Discussion of Canadian Passenger Rail Services such as AMT (Montreal), Go Transit (Toronto), VIA Rail, and other Canadian Railways and Transit

Moderator: Ken V

  by downbeat
See http://tinyurl.com/ypqse

I'd be interested to hear what you think... The full article is viewable at the link above. I've excerpted the juicier bits here.

The Gazette wrote: FRANCOIS SHALOM
The Gazette

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Via Rail Canada's 2002 deficit of $153.7 million will balloon to $184 million for 2003, The Gazette has learned, and some rail-transport insiders are pointing the finger at the inefficiency of its recently bought Renaissance trains and the federal sponsorship scandal.

Two sources told The Gazette the passenger rail operator will try to pin all the blame for the $30.3-million increase in the deficit on SARS and the outbreak of mad cow disease, which hit transport operators hard.

But nearly half of that amount can be attributed to the Renaissance rolling stock and to Via's role in the sponsorship scandal, they claimed.


The controversial purchase of 139 Renaissance train cars from Alstom was plagued by problems and glitches from the start, including washrooms that did not accommodate disabled travellers and buffer-wagons of freight that had to be hitched at either end of the trains because the passenger wagons did not meet crash specifications. The added cars contributed a large part of the increased deficit, said the sources.

Via Rail's annual deficit - it always incurs one - has been decreasing steadily since the early 1990s, and the 2002 shortfall was the lowest since then. The 1990 deficit was $410 million.

But the sources, who did not want to be named, said they feared the company would try to camouflage the losses incurred by the Renaissance equipment and the sponsorship programs by rolling them into the overall figures, which they would blame on SARS and mad cow disease.


One insider said that "they are going to invoke the two things (SARS and mad cow) so they don't have to talk about the other issues - Renaissance and the contracts."

"The ordinary guy won't be able to unravel all that."

Via should publish "the real operating losses from Renaissance," to gauge the impact of the decision to buy the trains from one of Alstom's British plants in 2000.

The cost of refurbishing the wagons also soared $110 million, from $125 million to $235 million.


Via executives "are walking on eggs, everyone's tippy-toeing and peeking around corners around (Via) these days," said one source.

"The Renaissance is meant to breathe new life into rail travel, but I think it will have the opposite effect," said one source.

Both said they favoured Bombardier's JetTrain or its Acela high-speed train used by Amtrak in the U.S. for the Quebec City-Windsor corridor, the most travelled route in Canada.

But they insisted they did not speak on behalf of Bombardier, or had any interest in pushing its high-speed trains.
  by Ken V
VIA wouldn't be the first to use these excuses. I think SARS, Mad Cow, 9/11, etc. are being blamed far too often by many tourism and transportation organizations for their problems. The real problem is economics. I know the business world is cutting travel costs wherever possible by choosing to use telephone/video conferences and e-meetings on the web as much as possible. I used to take from four to six business trips a year and now it's been almost three years since the last one.

It's true that the Renaissance cars have been more of a financial drain on VIA than expected. Most us know that's because of the unexpected, and perhaps unreasonable, demands for better access for the disabled. The article also states some "facts" I question such as "buffer-wagons of freight that had to be hitched at either end of the trains because the passenger wagons did not meet crash specifications". I assume buffer-wagons refers to the baggage cars. I don't know if this is true or not.

It's also no surprise that both sources agreed that VIA management favours Bombardier's Jet Train. After all, it was their "VIA Fast" proposal that (former) Transportation Minister Collenette was promoting.