VIA CEO does not want subsidy for The Canadian

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VIA CEO does not want subsidy for The Canadian

Postby marquisofmississauga » Fri Dec 01, 2017 8:54 am

I have posted this before, but in light of recent conversation about the state of the Canadian I feel it is relevant. In this Financial Post interview of three years ago, VIA's CEO Yves Dejardins-Siciliano indicated he feels the Canadian and the Ocean should break even and not receive a subsidy. A brief quote: “You don’t get subsidized to go to Cuba and someone shouldn’t be subsidized to go see the Rockies or go to the beach in New Brunswick”.

The entire article: http://business.financialpost.com/trans ... rail-lines
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Re: VIA CEO does not want subsidy for The Canadian

Postby electricron » Fri Dec 01, 2017 5:03 pm

The man had just filled the CEO position at VIA, did you expect he would say otherwise?
In the last three years, VIA purchased the rail corridor from Ottawa to Brockville, a drop in a bucket of what’s needed to fulfill his dreams. But it is a start with a long way to go.
As for his comments that VIA is running modern equipment, a view of the Canadian running 60 year old trains counters that. The reason why most Canadians view VIA is still using obsolete equipment their grandfathers and grandmothers rode upon is because VIA is still using those cars!
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Re: VIA CEO does not want subsidy for The Canadian

Postby Leo_Ames » Mon Jan 01, 2018 8:09 pm

Outside of railfans and some members of the rail industry, these refurbished Budd passenger cars easily pass for modern rolling stock to 99% of Via's customer base.

I doubt that perception exists with the Canadian public.
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Re: VIA CEO does not want subsidy for The Canadian

Postby mdvle » Mon Jan 01, 2018 9:40 pm

He does not say in the article that VIA is running modern equipment - what he says is "experience of Via as being old technology" and "the Via of today is a much more modern experience than people may remember.”

I take from this that he is more referring to a general perception that trains are old fashioned, as opposed to flying, and that he would like to educate people that the train has improved its service over the years (things like wi-fi and power sockets, better food) and is thus just as modern as flying or driving.
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Re: VIA CEO does not want subsidy for The Canadian

Postby mdvle » Mon Jan 01, 2018 10:04 pm

We also have the benefit of reading this article now 3 years and 1 month later, and its worth looking (based on what is publicly available) has happened.

First, little to no movement to the private funding to modernize VIA - no real surprise to anyone familiar with a certain former Mayor who had a similar story of companies anxious to fund subways all over the city question. Wild guess, but without a willingness of the federal government to guarantee profits the private sector isn't interested in funding VIA's plans.

Looking at the 2016 annual report, and comparing the numbers with 2013 (the year prior to him being elevated to the top position) and he has done a good job of increasing revenue, from $250 million to $301 million (with a corresponding drop in government subsidy from $308 million to $268 million).**

The problems are:

1) on time performance has dropped significantly - from 82% to 73%

2) despite the significant improvement they are nowhere near to break even.

3) Ontario, tired of waiting I assume, is going ahead with a provincial high speed rail system west of Toronto, and expanding the GO Train to Niagara. I am guessing this will kill off VIA west of Toronto.

The problem is VIA is in a chicken and egg situation - the solution to their problems requires significant money upfront, and without that money they won't solve their on time performance or break even.

** The corridor and the "tourist friendly" service are the bulk of the subsidy - $225 million - with the remote routes only needing $40 million.
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Re: VIA CEO does not want subsidy for The Canadian

Postby marquisofmississauga » Sun Jan 28, 2018 8:47 am

It is not only the current CEO of VIA who expressed a lack of interest in operating long distance trains. In a speech in 2012 Marc Laliberté indicated that trains only make sense for distances between 160 and 800 km. He said for shorter trips people should drive or take a bus and for longer trips they should fly. Of course most people do just that and have for many decades.

http://www.viarail.ca/sites/all/files/m ... _ML_EN.pdf

Despite this negativity, the Canadian (except for timekeeping) continues to be an excellent train and the Ocean is still very good. I ride both trains every year. Thanks to a substantial amount of infrastructure money from the federal government, VIA was able to rebuild four Park cars and eight Château sleepers to create Prestige class. There were some problems and delays with the rebuilds and I had doubts this would be completed. It seems VIA is pleased with the enthusiasm from the many people willing to pay upwards of $10,000 for a train trip in peak season. The losses on the operation of the Canadian have dropped significantly over three years.

I still fear for the future of the Canadian because of the extreme lateness of almost every run this winter season. Off-peak passenger loads have always been low, but from my observations they are better than they were in the 1980s and 1990s. When word gets around these passenger levels may not continue. I suppose a lot of people who take the train the entire route as I do don't mind being late as long as they have no plans for the day of arrival - and in some cases it's prudent to have two clear days! Intermediate travel is not practical and even I will not take the Canadian to or from Winnipeg or Jasper as I have many times in the past.
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Re: VIA CEO does not want subsidy for The Canadian

Postby Mark0f0 » Tue Jan 30, 2018 3:49 am

marquisofmississauga wrote:I VIA was able to rebuild four Park cars and eight Château sleepers to create Prestige class.



VIA had no choice, they needed to meet the accessibility mandate of the courts when it came to their obligations under the human rights code.

Anyone with a suitable disability and their attendant is accommodated in a Prestige cabin these days for what basically amounts to Economy fare.
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Re: VIA CEO does not want subsidy for The Canadian

Postby marquisofmississauga » Wed Jan 31, 2018 8:58 pm

Mark0f0 wrote:
marquisofmississauga wrote:I VIA was able to rebuild four Park cars and eight Château sleepers to create Prestige class.



VIA had no choice, they needed to meet the accessibility mandate of the courts when it came to their obligations under the human rights code.

Anyone with a suitable disability and their attendant is accommodated in a Prestige cabin these days for what basically amounts to Economy fare.


While certainly VIA had to create an accessible cabin, they did not have to create Prestige class. The eight Château sleepers each contain six Prestige rooms, none of which are accessible. As for the Park cars, VIA did not have to remodel the rear "bullet lounge" and remove the etched glass partition of the Mural Lounge - the only thing I don't like about the rebuild. VIA had a wheelchair lift installed on both sides of the vestibule of the Park cars. The crew tell me they don't work properly, so a person in a wheelchair has to be raised and lowered on those manually-operated lifts that all staffed and some other stations have. For that reason, people who require wheelchair access to the train can entrain and detrain only at certain stations. That was not the intention at the time of the rebuild.

In order to get information for a friend who needs the accessible cabin I was able to have a good look at it and take photos on two of my trips. It is not part of the Prestige service and, as is expected, it is quite different from the Prestige cabins although the décor is similar. I enquired as to the fare and was told the person who needs the cabin is charged an upper berth fare and the companion, if any, can go free if a doctor certifies certain criteria.
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Re: VIA CEO does not want subsidy for The Canadian

Postby electricron » Thu Feb 01, 2018 12:05 am

marquisofmississauga wrote:While certainly VIA had to create an accessible cabin, they did not have to create Prestige class. The eight Château sleepers each contain six Prestige rooms, none of which are accessible. As for the Park cars, VIA did not have to remodel the rear "bullet lounge" and remove the etched glass partition of the Mural Lounge - the only thing I don't like about the rebuild. VIA had a wheelchair lift installed on both sides of the vestibule of the Park cars. The crew tell me they don't work properly, so a person in a wheelchair has to be raised and lowered on those manually-operated lifts that all staffed and some other stations have. For that reason, people who require wheelchair access to the train can entrain and detrain only at certain stations. That was not the intention at the time of the rebuild.

In order to get information for a friend who needs the accessible cabin I was able to have a good look at it and take photos on two of my trips. It is not part of the Prestige service and, as is expected, it is quite different from the Prestige cabins although the décor is similar. I enquired as to the fare and was told the person who needs the cabin is charged an upper berth fare and the companion, if any, can go free if a doctor certifies certain criteria.


Prestige class is the long term future of the Canadian, as it becomes more and more a tourist operation. It's down to two round trips a week, it will not be long for it to become one round trip a week. The inability to maintain its schedule (time table) makes it more and more useless for intercity travel between interim town and cities.
I'm not even sure a modern train can make that train service useful for non-tourist passengers wishing to take a four day land cruise across Canada. Next up will be native Americans operating a casino under the domes of the Park and Skyline cars. If serving food looses money, maybe replacing waiters and waitresses with one armed bandits will make money! ;)
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Re: VIA CEO does not want subsidy for The Canadian

Postby Mark0f0 » Thu Feb 01, 2018 7:41 pm

marquisofmississauga wrote: As for the Park cars, VIA did not have to remodel the rear "bullet lounge"


I'd definitely have to disagree on this point. The former chairs definitely had accessibility issues, and you couldn't possibly wheel a wheelchair in the area that contained the drink holders/ashtrays attached to the floor.

For that reason, people who require wheelchair access to the train can entrain and detrain only at certain stations. That was not the intention at the time of the rebuild.


Yeah I wonder how many accessible cab rides VIA has to shell out for because of that?

My point was, they had to do major change to meet the laws concerning accessibility, and Prestige was largely born out of such. It'd be really nice if VIA could finish the refurbishment of the rest of the Sleepers, Skylines, and do something about the disgusting state of Economy Class.
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Re: VIA CEO does not want subsidy for The Canadian

Postby mdvle » Thu Feb 01, 2018 8:51 pm

electricron wrote:It's down to two round trips a week, it will not be long for it to become one round trip a week.


That's just the winter schedule, it is back to 3 trips a week during the summer.
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Re: VIA CEO does not want subsidy for The Canadian

Postby marquisofmississauga » Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:57 pm

Mark0f0 wrote:
marquisofmississauga wrote: As for the Park cars, VIA did not have to remodel the rear "bullet lounge"


I'd definitely have to disagree on this point. The former chairs definitely had accessibility issues, and you couldn't possibly wheel a wheelchair in the area that contained the drink holders/ashtrays attached to the floor.

...


The large ashtrays/drinks holders were never attached to the floor. Although very heavy and would not easily overturn, there was a safety concern in the event of a derailment. VIA says that is why they were removed. Fortunately they have not been needed as ashtrays for a long time, but the drink holders were useful. They could become projectiles (as could the moveable chairs) in the event of a derailment. When the CPR operated The Canadian there were four of them. VIA reduced it to two but it was still crowded back there. The non-Prestige Park cars as used on the Ocean and the Prince Rupert train (formerly known as the Skeena) still have about 12 non-secured chairs.

The bench seating that replaced the individual seats in the Prestige Park cars take up the same amount of space. A wheelchair user cannot get back there because the rebuild has not eliminated the two steps down and two steps up. There is insufficient space either forward or aft of the under-dome lounge to convert the steps to a ramp.

When I made enquiries for my friends, VIA said the "handicapped" passenger is expected to spend the entire trip in the cabin. Meals will be delivered to the passenger(s). I don"t know if VIA still carries the narrow wheelchair without arms that I have seen used several times to get passengers to and from the dining car.
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