VIA Rail's Ocean line not saving money with reduced service

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CHamilton

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VIA Rail's Ocean line not saving money with reduced service




The rail link between Montreal and Halifax, known as the Ocean, celebrated its 110th anniversary last year.


But there's little to cheer about in the latest financial information about the three-day-a-week service.

The Ocean continues to lose passengers and money.

In 2014, 74,175 people boarded the Ocean — that's 2,100 people less than the 76,337 passengers in 2013.

The line ran at a deficit of $35.6 million last year. That's $2 million more than the year before. But the president of the public transit lobby group, Transport Action Atlantic, is not discouraged by the figures.

Ted Bartlett said the numbers point to the need to increase service rather than cut it. ...

He says when you cast back to 2011 — the last full year the Ocean ran six days a week rather than half of that — the numbers tell the story.

During that year, the Ocean carried 134,000 passengers, 45 per cent more than today.

When you compare government funding per-passenger, the service costs $0.55 per passenger in 2011. That cost today is 41 per cent higher, $0.93 per passenger.

Bartlett said reinstating more frequent service would allow VIA to generate more revenue.
 

Swadian Hardcore

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I disagree. I'd like to see figures as to why the train still loses the same amount of money after the cuts. I think all the trains are still filled to the same loads, just that the service has been halved and the passenger loads have likewise been halved.
 

NS VIA Fan

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VIA ran some additional Oceans last Christmas on several date it wouldn't normally be running on the 3 days a week schedule. There were rumours extra trains would run on the busiest days this summer too.....but nothing yet.
 

Swadian Hardcore

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I think that's a better plan: running extra trains when they're needed. Might as well run them as full and trim as possible.
 

Amfleeter

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I always find this fascinating - VIA's trains are always noted for being incredibly long, but when you actually do the math for daily trains, they're not much longer than Amtrak's trains - if VIA rail theoretically has the rolling stock to run 30 car trains on every train just for the Canadian, I think it works out to 7-10 cars. About the same as Amtrak's LD trains.

What I think VIA is trying to do by staying tri-weekly is reduce crew costs, and keep capacity up on a per-train basis. It makes sense when VIA's not really trying to provide something that's primarily a transit service - the Canadian's more of a tourist train. VIA simply doesn't have the needed rolling stock to run efficient daily LD trains. The LD roster is very sleeper-heavy, compared to Amtrak's transportation-optimal roster that allows for 3-4 coaches on every Superliner train and 4-6 on every Viewliner/Amfleet train.
 

Swadian Hardcore

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Also, you would think that a longer consist per train would be more efficient on a CASM basis. Apparently this is not the case with VIA. It certainly hold true for freight trains; that's why we see 100-car freight trains.
 

railiner

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Running a "tourist train" less than daily doesn't really matter....running longer and less frequent trains will probably save on total costs that way.

But if running a "transit service" at least daily, and preferably more than once a day, I believe would bring in a lot of riders that wouldn't or couldn't otherwise even consider the service as a viable transportation option. Trying to combine the two types of services is just like any type of compromise...neither purpose is ideally served....
 

Anderson

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I think that part of the issue, if I had to guess, is that cutting the trains back probably triggered a bunch of held-away time (or the Canadian equivalent) and didn't reduce station expenses more than minimally...so that's problem number one, since I'm inclined to think that every station east of Quebec City is billed straight to the Ocean. IIRC the present setup takes either two or three sets of equipment; the old setup required three sets. So you've got more car maintenance per frequency because you've fouled up your equipment utilization numbers.

Problem number two is that per-employee costs probably jumped since when this sort of thing happens, it's usually the senior staff who stick around. There's also been a rumor that VIA tends to run the train long whether or not they have the demand. This may be down to guaranteed hours/shifts contracts, but it likely leads to a lot of empty seats.

One other point of note: At least on pax counts, the Ocean seems to have done a bit better than Amtrak did back in the 90s.
 

Anderson

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But in the 1960s, ocean liners would be sailing full and still losing money.
The ocean liner industry is one that I haven't plunged into, but IIRC there were a few issues. The big one was that in the early 60s you had too many companies in the field for what existed; I'm inclined to think there was also some regulation of fares that came into play, heavy capital investment needed to stay "current"...gee, this doesn't sound familiar at all. Anyhow, I'm inclined to suspect that (1) if ships were running full or near full and couldn't turn a profit there was some element of mispricing going on (I suspect that a modern-day regime of dynamic pricing might have gone a long way towards saving the ocean liners); (2) there were some inefficiencies going on in terms of staffing and the like (reference the flag-of-convenience issue...I think almost all transatlantic ships were flagged in Europe or the US); (3) part of the problem was on the fuel side; or (4) capacity and the "class system" might well have been a major problem (since First Class would have been prohibitively expensive for a lot of folks, after all, but keeping First and Second separate meant a lot of duplication of services).

Cunard wound up as the survivor in the field, but I think that was partly by luck. There was probably a bit more room in the field than "just enough" for Cunard, but there was not enough to support overhauling the ships once you got into the later 1960s.
 

MikefromCrete

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But in the 1960s, ocean liners would be sailing full and still losing money.
The ocean liner industry is one that I haven't plunged into, but IIRC there were a few issues. The big one was that in the early 60s you had too many companies in the field for what existed; I'm inclined to think there was also some regulation of fares that came into play, heavy capital investment needed to stay "current"...gee, this doesn't sound familiar at all. Anyhow, I'm inclined to suspect that (1) if ships were running full or near full and couldn't turn a profit there was some element of mispricing going on (I suspect that a modern-day regime of dynamic pricing might have gone a long way towards saving the ocean liners); (2) there were some inefficiencies going on in terms of staffing and the like (reference the flag-of-convenience issue...I think almost all transatlantic ships were flagged in Europe or the US); (3) part of the problem was on the fuel side; or (4) capacity and the "class system" might well have been a major problem (since First Class would have been prohibitively expensive for a lot of folks, after all, but keeping First and Second separate meant a lot of duplication of services).
Cunard wound up as the survivor in the field, but I think that was partly by luck. There was probably a bit more room in the field than "just enough" for Cunard, but there was not enough to support overhauling the ships once you got into the later 1960s.

What happened was that you could cross the Atlantic in a matter of hours instead of five or six days. Demand for ocean travel 'dried up.' so to speak. The industry moved to cruise mode and abandoned transit mode.
 

NS VIA Fan

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[SIZE=10.5pt]This ad that appeared in a 1960 Canadian Pacific Railway Timetable is a bit ironic as the DC-8 went on to displace both the Ocean liner and the Transcontinental train.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=10.5pt]
[/SIZE]

[SIZE=10.5pt]
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[SIZE=10.5pt]The chairman of Canadian Pacific once remarked that a couple of their worst decisions were acquiring the Budd Stainless Steel “Canadian” and the three new Empresses of England, Britain and Canada in the late ‘50s just as the jet age began.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=10.5pt]The scheduled transatlantic liners were gone within 6 or 7 years but the Empress Of Canada went on to a long career with Carnival Cruises as the Mardi Gras. [/SIZE]
 

jis

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Didn't Canadian Pacific actually create and run their own airline for a while too?

At one point it was called CP Air, and then I don;t quite remember what happened in the mid 80s when it disappeared into some other airline.
 
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NS VIA Fan

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Didn't Canadian Pacific actually create and run their own airline for a while too?
[SIZE=10.5pt]Yes (see above for one of their DC-8 Jet Empresses and route map) The CPR formed CPA in the 1940’s. Routes stretched from Australia, Japan, Hong Kong…..across Canada to Europe and South America.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=10.5pt]The Airline was competition to their own trains and oceanliners.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=10.5pt]CP Air was just part of the corporate rebranding in the late ‘60s that included CP Rail, CP Ships, CP Hotels, CP Trucks, CP Telecommunications etc. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=10.5pt]Pacific Western Airlines bought CP Air in the 1988 and formed Canadian Airlines which was eventually merged with Air Canada in 2000.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=10.5pt]Here’s a couple of CP aircraft at Halifax (just in from Amsterdam) Note the “Canadian Pacifique” title in French. The opposite side is in English.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=10.5pt]
[/SIZE]

[SIZE=10.5pt]
[/SIZE]
 
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