The Evolution of VIA Rail - a graphical history

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NS VIA Fan

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That's a little unfair. Just because the highway network serves your needs, doesn't mean everyone sees it the same way.
There's probably a much better network of highways in the Maritimes than you would find in other areas with a similar population.
 

NS VIA Fan

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There's probably a much better network of highways in the Maritimes than you would find in other areas with a similar population.
And I'm specifically looking at New Brunswick where some have said the TCH with it's 'Interstate' type standards shouldn't have been built. I drove the old 2-lane TCH for years and it was greatly needed with it's disproportionate truck traffic. A lot of those trucks are 'just passing thru' but you're not going to get all of them on a train!
 
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neroden

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I drive those highways every day. You don't!......and they are needed. They provide a much greater benefit to more of the population than could ever be served by rail. There is just not the population here along a couple of 'corridors' to justify the cost to provide a fast, frequent passenger rail service that might actually get people out of their cars.

The only route that might have justified an intercity rail service is Halifax-Moncton-Saint John but even then without a large expenditure on rail upgrades to increase speeds.....it's going to take over 6 hrs. I can drive it in 4 hrs.
Your attitude is why the Ocean is probably going to be reduced to 0 days a week, and why the population of the Maritimes is unlikely to ever grow much again. 🤷 And eventually your provincial government will wonder why it has to keep raising taxes to maintain its overbuilt roads. It'll take a while.

Twinning highways is a *bad idea*. But hey, it's your choice. You're the voter there.

I happen to live in the largest-population conurbation in the US where all the roads out of town are two lanes. It works great.
 

NS VIA Fan

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Twinning highways is a *bad idea*. But hey, it's your choice. You're the voter there.
And I'll repeat it again! I drive those highways every day. You don't!......and they are needed. They provide a much greater benefit to more of the population than could ever be served by rail.

I happen to live in the largest-population conurbation in the US where all the roads out of town are two lanes. It works great.
I see you are in Ithaca. Perhaps your drive out of town is on a 2--Lane but within 23 miles you're on I-81, 27 miles to I-86 or 45miles to the NY Thruway. That's no different here: it's a long drive on 2-lane for many to reach the 4-Lane TCH or the 101/102 etc. The problem is the disproportionate truck traffic using those roads and no.....an upgraded railway wouldn't get those trucks of the road to PEI or Newfoundland where there's no other option.
 

fdaley

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I am not sure it needs to be an either-or proposition, but it's worth noting that the cost of these highway "twinning" projects is a couple of orders of magnitude above the sum it would likely have cost to maintain network of rail service the Maritimes enjoyed prior to 1990.

There is a twinning project under way now in the Pictou area that is budgeted to cost $718 million for 38 kilometers of road. That's more than VIA's entire subsidy for all of Canada was in 1988, when they actually still served lots of places well. That cost of this one comparatively small highway project would likely have been more than enough to keep the Sydney trains running for the past 30 years. So it might have been possible to find the money to preserve decent rail service for the Maritimes if there had been the political will to do it.

Of course, as you say, there likely wouldn't have been much ridership left for the Sydney trains if they continued to operate after rail service was decimated in the rest of Canada. They were part of system that depended on connectivity, and that system is mostly long gone outside of Ontario and Quebec. But that's ultimately the result of government policy that has made it much easier to travel by highway, through massive new investments in infrastructure, while making it difficult or impossible to travel by rail.
 

NS VIA Fan

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There is a twinning project under way now in the Pictou area that is budgeted to cost $718 million for 38 kilometers of road........
It is not $718 million going to the consortium to design/build and finance just 38km of new highway (opening in 2023).....but it also includes an operate and maintain contract (repaving, winter plowing etc) for 20 years of this new 38km section of highway plus another 25 km of existing divided highway. Roughly New Glasgow to Taylors's Road east of Antigonish.
 

fdaley

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It is not $718 million going to the consortium to design/build and finance just 38km of new highway (opening in 2023).....but it also includes an operate and maintain contract (repaving, winter plowing etc) for 20 years of this new 38km section of highway plus another 25 km of existing divided highway. Roughly New Glasgow to Taylors's Road east of Antigonish.
Do you know the breakdown of the construction vs. the operation/maintenance portions of that?
 

NS VIA Fan

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Do you know the breakdown of the construction vs. the operation/maintenance portions of that?
"The project cost consists of $364.3 million for construction and $196.4 million for ongoing operations and maintenance as well as a major upgrade of the existing stretch of highway during the 20-year operating period." "including two new interchanges and about 24 new bridges."

49473312788_cc62f428c7_c.jpg
 

NS VIA Fan

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Your attitude is why the Ocean is probably going to be reduced to 0 days a week........
It should be noted that between Moncton and Riviere-du-Loup the Ocean does not parallel a 4-lane highway and this is where it has always been busiest (Covid aside!) at stops like Bathurst, Campbellton, Rimouski (and the old Chaleur section to the Gaspe)

Other than for a short section the Trans Canada Highway in New Brunswick is not parallel to the Ocean's route. The TCH roughly follows CN's main freight route to the Maritimes across central New Brunswick that hasn't seen a passenger train since 1990.....and only a tri-weekly RDC for several years before that.

And as I noted above....the Ocean is always busiest from Moncton and west. During the summer and holidays you do see an increase in sleeper traffic to/fr Halifax but there is a lot of airline competition at YHZ so most are on that cheaper 2 hr flight to Toronto vs 28 hrs on the train.
 

Seaboard92

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Moncton seams to have always been a big point whenever I have been traveling on the Ocean. Even the holiday extra I rode did a lot of work in Moncton. But what was interesting about the holiday extra however was the train completely dumped almost three coaches in Moncton, and picked up four coaches worth of people going eastbound. So it is a rather big market. And one with significantly less air service than the others.

I would rather have the rural routes too. But in the ideal world you have both the twinning of roads and the rail routes.
 

jiml

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Moncton seams to have always been a big point whenever I have been traveling on the Ocean. Even the holiday extra I rode did a lot of work in Moncton. But what was interesting about the holiday extra however was the train completely dumped almost three coaches in Moncton, and picked up four coaches worth of people going eastbound. So it is a rather big market. And one with significantly less air service than the others.
We were booked to go to Moncton last fall and we all know what happened to that. :( Back in the day it was nice to be be able to alternate routes, whether going there or all the way to Halifax. Each route had its particular charms and quirks.
 

Seaboard92

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I still think there is a market for a St. Johns, NB to Halifax corridor train. While it won't be faster than a car, it does add some connectivity and not everyone wants to drive. After all there is some air service between the two as well. When you add in Moncton in the middle of it it's not a super bad corridor. And with CN down to what is it four trains out of Halifax shouldn't be too bad delay wise.
 

Urban Sky

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I still think there is a market for a St. Johns, NB to Halifax corridor train. While it won't be faster than a car, it does add some connectivity and not everyone wants to drive. After all there is some air service between the two as well. When you add in Moncton in the middle of it it's not a super bad corridor. And with CN down to what is it four trains out of Halifax shouldn't be too bad delay wise.
What is the problem you are trying to fix and why can’t it be adequately achieved with a higher frequency and at a much lower subsidy need by using an intercity bus instead of a train?
 

jiml

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What is the problem you are trying to fix and why can’t it be adequately achieved with a higher frequency and at a much lower subsidy need by using an intercity bus instead of a train?
This seems like a strange response, and not because you're wrong. From a purely economic perspective buses make sense, however doesn't service on a short corridor like this play right into the whole "eco-green" light in which VIA likes to portray itself? Personally I'd prefer to see that route served by a return of the Atlantic or an extended service southward to connect with Amtrak's Downeaster at some point, and I'd expect criticism of those ideas, but a short corridor train seems to be a tailor-made opportunity for VIA with a view to the future. It's not always about defending the status quo. Where are the rest of those restored RDC's not needed for Sudbury stored anyway?
 

NS VIA Fan

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..............but a short corridor train seems to be a tailor-made opportunity for VIA with a view to the future. It's not always about defending the status quo. Where are the rest of those restored RDC's not needed for Sudbury stored anyway?

If VIA was to start a new Intercity route it has to be with new equipment. Not 65 year old RDCs that had already reached their best before date when they last ran in the Maritimes 31 years ago!

Portray a modern image a la 'Brightline' and perhaps it might attract new passengers. Not just railfans out for a nostalgic ride.

But the return of a Maritime Intercity train appears to be a moot point. Refer to Item 2.1.6 (page 13)

 
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jiml

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While there is some similarity with the Alberta discussion vis-a-vis new equipment, my thought process behind the RDC's was availability. The ideal opportunity to start a service like this would be during the current situation, with the Maritime bubble and reduced air service. Build the market with a captive clientele, then get new equipment.

I'm familiar with VIA's statement and, where the infrastructure argument certainly applies for example on the Sydney route, my understanding was CP was spending some money on this leg since reacquiring it. Whether they'd co-operate is another discussion. VIA spends a lot of time trying to hang onto what they have, rather than showing any real vision or passion for the future. Meanwhile those same RDC's are perfectly fine for northern Ontario and we have two trains that meander through northern Quebec, while larger markets have no service.
 

Seaboard92

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Well using that same argument why do we even have the corridor trains. After all the highway infrastructure between Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec is light years better than the rest of the country. So why don't we just defund the whole system because it is cheaper to subsidize busses on already subsidized roads.

That is basically the argument you just walked yourself into. It's not just the elites of Quebec and Ontario that deserve rail it is the whole country. The railroad built Canada and can provide a decent service to communities where development is passed over in favor of the Ontario-Quebec corridor. Canada is a really interesting country because the rural areas are for the most part neglected in development compared to that sliver of land between Windsor and Quebec City.

As far as using the RDCs and other older equipment I'm in full support of it because of the way I look at things. We have the old equipment, we don't even have the new equipment for outside the corridor ordered. So that at most is five years away while we already have the old stuff now. Sure it's a bit tattered, a bit dirty, and she's definitely been used over the years. But compared with the Amtrak heritage fleet VIA has maintained their equipment well so it should be doable to get five more years out of it. But you can use the equipment you have now for a trial and a justification for why you need to order new equipment.

It is far easier to get funding from any government when you can show you already produced results. Once you prove there is a demand it is far easier to get that investment level needed for old equipment. I've been making that argument in my city for light rail and commuter train projects. I can go to Russia and buy a brand new tram for 178,000 dollars but if I buy what is purpose built for the American market the Siemens S70 it's costing 3 million per car. My city can't afford to buy a 20 car fleet of S70s. But we sure can afford the new Russian trams that are designed to work with subpar electricity and track reliably. So once you provide the service and demonstrate that it is a success then you can work on buying the more modern S70s and you can sell your now used Russian trams to some other city wanting to experiment in rail.

Use what you can get now, or use what you can get cheap to demonstrate and prove why you deserve the funding. Once you've proved why it becomes a lot easier to get the system that Canada deserves because last I checked Ontario and Quebec weren't the only places people lived.

It is a real shame that both Amtrak and VIA Rail have cultivated an us vs. them culture with their national network trains and their corridor trains.
 

NS VIA Fan

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Well using that same argument why do we even have the corridor trains. After all the highway infrastructure between Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec is light years better than the rest of the country. So why don't we just defund the whole system because it is cheaper to subsidize busses on already subsidized roads.

You have the population and the density in the Ontario-Quebec Corridor that can support multiple train frequencies per day......and a track infrastructure permitting speeds that are competitive with road and air.

Halifax-Moncton which might be your best bet for intercity rail in the Maritimes is 188 track miles with twists and turns and a long climb up to Folly Lake......vs 160 highway miles on a fast, relatively straight tollway you can drive in about 2 1/2 hrs or 3 hrs by bus. The Ocean takes 4 1/4 hrs. You'd have to offer 2 or 3 frequencies a day to make it attractive and still only get about a bus load on a ancient RDC.

As a railfan I'd love to see all those RDCs routes we had 30 years ago running to Yarmouth, Sydney, Saint John, Frederiction, Edmundston ect.....but it's just not practical and a lot of that track is gone also.
 

jiml

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Actually the mini fleet of restored RDC's are pretty nice. There were originally 7 in the project, of which I believe 4 were completed. Two were near Windsor a couple of years ago, two are running between White River and Sudbury, and presumably the remainder are stored at one of the maintenance centers in an unknown state.
 

NS VIA Fan

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This TCA (Air Canada) Super Constellation of the same mid '50s vintage is also nicely restored like those RDCs.....but could you imagine anyone other than an AVgeek wanting to fly in it?

Super.jpg
 

jiml

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This TCA (Air Canada) Super Constellation of the same mid '50s vintage is also nicely restored like those RDCs.....but could you imagine anyone other than an AVgeek wanting to fly in it?
And yet they're okay for some parts of the country? Superliners would be nice on the Canadian too, but sometimes you have to work with what you have. The work done on the RDC's was fairly extensive and the plan was to use them elsewhere as well.

b2118806107d202b54b50befeef93b72.jpgVIA-Rail-6219-diesel-self-propelled-RDC-2.jpg6813.viabudds_062015 - 1 (1).jpg-600x0.jpg
 

Urban Sky

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Well using that same argument why do we even have the corridor trains. After all the highway infrastructure between Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec is light years better than the rest of the country. So why don't we just defund the whole system because it is cheaper to subsidize busses on already subsidized roads.

That is basically the argument you just walked yourself into. [...]
Buses can’t run to places like Churchill and that’s why the federal government is going to stay in the non-Commuter passenger rail business. However, in the Corridor, the justification for running services in parallel to highways and privately operated bus services is simple: because they generate approximately 30% more revenues than what they cause in direct operating costs. In 2018, they contributed $77 million towards VIA’s overheads (like, for instance, my own salary), while non-Corridor services a negative contribution of $37.8 million ($6.5 million for the Canadian, $11.3 million for the Ocean and $20 million for the regional services to remote areas):


For sources and explanations, click here.

Unlike the fully allocated figures (which spread VIA’s overheads across the entire network), looking at the contribution (i.e. direct revenues minus direct costs) gives you an indication whether running more trains will decrease or increase VIA’s subsidy need. Therefore, the only viable strategy to reduce VIA’s subsidy need is to outgrow it in the Corridor and VIA’s exceptional performance between 2014 and 2019 is testament that running more Corridor services increases revenues much faster than costs:
Note: re-post from Urban Toronto (VIA Rail’s 2019 Annual Report has been published in the meanwhile, with even stronger figures)


I will never understand why so-called “rail enthusiasts” refuse to understand that Corridor services are what keeps VIA afloat rather than draining its resources. Therefore, the relative success of the Corridor services is the only thing which keeps your dreams for drastically improved rail service outside the Corridor alive...
 
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NS VIA Fan

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The work done on the RDC's was fairly extensive and the plan was to use them elsewhere as well.
Do you remember the original scheme to link Toronto Union Station to Pearson Airport? It was to have been called 'Blue-22'...(taking 22 min)... and was to use similar 60 year old re-built Budd RDCs. Now that would have been a great first impression for International travelers arriving in Toronto!

The Union-Pearson Express - Transit Toronto - Content

Eventually UP Express (Union-Pearson) was started using the same type Nippon Sharyo DMUs that SMART uses in Sonoma, Calif. And I remember UP got off to a rough start with it's $27 fare and hardly anyone riding. The fare was cut in half and riders soared!

20180619_104407.jpg20180619_103725.jpg
 
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jiml

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Do you remember the original scheme to link Toronto Union Station to Pearson Airport? It was to have been called 'Blue-22'...(taking 22 min)... and was to use similar 60 year old re-built Budd RDCs. Now that would have been a great first impression for International travelers arriving in Toronto!

The Union-Pearson Express - Transit Toronto - Content

Eventually UP Express (Union-Pearson) was started using the same type Nippon Sharyo DMUs that SMART uses in Sonoma, Calif. And I remember UP got off to a rough start with it's $27 fare and hardly anyone riding. The fare was cut in half and riders soared!

View attachment 21498View attachment 21499
There's so many layers to that it could be its own topic. As it relates to RDC's however, it's important to note that the rebuild of the 4-7 VIA RDC's did not take place until Blue-22 was dead and buried. That's not to say it wouldn't have happened earlier and to more units in order to provide rolling stock for the airport train, but it didn't. At the time the rebuild was commissioned the Victoria, BC, train was still being discussed, as was using RDC's during off-peak times on the Skeena route. (Note the pic of them in Jasper before or after the test run.) Neither of those came to fruition of course, leaving the Sudbury route as their sole recipient. Although started with a single unit, demand - especially for baggage - required the addition of a second and that's what was running pre-Covid AFAIK.

The enhancements the RDC's received were as follows:
- Fully-rebuilt diesel engines that meet Euro II emission standards
- Fully-rebuilt air brakes
- New controls, electrical wiring, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems
- New interiors and fully-rebuilt seating with improved accessibility for passengers with special mobility needs
- New, fully-accessible washrooms and toilets
- New LED interior lighting.

We can probably debate all day whether these would have been "nice enough" to greet arriving airline passengers - they'd certainly need more luggage space, however I'd probably go with the argument that it's better than what was there before - the Pacific-Western contracted Airport "Express" buses to downtown. (Think 45 minutes in rush hour.) Obviously you'd prefer shiny new trains and I would too, but sometimes you have to play with the cards available.

As I said above, the UP Express is probably a whole new topic, with enough "rabbit trails" to keep us and other historians busy for awhile. Collenette and his cronies saw this a premium service modelled on the Heathrow Express and that mentality carried over to Metrolinx in the early days. Factor in that the thing was greatly overbuilt from the originally-envisioned spur line off the Georgetown Sub. Someone had to pay for the monorail-style approach tracks, the high-end stations and brand new rolling stock. After the "farebox rebellion" that someone turned out to be taxpayers. That said, it's an excellent service and the fact that you can through-ticket to most GO stations is a bonus - something I exploited when living in the eastern 'burbs and flying on business.
 
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