VIA tightens Ocean Schedule

There has been a slight improvement in the Ocean schedule, with the issue of a new timetable shortening the overall time between Montreal and Halifax by one hour.  Effective February 18, train 15 departs from Halifax at noon instead of 1100, and arrival of #14 will be an hour earlier at 1735.  Arrival and departure times at Montreal remain unchanged.

The schedule tightening is partially due to track improvements completed in 2014, but the dwell time built into the schedule to accommodate switching at Matapédia for the now-dormant Gaspé service has also been eliminated.  One permanent slow order that hasn’t changed is on the Bathurst to Miramichi segment, which still requires an hour and 41 minutes.  Sixty years ago the steam-powered Ocean Limited covered the 44 miles in well under an hour.

Last fall, Steve Del Bosco, chief advisor to VIA’s CEO, told Transport Action Atlantic that discussions were ongoing with CN regarding track speed.  (Mr. Del Bosco retired at the end of January after 36 years of service, having been with the company since its earliest days.)  Unconfirmed reports suggest that the new timetable is but an interim step, and that further improvements may be pending.

Fifty years ago the Ocean ran between Moncton and Campbellton in four hours flat, a time that changed little over the next four decades.  But the effects of deferred maintenance eventually came into play, as more and more slow orders were imposed, adding over two hours to the scheduled time by 2014.  The new schedule, while an improvement, still requires more than 5½ hours for the Moncton-Campbellton run.

The schedule change also restores some lost bus connections at Moncton and Truro for passengers to and from PEI, Cape Breton and the Newfoundland ferry.  While all are now theoretically possible assuming on-time arrivals, the situation at Truro is complicated by the unfortunate fact that Maritime Bus no longer calls at the VIA station there.

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