partition that only the operator can adjust,” and “prevent sudden intrusion into the bus operator’s area,” among other requirements.
“The shields will help if they’re installed properly and done right and it’s a good quality shield. But that’s not enough,” Mr. O’Leary said in an interview, adding that attacks on transit drivers have been on the rise in recent years, and many have involved groups of youths. Creating a transit police force with the power to issue fines and remove passengers from buses would be a further step toward protecting transit operators, he said.
HRM spokesperson Maggie-Jane Spray said in an e-mailed statement to CBC that recently approved funding from the regional council in the upcoming budget year will mean that “all electric buses will be equipped with operator safety barriers when they arrive, beginning in late 2023.”
When asked if the city has kept a record of incidents of violence against drivers, she said the number of incidents “is difficult to quantify, as not all incidents of aggression or violence would meet the threshold for an incident report, as opposed to a situation involving an assault for which a Halifax Transit supervisor and/or police would be called.
CODIAC TRANSPO PROPOSES FREE RIDES FOR KIDS
Kids under 13 in the Greater Moncton area will likely be riding transit for free by the end of the summer. Codiac Transpo is proposing to eliminate fares for children when accompanied by an adult. Riverview and Dieppe councils have already approved the concept, and a presentation is planned at Moncton City Hall in the near future.
Angela Allain, head of Codiac Transpo told Riverview Council that offering free service to that cohort will get them accustomed to transit use, and help build ridership over the long term. She anticipates that increased transit usage will eventually offset the initial loss of farebox revenue.
It’s not exactly a unique idea, but rather part of a nationwide trend. Ms. Allain said 27 other transit systems in Canada already offer a similar youth fare concession. (Some systems are even more generous.) These include the TTC and Go Transit in Ontario, as well as Halifax Transit, St. John’s Metrobus, Island Transit and Charlottetown’s T3 here in the Atlantic region.
Currently children under six ride free on Codiac Transpo. The same applies on the Fredericton and Saint John systems. There’s no indication yet that the other two New Brunswick cities are proposing a similar initiative.
FIRE SHUTS DOWN ST. JOHN’S AIRPORT FOR TWO DAYS
A late-night fire on Friday, March 24, caused significant smoke and water damage to the passenger terminal at St. John’s Airport – sufficient to put the facility out of business for almost two full days.
The outbreak is believed to have started around 11:30 pm in the ceiling above a children’s play area adjacent to gate 11. Staff were first alerted to the fire by smoke detector alarms and the facility was quickly evacuated as emergency responders located the blaze, airport CEO Dennis Hogan told the Telegram. The building was nearly empty at that late hour, and there were no injuries reported.
“There were some flames visible at one point in time and both our emergency fire responders here at the airport and St. John’s Regional (Fire Department) worked very diligently and quickly to suppress the fire and really contain it from going any further,” he said. Initially management had hoped to resume operations on Saturday, but it turned out that damage was more severe than initially thought, and flight operations did not resume until Sunday evening. Some 36 flights were impacted by the fire, but an undetermined number of others had already been cancelled due to a late winter storm.
PAL Airlines was able to take advantage of being based in St. John’s by moving operations to its maintenance hangar, so the impact on its flights was minimal. All other airlines using YYT were completely out of business for the duration of the terminal closure. First flights resumed on Sunday evening, March 26.
Airport officials said the fire does not appear to have been of suspicious origin, but no cause has been released.
PORTER UPS THE ANTE ON ITS EASTERN PROMOTION
There’s further evidence this month that Porter Airlines is aggressively trying to build market share in Atlantic Canada. The upstart airline’s raccoon mascot – known as “Mr. Porter” – is reaching out to prospective and existing customers through social media posts and e-mail blasts to promote their frequent flyer plan and unique economy-class perks. Clearly taking aim at WestJet, the ad material asks travellers if they are “feeling abandoned”, and assures them that Porter will match their status with the other carrier.
As we’ve reported earlier in this space, WestJet has drastically curtailed its services to Atlantic Canada in recent months, while Porter is increasing both frequency and the number of destinations served in the region.