New service cuts announced

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Ken V
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New service cuts announced

Post by Ken V » Wed Jun 27, 2012 9:35 am

Today, June 27 2012, VIA Rail Canada has announced a series of service reductions on certain routes. These include reducing the frequency of the Ocean from six times per week to three and the Canadian from three weekly trips to two during the off season.

Details can be found in the Backgrounder section of today's press release: http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1000123 ... mer-demand
Ken V. Moderator: Most things Canadian.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Re: New service cuts announced

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Wed Jun 27, 2012 3:34 pm

Wow, Dr. Spin earned his fee with that one.

That some 1/3rd of the Daily train-miles and 200 jobs are being whacked is pretty well "buried" in that "pile of puff".

"Baghdad Bob" was good at the game; who else could turn an outright rout into a "strategic realignment". As I recall, "Bob" didn't even make the Deck of Cards. He was captured and simply released - deemed to be nothing other than a paid mouthpiece.

Station Aficionado
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Re: New service cuts announced

Post by Station Aficionado » Wed Jun 27, 2012 3:42 pm

I wonder if there's any chance GO would extend a train to Niagara Falls on a permanent basis to make up for the dropped VIA frequency.

Gilbert B Norman
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Re: New service cuts announced

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Wed Jun 27, 2012 3:47 pm

Possibly Mr. Afficiando, you have just translated the captioned babble:
VIA Press Release wrote:As part of aligning services to customer demand, VIA is partnering with other passenger services, including those of other publicly-funded providers, to better harmonize schedules and to sell fares in an integrated way on VIA's website. These changes not only contribute to an interconnected national passenger transportation system, but it is also expected to further reduce costs and increase revenues for the corporation

jstolberg
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Re: New service cuts announced

Post by jstolberg » Wed Jun 27, 2012 5:36 pm

But Jennifer Brown, president of the Canadian Auto Workers Local 4005, said demand is up by 7.8 per cent since last year and by nearly 25 per cent in the peak season.

“So where they’re getting their numbers we don’t know. I work on board and from January my trains have been sold out,” she said.

Brown, who works on trains between Halifax and Montreal one day a week, expects to be laid off this fall.
http://www.thestar.com/business/article ... udget-cuts

Indeed. On Friday's train from Halifax to Montreal, the bottom 8 fare buckets are sold out. Economy class is sold out. Sleeper class without meals is sold out. Sleeper class with meals but no shower is sold out. If you want to travel, you'll need to pay for a cabin for 2, meals and a shower.

NS VIA FAN
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Re: New service cuts announced

Post by NS VIA FAN » Wed Jun 27, 2012 6:10 pm

jstolberg wrote: Indeed. On Friday's train from Halifax to Montreal, the bottom 8 fare buckets are sold out. Economy class is sold out. Sleeper class without meals is sold out. Sleeper class with meals but no shower is sold out. If you want to travel, you'll need to pay for a cabin for 2, meals and a shower.
......It’s the July 1st Holiday weekend and has probably been nearly sold out for awhile now.

The Ocean’s ridership has dropped considerably over the past few years. I’m on the Ocean often and especially in the winter months......you certainly have your pick of accommodations!

Airline competition is strong on the route especially out of Halifax...2 hrs to Toronto vs. 24 on the train and flying can be a lot cheaper too.

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Re: New service cuts announced

Post by jstolberg » Wed Jun 27, 2012 7:34 pm

NS VIA FAN wrote:......It’s the July 1st Holiday weekend and has probably been nearly sold out for awhile now.
Sorry, I should have known that Sunday is Canada Day. I have family in BC. (facepalm!)

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Ken V
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Re: New service cuts announced

Post by Ken V » Wed Jun 27, 2012 9:19 pm

Station Aficionado wrote:I wonder if there's any chance GO would extend a train to Niagara Falls on a permanent basis to make up for the dropped VIA frequency.
GO has been "studying" regular daily train service between Toronto and Niagara Falls for a while now but, so far, nothing has been made official. Today GO does offer weekend service during the summer months and weekday bus service year round. Perhaps Mr. Norman is correct in reading between the lines and VIA knows something we don't about GO's plans.

To be honest, despite their being cramped, I find the seats on a GO bus much more comfortable than those on their commuter trains and might prefer a GO bus to the GO train for the one-and-a-half hour trip.

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Re: New service cuts announced

Post by MACTRAXX » Thu Jun 28, 2012 7:14 pm

Ken V: Interesting news on VIA's service cutbacks...

I was wondering about the status of the Maple Leaf specifically the potential
abandonment of the track across the Whirlpool Bridge at the Canada/US Border...

I am all for GO stepping in and operating regular service between Niagara Falls
and Toronto...the exception would be the thru Maple Leaf to New York City...

Which SW Ontario routes have the lowest ridership?
Sarnia and/or Windsor-Toronto routes?

MACTRAXX
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Ken V
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Re: New service cuts announced

Post by Ken V » Thu Jun 28, 2012 11:01 pm

The Amtrak/VIA Maple Leaf is not affected by these cuts. but once all is said and done it will be the only VIA train left operating on that route. I haven't heard anything recently on the status of the Whirlpool Bridge so I presume nothing has changed there.

In southwestern Ontario, the south line to Windsor via Brantford is more heavily traveled than the north line to Sarnia via Guelph & Kitchener, likely in a large part due to the faster trip times between Toronto and London. The bulk of passengers on both routes are east of London.

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Re: New service cuts announced

Post by Station Aficionado » Fri Jun 29, 2012 8:34 am

Ken V wrote:The Amtrak/VIA Maple Leaf is not affected by these cuts. but once all is said and done it will be the only VIA train left operating on that route. I haven't heard anything recently on the status of the Whirlpool Bridge so I presume nothing has changed there.
See this topic on the Amtrak forum for an update of sorts on the Whirlpool Bridge:http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopi ... 6&start=60

On the more general topic, long distance routes with service of once a day or three times a week or whatever are the passenger equivalent of long, low-density freight branch lines. Their economics are terrible. Sometimes they can be justified as providing an essential service (which, I gather, is the case with VIA's "remote" services). Likewise, if not strictly "essential," they may be a vital part of the transportation system for the communities they serve, and those communities use them heavily. That's the case with Amtrak's Empire Builder.

Based on what I've read here and elsewhere (I've never ridden either train), neither situation currently applies to the Canadian or the Ocean. While I recognize the historical and symbolic importance of the Canadian, my sense is that the train is now mostly a "land cruise" for the well-heeled, and doesn't serve much of a transportation purpose (indeed, I don't think tri-weeklies ever serve much of a transportation purpose). And I gather the Ocean is a paler (if more frequent) imitation of the same. It's hard for me to see the justification for government funding of either train in its current incarnation (although, coming from south of the border, my opinion is not of much consequence and I'm not familiar with many of the particulars). In this situation, I think there are two defensible choices: cut back/eliminate the services, or improve them to the point that patronage improves and they become an important part of the transportation system instead of glorified tourist trains. Mr. Harper's government has chosen the prior course. While we may have preferred the latter course, I can understand the view that the status quo is not acceptable.

Boingy
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Re: New service cuts announced

Post by Boingy » Fri Jun 29, 2012 1:22 pm

This is a classic "de-marketing" strategy. In my opinion, VIA has given up on southern Ontario, and you can see it all the way through these latest schedule changes. They're just waiting for their remaining passengers to give up on it, too. It is CP's approach to passenger services from the 1960s and 70s all over again.

My distinctly non-expert opinion: it is only a matter of time before most services west and south of Toronto are abandoned altogether. The 80-series and 90-series trains will be gone altogether (and for good) within five years. When you're down to one train per day in some places, you're just not running a service that anyone can take seriously any more. If it isn't the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto triangle, VIA does not care.

I also think that the transcontinental routes are as good as gone. Some truncated version of the Western transcon may be sold off to everyone's favourite Rocky Mountaineer, but that will be it.

Don't think they'll do it? There was a time when the idea of cutting passenger train service to places like Calgary and Regina seemed absurd. It happened, and the service has never come back.

Sorry to be so pessimistic, and if any of you disagree, let's hear it. But I really do think this could be the end-game for passenger rail in Canada.

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Re: New service cuts announced

Post by Boingy » Fri Jun 29, 2012 2:38 pm

Some other thoughts and rants on VIA's service cuts:

1) I can guarantee you that Metrolinx/GO Transit will not rush in to fill the gaps that VIA is leaving behind in Ontario. They work at their own pace with their own priorities (and, to be fair, they have their own infrastructure and funding issues to contend with). They can't just expand service on a whim, and they will not feel that it is their duty to pick up the ball that VIA is quite consciously dropping here.

That business of how “GO Transit can pick up the slack” that VIA put into its press materials is a real howler. It sounds great in a press release but bears no relationship to how GO Transit actually functions on the ground.

2) This isn’t all about travelling to and from Toronto, though that is where I know much of the discussion will focus among VIA's riders in Ontario. Folks from the 519 and southern 905 belts will not use the train to get to or from places like Kingston, Montreal, Ottawa, or Quebec any more—not if they can’t get a connection that makes sense for them (or, hell, even a connection at all!).

Air Canada, WestJet, Porter, and Greyhound (the old “Dirty Dog”) must all be licking their chops after VIA's announcement this week.

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Re: New service cuts announced

Post by jp1822 » Sat Jun 30, 2012 12:14 am

Station Aficionado wrote:
Ken V wrote:The Amtrak/VIA Maple Leaf is not affected by these cuts. but once all is said and done it will be the only VIA train left operating on that route. I haven't heard anything recently on the status of the Whirlpool Bridge so I presume nothing has changed there.
See this topic on the Amtrak forum for an update of sorts on the Whirlpool Bridge:http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopi ... 6&start=60

On the more general topic, long distance routes with service of once a day or three times a week or whatever are the passenger equivalent of long, low-density freight branch lines. Their economics are terrible. Sometimes they can be justified as providing an essential service (which, I gather, is the case with VIA's "remote" services). Likewise, if not strictly "essential," they may be a vital part of the transportation system for the communities they serve, and those communities use them heavily. That's the case with Amtrak's Empire Builder.

Based on what I've read here and elsewhere (I've never ridden either train), neither situation currently applies to the Canadian or the Ocean. While I recognize the historical and symbolic importance of the Canadian, my sense is that the train is now mostly a "land cruise" for the well-heeled, and doesn't serve much of a transportation purpose (indeed, I don't think tri-weeklies ever serve much of a transportation purpose). And I gather the Ocean is a paler (if more frequent) imitation of the same. It's hard for me to see the justification for government funding of either train in its current incarnation (although, coming from south of the border, my opinion is not of much consequence and I'm not familiar with many of the particulars). In this situation, I think there are two defensible choices: cut back/eliminate the services, or improve them to the point that patronage improves and they become an important part of the transportation system instead of glorified tourist trains. Mr. Harper's government has chosen the prior course. While we may have preferred the latter course, I can understand the view that the status quo is not acceptable.
In my opinion VIA really cemented the notion of the Canadian as a "toursit train" when they went to a "four night" schedule. I think it inconvenienced a lot of intermediate based passengers who now had to endure long layovers due to the train being "ahead of schedule."

Although the four night schedule was kinda "forced" onto VIA by CN due to scheduling and on-time performance issues, it cascaded into a much longer running train. Once the recession hit and some freight trains were eliminated, it sort of freed the railroad up to the point that the old schedule of the Canadian likely could have been maintained again. Now the Canadian often endures long layovers at intermediate stops - awaiting for necessary times of departure. Not sure how "popular" the four night schedule of the Canadian was.

Likewise, VIA invested a significant amount of money into upgrading the Budd fleet, particularly those cars running on the Canadian, only to have them see less service and more time "sitting" than being out on the road.

A lot of connections between say the Hudson Bay Train (train to Churchill) and Skeena (train to Prince Rupert) were also broken, forcing patrons to "overnight it" in hotels awaiting for the next day's departure (if that). Even up until the early 2000's I can recall a healthy amount of westbound Canadian passengers connecting with the evening's Hudson Bay Train (Canadian coming into Winnipeg in the late afternoon and the Hudson Bay Train leaving some time after 8 p.m.). This was a same day connection, as opposed to a relatively expensive layover.

VIA's interconnectivity of what trains it did have was more concentrated east-west than what limited trains ran north-south. And there's not that many too coordinate for the later! I can also remember connecting bus routes being printed in VIA timetables for the Canadian or Skeena in the late 1990s and early 2000s. That's either gone now due to lack of service, lack of connectivity, or lack of promotion.

Poor political move.

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Re: New service cuts announced

Post by Pacific 2-3-1 » Sat Jun 30, 2012 3:39 pm

The London-Sarnia ON train that's getting cut is what used to be part of the Amtrak/VIA "International", or what used to be, pre-Amtrak, the Grand Trunk Western-Canadian National day train from Chicago to Toronto, which was called "Maple Leaf".

I think it's a bit silly for Amtrak and VIA not to have some sort of a through train from Chicago to Toronto, when you have two so-called "corridors" situated end-to-end between both cities. The distance is less than that from Chicago to Omaha. But I don't think either carrier likes dealing with the other.

I remember seeing my grandparents off at Dearborn Station in Chicago around, say, 1962 when they were traveling to Great Britain. First, they had to get to Montreal, which was where "The Greek Line" sailed from. I'm guessing they had to change trains at Toronto to an overnight run.

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