VIA pandemic service reductions and restorations (2022)

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Bob Dylan

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VIA Rail has dropped Business Class from its corridor services and reduced the number of trains in response to the pandemic.


Alcohol service had already been suspended on most trains. All VIA1 lounges will also close.
Wonder if Amtrak will follow suit?( at least VIA isn't Cancelling Trains for Months @ a time like Amtrak is doing!( with more to come per posts on Rail Forums).
 
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The alcohol suspension happened prior to the latest service reductions. At the time Ontario had disallowed food and beverage sales at sports venues to prevent mask removal, so that might be a contributing factor, but more likely insufficient staff to sell and serve it. The frequency cuts started today and it sure is quiet near my local level crossing on the main line.
 

Urban Sky

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Because serving alcohol transmits COVID but non alcoholic beverages don't? πŸ€”
Sipping a glass of wine over a period of 30 minutes of continuous mask removal vs. taking off your mask for 15 seconds to take a big gulp out of your water bottle.

Admittedly, this also makes the case for banning tea, coffee, juice and soft drinks (i.e. all drinks but water, preferably of the bottled kind), but that would have probably been too radical for most passengers...
 
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jis

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Any changes to the few longer distance service that may or may not have been running? I can't remember what the status of the Jonquierre and Senneterre service were even pre-pandemic. Did the pandemic change anything?
 

Urban Sky

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Any changes to the few longer distance service that may or may not have been running? I can't remember what the status of the Jonquierre and Senneterre service were even pre-pandemic. Did the pandemic change anything?
ServicePre-pandemicRamp-downRamp-up
MTRL-HLFX (Ocean)3 times per weeksuspended on 2020-03-13once per week as of 2021-08-11
2 times per week as of 2021-12-08
MTRL-HERV-JONQ/SENN3 times per weekonce per week, as of 2020-03-23
TRTO-WNPG-VCVR (Canadian)2 times per week
(3 times per week during summer between Edmonton and Vancouver)
suspended on 2020-03-13once per week (WNPG-VCVR only) as of 2020-12-11
once per week (TRTO-VCVR) as of 2021-05-17
SUDB-WHTR3 times per weekonce per week, as of 2020-03-23
WNPG-CHUR2 times per week
(3 times per week between The Pas and Churchill)
full service maintained throughout the pandemic
JASP-PGEO-PRUP3 times per weekalready suspended in February 2020, due to blockades by indigenous protestersonce per week as of 2020-07-05
 
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John Bredin

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ServicePre-pandemicRamp-downRamp-up
MTRL-HLFX (Ocean)3 times per weeksuspended on 2020-03-13once per week as of 2021-08-11
2 times per week as of 2021-12-08
MTRL-HERV-JONQ/SENN3 times per weekonce per week, as of 2020-03-23
TRTO-WNPG-VCVR (Canadian)2 times per week
(3 times per week during summer between Edmonton and Vancouver)
suspended on 2020-03-13once per week (WNPG-VCVR only) as of 2020-12-11
once per week (TRTO-VCVR) as of 2021-05-17
SUDB-WHTR3 times per weekonce per week, as of 2020-03-23
WNPG-CHUR2 times per week
(3 times per week between The Pas and Churchill)
full service maintained throughout the pandemic
JASP-PGEO-PRUP3 times per weekalready suspended in February 2020, due to blockades by indigenous protestersonce per week as of 2020-07-05
Sounds exactly like
Cancelling Trains for Months @ a time like Amtrak is doing!
πŸ€”
Except Amtrak never cut a thrice-weakly train, and the first set of thrice-weakly cuts plus this set of cuts until late March are still several months shorter than VIA's cuts.
 

neroden

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Yeah, VIA's cuts are worse.

To give VIA a miniscule amount of credit,
(1) they have not received giant piles of funding comparable to what Amtrak got, and the special funding they did get was dedicated to the Corridor, unlike the funding for Amtrak;
(2) unlike the supposedly-money-losing but actually-marginally-profitable trains Amtrak runs, some of these VIA trains (not the Ocean or the Canadian; the "remote services") actually have large marginal costs net of revenues on operations due to extremely low ridership; that is, suspending them actually gains money for VIA, whereas suspending Amtrak trains is documented to not gain money for Amtrak.

Canadian politics in regard to this has always been odd, and arguably malicious. The combination of slashing services to high-population areas while retaining infrequent service as "essential" to low-population areas plays against the strengths of trains (which are good at high-volume, scaling up) and towards their weaknesses (they don't scale down well and are expensive to operate if small and low-capacity), thus guaranteeing financial instability.
 

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I would argue (though not maliciously :) ) that Canadian politics realizes that retaining infrequent service to remote and low-population areas is one essential element of maintaining national unity in a country as large and geographically diverse as Canada.
 

neroden

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It's one thing to retain infrequent remote service, it's another to retain it *while* cutting service to major cities
 
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It's one thing to retain infrequent remote service, it's another to retain it *while* cutting service to major cities
I believe they are required to maintain a minimum service to those remote locations regardless of the level to other destinations. VIA and Amtrak are quite different in that regard.
 

neroden

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I believe they are required to maintain a minimum service to those remote locations regardless of the level to other destinations. VIA and Amtrak are quite different in that regard.
Which is, indeed, why I am pointing the finger at the Canadian federal government for this policy (VIA's management has no control).
 

Urban Sky

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Canadian politics in regard to this has always been odd, and arguably malicious. The combination of slashing services to high-population areas while retaining infrequent service as "essential" to low-population areas plays against the strengths of trains (which are good at high-volume, scaling up) and towards their weaknesses (they don't scale down well and are expensive to operate if small and low-capacity), thus guaranteeing financial instability.
It's one thing to retain infrequent remote service, it's another to retain it *while* cutting service to major cities
What exactly should VIA (on behalf of the federal government) be doing in your opinion? Cutting the last remaining weekly (as in once every seven days) service to communities without road access, just because the demand is currently not there to offer the cities along the Quebec-Windsor corridor (paralleled by the 401 Highway) the up to 10 departures daily of the full pre-Covid schedule?

I really don't understand the railfans who are seemingly willing to sacrifice non-Corridor rail services just in the unfounded hope that its subsidies might pay for more Corridor service (Corridor services are already profitable on a direct-cost basis - except for the odd pandemic, of course - and what's preventing more service is the lack of slots and intercity-suitable fleet to schedule them)...
 
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John Bredin

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The absurdity isn't in paying for the essential trains but in not being willing to pay for trains in more populated areas. A train serving as the only non-flight access to an isolated community is essential, but so are trains serving places with good roads. The problem is when people and governments consider only the former as worthy of government expenditure.

I'm not a Canadian, but if I was, I would want the same out of that federal government as I want out of the U.S. one (and IMHO have started to get): more public money for passenger rail generally, and official recognition that passenger service is not expected to be profitable but to bring economic benefits to communities, regions, and the nation well in excess of what the government spends on it.

Also, there are major cities other than on the Corridor. Outside of Covid, a daily Canadian doesn't sound like overkill. I would argue that (again, outside of Covid) a daily train each on the old CP and CN transcontinental lines isn't outlandish.
 

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I wonder if VIA passengers were going as bonkers as US air passengers. Allegedly that was the reason for withdrawing alcohol service on several airlines.
Violent attacks were listed as a reason for not bringing alcohol back to coach cabins. Alcoholic drinks returned to First Class a long time ago and coach passengers simply get drunk in the airport instead. Not sure if that is helping or not.
 
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neroden

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The absurdity isn't in paying for the essential trains but in not being willing to pay for trains in more populated areas. A train serving as the only non-flight access to an isolated community is essential, but so are trains serving places with good roads. The problem is when people and governments consider only the former as worthy of government expenditure.

I'm not a Canadian, but if I was, I would want the same out of that federal government as I want out of the U.S. one (and IMHO have started to get): more public money for passenger rail generally, and official recognition that passenger service is not expected to be profitable but to bring economic benefits to communities, regions, and the nation well in excess of what the government spends on it.

Also, there are major cities other than on the Corridor. Outside of Covid, a daily Canadian doesn't sound like overkill. I would argue that (again, outside of Covid) a daily train each on the old CP and CN transcontinental lines isn't outlandish.
What he said. And daily service to Halifax too.
 

neroden

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To elaborate, Canadian government policy has created this bonkers situation where:
(1) you can go from White River to Sudbury, but if you want to continue from any of those places to Toronto, get a car! (Or walk five miles to Sudbury Junction, I guess)
(2) during the first Covid service suspension -- you can go from Churchill to Winnipeg, but if you want to continue to Toronto or Edmonton, get a car or fly!

It's pretty ***. If you expect everyone to fly once they get to Winnipeg, why not have them fly all the way to Churchill? Or perhaps the Canadian government expects people who live in Churchill to buy, register, and store cars in Winnipeg?

I mean really. This attitude doesn't even provide real service to the people from these remote communities. It neglects the very concept of a network.
 
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To elaborate, Canadian government policy has created this bonkers situation where:
(1) you can go from White River to Sudbury, but if you want to continue from any of those places to Toronto, get a car! (Or walk five miles to Sudbury Junction, I guess)
(2) during the first Covid service suspension -- you can go from Churchill to Winnipeg, but if you want to continue to Toronto or Edmonton, get a car or fly!

It's pretty ***. If you expect everyone to fly once they get to Winnipeg, why not have them fly all the way to Churchill? Or perhaps the Canadian government expects people who live in Churchill to buy, register, and store cars in Winnipeg?

I mean really. This attitude doesn't even provide real service to the people from these remote communities. It neglects the very concept of a network.
I'm not one to defend many government decisions, however the two examples you've chosen are defensible. In both cases those trains exist to serve remote (and sometimes otherwise inaccessible) communities, whether the endpoints or the stops in-between. The fact that these routes are able to attract occasional riders from outside their service areas (e.g. tourists during non-pandemic times) is a bonus as opposed to their "raison d'etre". Connections are not a concern. The fact that VIA allocates the minimum resources to the Sudbury train (refurbished RDC's) indicates how little it is valued and they would likely stop operating both if permitted, perhaps maintaining a summer-only train to Churchill at inflated prices like the Canadian. The Churchill train has a disproportionate benefit to indigenous communities (and in fact partly runs on native-owned rails), so even if discontinuance was once a possibility it's not going to fly in a time of reconciliation.
 
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Urban Sky

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The fact that VIA allocates the minimum resources to the Sudbury train (refurbished RDC's) indicates how little it is valued and they would likely stop operating both if permitted, perhaps maintaining a summer-only train to Churchill at inflated prices like the Canadian.
Whereas I do agree with the rest of your post, I am struggling to understand how you imagine running Sudbury-White River with anything else than the RDCs: Given that a) there remains only one place in Canada which maintains expertise in how to maintain RDCs and that happens to be located in Sudbury, b) there is no other corner in VIA's network from which it is so labor-intensive to retrieve fleet for maintenance than that route (where you need to call in a crew to DH the equipment to Capreol, where it can be attached) and c) there is no longer a wye available at White River, why would you assign anything else than your RDCs (which happen to be bidirectional and only require to see one of VIA's maintenance centers on an annual basis) on that route?

Also, why would VIA have any interest in discontinuing any of its remote (or actually: any of its remaining) routes? There is absolutely no reason to believe that any of that freed-up funding would be reallocated elsewhere at VIA and nobody has less interest in providing individual provinces with a reason to question the need for a federal passenger railroad than VIA itself...
 
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neroden

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I'm not one to defend many government decisions, however the two examples you've chosen are defensible. In both cases those trains exist to serve remote (and sometimes otherwise inaccessible) communities

It doesn't serve those communities properly if they aren't able to get from their communities to their destinations, such as Toronto. It's a very non-service-oriented attitude to say "Well, you can go to Winnipeg but nowhere else." Very Tsarist.
 
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