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Wikipedia

Via Rail

Via Rail Canada Inc. (reporting mark VIA) (), operating as Via Rail or Via, is a Canadian Crown corporation that is mandated to operate intercity passenger rail service in Canada. It receives an annual subsidy from Transport Canada to offset the cost of operating services connecting remote communities.

Via Rail Canada Inc.
TypeCrown corporation
IndustryRail transport
FoundedJanuary 12, 1977; 44 years ago (1977-01-12)
HeadquartersPlace Ville Marie,
Area served
Canada
Key people
Cynthia Garneau (President and CEO)
Françoise Bertrand (Chairperson)
RevenueCA$392.6 million (2018)
CA$−272.6 million (2018)
Total assetsCA$1.467 billion (2018)
Number of employees
3,234 (2020)
Websiteviarail.ca
Geographic map of the Via Rail system
Overview
Stations called at378
Reporting markVIA
Dates of operation1977–present
PredecessorPassenger services operated by the Canadian National Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway, as well as other smaller companies
Technical
Track gauge4 ft8+12 in (1,435 mm)standard gauge
Length12,500 kilometres (7,800 mi)

Via Rail operates over 500 trains per week across eight Canadian provinces and 12,500 kilometres (7,800 mi) of track, 97 per cent of which is owned and maintained by other railway companies, mostly by Canadian National Railway (CN). Via Rail carried approximately 4.39 million passengers in 2017, the majority along the Corridor routes connecting the major cities of the Quebec City–Windsor Corridor, and had an on-time performance of 73 per cent.

Contents

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Background

CNR Rapido train cars in Pickering, July 1968. In an effort to attract riders, new train cars were acquired by CN in the 1960s.

Yearly passenger levels on Canada's passenger trains peaked at 60 million during World War II. Following the war the growth of air travel and the personal automobile caused significant loss of mode share for Canada's passenger train operators. By the 1960s it was obvious to both Canadian National Railway (CN) and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) that passenger trains were no longer economically viable. CP sought to divest itself of its passenger trains, but federal government regulators and politicians balked, forcing them to maintain a minimal service through the 1970s, with the government subsidizing up to 80 percent of losses. CN, being a Crown corporation at that time, was encouraged by the federal government and political interests to invest in passenger trains. Innovative marketing schemes such as Red, White, and Blue fares, new equipment such as scenic dome cars and rail diesel cars, and services such as Rapido and the UAC TurboTrain trains temporarily increased numbers of passengers, reversing previous declines.: 4–5

These increases proved temporary; by 1977, total passenger numbers had dropped below five million. The decline of passenger rail became a federal election issue in 1974 when the government of Pierre Trudeau promised to implement a nationwide carrier similar to Amtrak in the United States. Starting in 1976, CN began branding its passenger services with the bilingual name Via or Via CN. The Via logo began to appear on CN passenger locomotives and cars, while still carrying CN logos as well. That September, Via published a single timetable with information on both CN and CP trains, marking the first time that Canadians could find all major passenger trains in one publication. In 1977, CN underwent a dramatic restructuring when it placed various non-core freight railway activities into separate subsidiaries, such as ferries under CN Marine, and passenger trains under Via Rail which was subsequently renamed Via Rail Canada.: 6–9

Formation and early years

A Via Rail train at Cochrane station in August 1978. Earlier that year, CNR and CPR passenger rail service were spun-off into Via Rail Canada.

On 12 January 1977, CN spun off its passenger services as a separate Crown corporation, Via Rail Canada. At its inception, Via acquired all CN passenger cars and locomotives. Following several months of negotiation, on 29 October 1978, Via assumed all CP passenger train operations and took possession of cars and locomotives. Passenger train services which were not included in the creation of Via Rail included those offered by BC Rail, Algoma Central Railway, Ontario Northland Railway, Quebec North Shore & Labrador Railway, various urban commuter train services operated by CN and CP, and remaining CN passenger services in Newfoundland. At this time, Via did not own any trackage and had to pay right-of-way fees to CN and CP, sometimes being the only user of rural branch lines.[citation needed]

Via initially had a tremendous variety of equipment — much of it in need of replacement — and operated routes stretching from Sydney, Nova Scotia to Prince Rupert, British Columbia and north to Churchill, Manitoba. Over 150 scheduled trains per week were in operation, including transcontinental services, regional trains, and corridor services.[citation needed]

While Via remains an independent federal Crown corporation mandated to operate as a business, it is hindered by the fact that it was created by an Order in Council of the Privy Council, and not from legislation passed by Parliament. Had Via been enabled by legislation, the company would be permitted to seek funding on the open money markets as other Crown corporations such as CN have done in the past. It is largely for this reason that critics say Via—like Amtrak in the United States—is vulnerable to federal budget cuts and continues to answer first to its political masters, as opposed to the business decisions needed to ensure the viability of intercity passenger rail service.

1980s

The LRC in Port Hope, October 1981. Via Rail ordered the LRCs in the 1980s to replace its older train cars.

Greater numbers of passengers would not be Via's saviour. In 1981, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's government endorsed Minister of Transport Jean-Luc Pépin's plan which slash Via's budget, leading to a 40 percent reduction in the company's operations. Frequently sold-out trains such as the Super Continental (which reduced Via to operating only one transcontinental train, The Canadian) and the popular Atlantic were discontinued.[citation needed]

Via also sought to reduce its reliance on over 30-year-old second-hand equipment and placed a significant order with Bombardier Transportation for new high-speed locomotives and cars which would be used in its corridor trains. The LRC (Light, Rapid, Comfortable) locomotives and cars used advanced technology such as active tilt to increase speed, but proved troublesome and took several years to work out problems (by 1990 only a handful of LRC locomotives remained in service which were subsequently retired by the arrival of the GE Genesis locomotives in 2001).[citation needed]

The election of Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservative government in 1984 brought an initial friend to Via, when several of Mulroney's commitments included rescinding the Via cuts of 1981 by restoring the Super Continental (under pressure from his western caucus), and the Atlantic (under pressure from his eastern caucus and then-Saint John mayor Elsie Wayne). Prime Minister Mulroney's government gave Via funding to refurbish some of its cars, and purchase new locomotives, this time a more reliable model from General Motors diesel division.[citation needed]

It was during this time on 8 February 1986, that Via's eastbound Super Continental collided with a CN freight train near Hinton, Alberta, as a result of the freight train crew missing a signal light, resulting in 23 deaths.

By the late 1980s, inflation and other rising costs were taking their toll on federal budgets and in the Mulroney government's 1989 budget, Via again saw its budget slashed, surpassing even the 1981 cuts under Trudeau.

1990s

A Via GMD FP7 leads the Canadian in Regina, May 1982. The Canadian was rerouted in the 1990s, ending service to several cities, like Calgary.

Minister of Transport Benoît Bouchard oversaw the reduction in service on 15 January 1990, when Via's operations were reduced by 55 percent.[citation needed] Services such as the Super Continental were again discontinued, along with numerous disparate rural services such as in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley and Cape Breton Island, western Canada, and in the corridor. The Canadian was also moved from its home rails on CP to the northerly CN route (previously plied by the Super Continental). The shift to the less-populated (and less scenic) route between Toronto and Vancouver severed major western cities such as Regina and Calgary from the passenger rail network and flared western bitterness toward the Government of Canada.[citation needed]

The official justification for the rerouting was that the trains would serve more remote communities, but the concentration of ridings held by the Progressive Conservatives along the CN route attracted the charge that the move was chiefly political. Harvie André, one of Alberta's federal cabinet ministers who represented Calgary, stated publicly that he did not care if he never saw a passenger train again in his life.[citation needed]

The Mulroney cuts allowed Via to consolidate its fleet of cars and locomotives, resulting in a fleet of refurbished stainless steel (HEP-1 and HEP-2 rebuilds) and LRC cars, as well as rationalizing its locomotive fleet with GM and Bombardier (LRC) units.[citation needed]

Via was not spared from further cutbacks in Jean Chrétien's Liberal government elected in 1993. Minister of Finance Paul Martin's first budget in 1994 saw further Via cuts which saw the popular Atlantic dropped from the schedule, focusing the eastern transcontinental service on the Ocean. CP had sold off a large portion of track the Atlantic had operated on and, as Via at that time was only mandated to provide passenger services on tracks belonging to CN or CP, the route was discontinued.[citation needed] This move was seen as somewhat controversial and politically motivated as the principal cities benefiting from the Atlantic's service were Sherbrooke, Quebec and Saint John, New Brunswick, where the only two Progressive Conservative Party Members of Parliament in Canada were elected in the 1993 federal election in which Chrétien's Liberal Party took power. The Ocean service which was preserved currently operates on track between Montreal and Halifax running through the lower St. Lawrence River valley and northern New Brunswick. The Minister of Transport in Chrétien's government at the time, Douglas Young, was elected from a district that included Bathurst, New Brunswick, on the Ocean's route. A remote Via service to Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula, the Chaleur was also spared from being cut at this time, despite carrying fewer passengers than the Atlantic.[citation needed]

Renaissance funding

Via Rail P42DC pulling LRC coaches towards Montreal

By the late 1990s, with a rail-friendly Minister of Transport, David Collenette, in office, there were modest funding increases to Via. Corridor services were improved with new and faster trains, a weekly tourist train, the Bras d'Or, returned Via service to Cape Breton Island for the first time since the 1990 cuts, and a commitment was made to continue operating on Vancouver Island, but western Canada continued to languish with the only service provided by the Canadian and a few remote service trains in northern BC and Manitoba.[citation needed]

In a significant new funding program dubbed "Renaissance", a fleet of unused passenger cars which had been built for planned Nightstar sleeper services between locations in the United Kingdom and Continental Europe via the Channel Tunnel were purchased and adapted following the cancellation of the Nightstar project. The new "Renaissance" cars were swiftly nicknamed déplaisance ("displeasure") by French-speaking employees and customers, due to early problems adapting the equipment for Canadian use. Doors and toilets froze in cold Atlantic Canada temperatures, resulting in delays and service interruptions. New diesel-electric P42DC locomotives purchased from General Electric (GE) allowed the withdrawal of older locomotives, including remaining LRCs. LRC passenger cars were retained and continued to provide much of the Corridor service. This expansion to Via's fleet has permitted scheduling flexibility. Additionally, many passenger stations have been remodelled into passenger-friendly destinations, with several hosting co-located transit and regional bus hubs for various municipalities.[citation needed]

2000s

A Via locomotive leads the International with Amtrak coaches. The International route was jointly operated by Via and Amtrak from 1982 to 2004.

On 24 October 2003, federal Minister of Transport David Collenette announced $700 million in new funding over the next five years. This funding was below the $3 billion needed to implement a high-speed rail proposal in the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor nicknamed ViaFast; however, the funding was intended to "provide for faster, more frequent and more reliable passenger service across Canada... [preserving] the option for higher speed rail, such as the Via Fast proposal," said Collenette. This new project was to be called "Renaissance II".

On 18 December 2003, Liberal Prime Minister (PM) Paul Martin announced a freeze in federal spending on all major capital projects, including Via's five-year $700 million "Renaissance II" program announced just six weeks earlier by outgoing PM Chrétien's administration. Critics of Martin's cuts claimed that he was in a distinct conflict of interest as his family through Canada Steamship Lines and various subsidiary and affiliated companies had once had a significant investment in the Voyageur Colonial Bus Lines, an intercity bus line in Quebec and eastern Ontario that is a key competitor of Via.[citation needed]

Route cuts under the Martin government included the withdrawal of the seasonal Bras d'Or tourist train, which ran for the last time in September 2004, and the Montreal-Toronto overnight Enterprise, which was discontinued in September 2005. The Sarnia-Chicago International was also discontinued in April 2004 by Amtrak. Via's portion of the route from Toronto-Sarnia remained in operation as Via was able to use their own equipment to operate the train.[citation needed]

Sponsorship scandal

The federal Auditor General's report released publicly on 10 February 2004 showed what appeared to be a criminal misdirection of government funds intended for advertising to key Quebec-based supporters of the Liberal Party of Canada. Included in the Auditor General's report was the fact that Via was used as one of several federal government departments, agencies, and Crown corporations to funnel these illicit funds. Forced to act on the Auditor General's report due to its political implications, Martin's government suspended Via President Marc LeFrançois on 24 February 2004, giving him an ultimatum of several days to defend himself against allegations in the report or face further disciplinary action.[citation needed]

Several days later during LeFrançois's suspension, former Via marketing department employee Myriam Bédard claimed she was fired several years earlier when she questioned company billing practices in dealing with advertising companies. (According to CBC News, an arbitrator's report later concluded that Bédard had voluntarily left Via.) She was publicly belittled by Via CEO Jean Pelletier in national media on 27 February 2004. Pelletier retracted his statements but on 1 March, Pelletier was fired. By 5 March, after failing to defend himself adequately against the allegations in the Auditor General's report, LeFrançois was fired as well.[citation needed]

Increasing problems and reinstated funding

A Via F40PH-2D in Jasper, February 2011. Via's fleet of F40PH-2Ds were refurbished in the late-2000s to meet emission standards.

The reversal of funding in 2003 led to a backlog of deferred maintenance and left Via unable to replace or refurbish life-expired locomotives and rolling stock. Conversely, Via ridership increased from 3.8 million in 2005 to 4.1 million in 2006. On 11 October 2007, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced federal government funding of $691.9 million over five years (of which $519 million for capital projects), and the remainder additional operating funding. The capital funding was earmarked to refurbish Via's fleet of 54 F40PH-2 locomotives to meet new emissions standards and extend their service lives by 15–20 years, refurbish the interiors of LRC coaches, reduce track capacity bottlenecks and speed restrictions in the Windsor-Quebec City Corridor, and make repairs to a number of stations across the network.

This announcement was similar in content to the previous "Renaissance II" package, and once again was criticized for not including new equipment or funding for services outside the Windsor-Quebec City Corridor. Shortly afterwards, documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act revealed that delays due to equipment failures had risen by 60 percent since the previous year. The company attributed this to problems with the aging F40 locomotive fleet.

On 27 January 2009, the Government of Canada announced in its 2009 Economic Action Plan that it would increase funding to Via by $407 million to support improvements, including increased train frequencies and enhanced on-time performance and speed, particularly in the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor.

On 21 July 2009, Via announced its engineers would go on strike as of 24 July if no deal was reached by then, and began cancelling all trains in anticipation of strike. The strike officially began at midnight on July 24 after it became clear that no deal had been reached. Engineers had been without a contract since 31 December 2006.[needs update] Full service resumed on 27 July 2009. An additional strike by the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union, representing around 2,200 employees, was planned to begin on 4 July 2010, but was called off after the union and Via reached a three-year contract.

2010s

Via train cars at Qualicum Beach station, a stop on Victoria–Courtenay train. The Victoria–Courtenay service was suspended in March 2010.

Via experienced more service cuts at the dawn of the 2010. In March 2011, the daily Victoria–Courtenay The Malahat RDC service on Vancouver Island was suspended indefinitely due to deteriorating track (it has yet to resume). By 27 June 2012, Via announced additional service cuts due to funding issues:

  • The Canadian was reduced from three days a week to two days a week beginning November 2012; service operated twice weekly November–April and thrice weekly May–October until 2019. In 2019, only two trains per week operated on the full route, while the third train ran only between Vancouver and Edmonton once a week in each direction.
  • The Ocean was reduced from six days a week to thrice weekly beginning October 2012.
  • Corridor services west of Toronto were reduced, with weekend service reductions to Montreal and Ottawa, Ontario.
  • Corridor services to Sarnia and the Niagara region were reduced to once daily in October 2012, with additional taking effect in July 2012. Sarnia was left with a single daily round-trip. Niagara Falls lost all service except the joint Amtrak-Via daily New York City-Toronto Maple Leaf service, although Toronto regional commuter service was later provided by GO Transit.
  • Corridor services to Kitchener, London, and Windsor were reduced starting in October 2012, with at least two daily round trips surviving.
  • In September 2013, the Gaspé service, which had been "bustituted" in 2011, was suspended indefinitely.

To address declining on-time performance due to freight train traffic on Via routes, MP Olivia Chow drafted a private member's bill in 2014 that would reorganize the company and allow the government to force freight rail carriers to give scheduling priority to public passenger rail. However, as with most private member's bills, it was not passed.

Service improvements

The Quebec-Windsor corridor was the focus of service restorations and implements. A direct Ottawa-Quebec City train was restored, with additional trips between Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto being added. In 2016, LRC passenger cars used for the corridor were refurbished; in the Via 1 class, this included single seating.

A passenger car adorned in Canada 150 livery, August 2017. For the country's sesquicentennial, Via released a special youth rail pass.

In March 2017, Via announced the release of a new category of rail pass valid for the month of July 2017 (corresponding to Canada's sesquicentennial celebrations) for youth aged 18–25, costing $150 (several hundred dollars cheaper than a comparable rail pass would typically cost). A larger than expected response resulted in the temporary loss of functionality for Via's website. Despite plans to cap the number of passes sold at 1867 (the year of Canadian Confederation), over 4,000 passes were ultimately sold. The company received significant backlash, as it initially appeared there was no limit on the number of passes available.

2018–present

Extreme winter conditions had always been an operational hazard for Via, with the Ottawa routes and Canadian being most vulnerable. Equally, summer repairs and construction often delayed trains systemwide, even though schedules were regularly adjusted in an attempt to minimize delays.

However, by 2018, freight traffic on the heavily used CN lines had become a significant concern for maintaining on-time service. This issue arose due to typical siding sizes, which were not long enough to accommodate modern freight trains. Passenger trains were consequently placed on sidings whenever two trains passed (rather than freights), which meant that passenger trains did not have priority on CN lines. The issue existed in all parts of the Via network, although it became most extreme on the Canadian, where delays increased from an average of five hours to as much as 50 over the four-day journey. Via ultimately addressed the issue by eliminating its late policy on its cross-Canada trains but retaining it for the Corridor routes. However, Via continues to compensate inconvenienced guests with necessary hotel accommodations prior to the journey, as well as ensuring continued transportation where a connection to a second Via train had been missed. As such, compensation costs were factored into Via's 2018 budget.

By the end of 2018, the full route time on the Canadian had been increased twice to absorb freight delays. The second extension – to five days – has been mostly successful in decreasing delays, and also allowed for a daytime transit of Hells Gate in BC, previously transversed overnight in the dark. The scheduled increased running time actually resulted in the Canadian arriving early on several occasions. However, Toronto-Vancouver service frequencies were reduced to only twice weekly during peak summer period, with a third Toronto-Edmonton run suspended entirely.

On 12 December 2018, Via announced that it had awarded a contract to Siemens Canada for 32 train sets to replace the entire Quebec City-Windsor Corridor fleet. This marked the completion of a procurement process launched following the 2018 federal budget, which allocated funding for the fleet replacement. During the request-for-proposals stage, Via had narrowed the potential suppliers down to Siemens, Bombardier, Talgo and Stadler Rail. Siemens was ultimately selected after finishing first on the key criteria, which included the ability to deliver in a timely fashion, the quality of the product offering, and the price. The new fleet will consist of Siemens SC-44 locomotives hauling a combination of coaches, business-class cars, and cab cars from the Siemens Venture series to allow bi-directional operation. The trains will be built at Siemens plant in Sacramento, California, and Siemens committed to including at least 20 percent Canadian content in the final product. The order includes an option for an additional 16 train sets to be exercised if the federal government approves Via's high-frequency dedicated-corridor project. The first train set is to be delivered for testing by winter 2021, with the first sets in service by 2022 and all trains in service by 2024. The delivery of the new trains will allow Via to retire LRC and Renaissance equipment from the corridor, and re-allocate the HEP2 and corridor-based HEP1 cars to other parts of the network.

In addition to using commercial logos, Via Rail is one of several Crown corporations that has been granted heraldic symbols by the Canadian Heraldic Authority.

The coat of arms was granted on May 15, 2020, and presented by Canada's Chief Herald.

An heraldic badge was approved for use at the same time as the coat of arms. The badge design follows the design of a law enforcement agency badge in Canada, denoting the responsibilities of Via Rail police constables. The Royal Crown indicates that Via Rail has police constables appointed for the enforcement of the laws relating to the protection of persons and property.

A flag was also granted by the Canadian Heraldic Authority. It is black and charged with Via Rail's badge.

Via is operated as an independent crown corporation and receives a subsidy from the Minister of Transport to provide service to remote communities. Via operates more than 500 trains per week from coast to coast. The sum of $369 million was earned from passenger revenues in 2018. Over 4.74 million passenger voyages were taken in 2018. An on-time ratio of 71 percent was achieved in that year. Over 3,115 persons were employed by Via by the end of 2018.

Via president Yves Desjardins-Siciliano stated that the subsidy for passenger rail travel in Canada in 2015 was about 200 percent: for every $1 travellers spend on fares, Canada pays $2 in subsidy.

As of May 2019, the Chair of the Board of Directors is Françoise Bertrand, while the President and CEO is Cynthia Garneau; there are 11 other persons on the Board of Directors at the same year. The Annual accounts of Via are audited to GAAP principles by the Auditor-General of Canada, under the Financial Administration Act. Via Rail Canada Inc. is incorporated under the CBCA and is subject to income taxes, should a profit ever be declared by it. The corporation had $9,300,000 in share capital as of 2018. Via also received $394.4 million of government funding in 2018.

In May 2019, Cynthia Garneau was appointed as the new CEO of Via. She replaced Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, who completed his five-year mandate on 8 May.

Expansion plans

Maritimes

Via has explored the introduction of daily regional service in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (connecting Halifax, Moncton, and Campbellton) to complement the thrice-weekly Ocean service to Montreal. As of 2017, Via's statement was that it was "exploring an eastern intercity corridor service" and that further developments were dependent on infrastructure upgrades and equipment testing.

Via has also expressed interest in operating commuter rail service on CN tracks in Halifax that would run from the city's downtown station as far as Windsor Junction. However, in June 2019, Halifax regional council voted unanimously to direct staff "not to pursue commuter rail service further ... due to infrastructure requirements and associated financial implications, as well as operational considerations and restraints".

High-frequency rail project

Via developed a $4.4 billion high-frequency rail (HFR) service plan as a response to delays faced by sharing tracks with freight trains. The plan opts for a dedicated track between Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City, offering more frequent trains (although running at conventional speeds). In Ontario, Via would run a new rail line on currently underused tracks from Toronto to Ottawa through Peterborough instead of Kingston. In Quebec, corridor trains would travel from Montreal to Quebec City through Trois-Rivières on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River rather than on the south shore through Drummondville. Via claimed this would allow them to run more trains in the corridor, reduce trip times by 25% and improve on-time performance to over 95%.

Feasibility studies were funded by the federal government in the 2016–2018 budgets, and the 2018 budget allowed for the funding of the fleet replacement portion of the plan, though not the dedicated rail lines. Contrary to expectations, the 2019 federal budget did not include a final decision for new funds for HFR. However, in January 2020 Via announced the hiring of a joint venture of engineering firms AECOM and Arup to undertake a detailed engineering study of the proposal.

Service suspensions

Two former Via routes—The Malahat (service ended in 2011) and Chaleur (service ended in 2013)—are currently suspended due to poor track conditions. Via plans to reintroduce service once track upgrades have been completed. The Quebec government announced funds for repairs to Chaleur trackage in 2017, with a completion date stated only as being "several years away." No concrete plan to restore trackage along The Malahat has been announced as of 2020[update].

A Via F40PH-2D leading the Winnipeg–Churchill train, November 2012. The service was suspended from May 2017 to December 2018 for track maintenance.

The Winnipeg–Churchill train was disrupted by severe spring flooding on 23 May 2017, when the Hudson Bay Railway tracks were damaged beyond standard maintenance. Winnipeg–Gillam service continued. OmniTRAX, the original owner of the track, refused to make the repairs, saying that the track was no longer viable, despite the matching federal subsidy. The railroad was Churchill's only land link to southern Canada, and its loss resulted in significant cost-of-living increases for residents along the corridor (a stranded train was removed by ship in October 2017).

Service to Churchill was restored in late 2018, after the tracks, Churchill port, and Churchill marine tank farm were purchased by Arctic Gateway Group. The federal government assisted in the purchase with $74 million of dedicated northern infrastructure money up front and an additional commitment of $43 million over 10 years. To restore passenger rail service before winter, Arctic Gateway repaired 29 washouts in 35 days. Although a special Via train arrived in Churchill on 1 November, the first regular Via train arrived in Churchill on 4 December, 560 days after service initially ceased.

On February 13, 2020, following several days of blockades during the nationwide Coastal GasLink Pipeline protests, Via Rail announced that it would be shutting down most of its passenger train service across Canada until further notice, with the exception of the Sudbury–White River train line and the Winnipeg–Churchill train between Churchill and The Pas. Later in 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly all Via Rail trains were suspended with the exception of the Winnipeg-Churchill train as well as one train daily on each route within the corridor. Along with the previous protest-related service suspensions, it is the most extensive temporary reduction of service in Via Rail's history.

Travel on Via varies by region as much as class. Many of Via's policies and protocols are the product of running a national train system with varying pressures and needs of different passengers, communities, and contexts. The results are wide-ranging travel experiences depending on the distance and location of the journey.

Unscheduled stops

Some Via routes outside the corridor offer the option of unscheduled stops at places where there is no station. With 48 hours notice, a passenger can request to entrain or detrain at a specified milepost. This option is available on all of the Adventure Routes, as well as the Canadian between Capreol and Winnipeg.

Classes of service

Economy-class seating in a Via Rail coach car, with one fully reclined
  • Escape Fare: Discounted seats from economy class, with restrictions on refunds and exchanges.
  • Economy: Economy class seating in coach cars. Passengers are usually assigned seats except trains 54, 97, 98, 650 and 651, where passengers are separated based on train cars according to destination. Snacks and beverages are sold by employees with service carts, in a lounge car, or in a restaurant car. Free Wi-Fi access is provided in the Corridor and on the Ocean.
Business-class coach on the Corridor
  • Business: (formerly called Via 1): First-class seating available on most Corridor trains in southern Quebec and Ontario. Business class offers passengers individually reserved seats, more spacious seating, window blinds, inclusive hot three-course meals complete with complimentary wine and liqueurs, in-seat AC power outlets, and free Wi-Fi access. Business-class passengers are also granted priority boarding and access to business lounges at major urban stations.
  • Touring: Available on the Skeena only in peak travel months. Includes three meals per day, wine with supper, on-train commentary from the staff, and guaranteed access to the Panoramic and Park cars.
  • Sleeper Plus: Sleeping accommodations aboard overnight trains. This service class was formerly known as Sleeper in some cases, including on the now-suspended Chaleur. Available on the Canadian, Ocean and Winnipeg-Churchill trains. Options for this class on the Canadian include berth sections and single, double and triple bedrooms with bunkbeds and electrical outlets. On other trains, not all options are available. Also included are first-class meals in the dining car (not including alcohol), and access to the Skyline car and viewing salons in the glass-domed Park car, when available. Passengers are also given priority boarding and access to the Panorama Lounges at major urban stations. Each car has access to a washroom and, optionally, a shower. Access to business lounges where available or the Sleeper Plus Lounge in Halifax is available on departure day.
  • Prestige: Via's latest premium service offering available on the Canadian only. In addition to the Sleeper Plus amenities, includes modernized luxurious sleeping accommodations at the rear of the train, priority reservations in the dining car, a concierge, complimentary beverages (including alcohol), and schedule permitting, a free tour of select Winnipeg attractions. Access to business lounges is provided on both arrival and departure days in Toronto and Vancouver.

On board

Amenities

A Via dining car preparing for the first serving of breakfast

Smoking is prohibited on all Via trains. Smoking tobacco has been banned on the Corridor routes since 1993 and this policy was gradually extended to all trains, while smoking cannabis was banned on all Via routes on the same day it was made legal in Canada. The last remaining on-board smoking was permitted in a smoker's lounge on some long-distance routes, only at certain times of day until 2002.

Washrooms are provided for each car. On sleeper cars, every private room has its own separate washroom.

Food service varies by train. All trains save the Sudbury–White River train offer snacks, light meals, and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages for purchase. Long-distance trains offer traditional sit-down dining and full meals to sleeper class passengers. Economy-class passengers can purchase hot take-out meals prepared in the dining car on long-distance trains during the peak season, and eat in the sit-down dining car in the off-peak.

Complimentary Wi-Fi service is available in the Corridor. The present Wi-Fi system is provided by 21Net since November 2008. Previously, the Wi-Fi service was provided by Parsons commencing in February 2006. Via had upgraded the past Wi-Fi system during 2011 with technology provided by Nomad Digital. Via was the first North American transportation service to offer Wi-Fi to its passengers in early 2006, and was one of the first in the world to do so. Wi-Fi is also available to travellers in all classes of service who may benefit from complimentary Wi-Fi service in many Quebec City–Windsor corridor stations.

Wi-Fi service has been added to the Ocean train in the service cars, and to the Canadian, although connections are unreliable in most places outside urban centres.

Luggage

A canoe being unloaded from a luggage car on the Sudbury–White River train

Via offers checked luggage on its longer-haul services; however, in the Corridor only certain trains have luggage cars. In older class cars there is sufficient space at the front of the car for luggage storage. In contrast, the Renaissance stock has enough space (underneath the seat) for only one small piece of carry-on luggage; the remainder must be checked.

Accessibility and safety concerns

Via offers pre-boarding assistance to those passengers requiring extra time to board its trains. Not all stations are equally accessible; some have high-level platforms or mechanical lifts. All Via trains are capable of accommodating wheelchairs, although capacity is limited.

A map of Via Rail routes, showing the frequency of Via trains on it

Via operates in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan. The only province or territory connected to the continental railway network and not served by Via is the Northwest Territories. Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, and Yukon have no rail connections to the continental network and thus no Via service.

Via operates over 475 trains per week over 19 routes, marketed in four broad categories:

Unlike Amtrak, which gives every route a specific name, most Via trains are identified only by their route number and destination. The only named Via trains are the Canadian and the Ocean. The five "Adventure Routes" were previously branded as the Skeena, the Saguenay, the Abitibi, the Lake Superior, and the Hudson Bay, respectively, and may still be referred to by these names in local usage.

Track ownership

A Via Rail train passes by a Canadian National Railway train. The majority of the track Via operates on is owned by CNR.

As of 2017, the mileage makeup of Via's route network by track owner/host railway was as follows:

In total, about 88 percent of Via trackage is owned by Class I railroads, 8 percent by shortline railroads, and 5 percent by government agencies.

Connections

The Maple Leaf train outside Niagara Falls station. The route is jointly operated between Via and Amtrak, providing Via riders with a connection to Amtrak stations based in New York.

The Maple Leaf, operating between New York City and Toronto via Albany, Buffalo, and Niagara Falls, is jointly managed by Via and Amtrak. The train operates using Amtrak equipment, but on the Canadian side of the border is staffed by Via employees and operated as a typical Via train.

Two other train routes link Canada and the US: the Adirondack (Montreal-New York) and the Amtrak Cascades (Vancouver-Seattle-Portland). While both of these routes share stations with Via at their Canadian termini, they are fully operated by Amtrak and single-ticket connections to Via trains are not offered.

In addition to Amtrak, Via passengers can book connecting tickets on the following services:

Via also has connection agreements with several local and intercity bus operators, car-sharing services, and airlines. Passengers who are flying with these airlines can combine their air and rail trips under the same record locator:

Via owns 73 locomotives and 501 passenger cars. Examples include the GMD F40PH-2 diesel locomotive and the famed "Park"-class sleeper-dome-lounge cars found on the rear of the Canadianand the Jasper–Prince Rupert train.

In 2010, Via's carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent emissions per passenger kilometre were 0.117 kg. For comparison, this is similar to Amtrak or a car with two people, about twice as high as the UK rail average, about four times the average US motorcoach, and about eight times a Finnish electric intercity train or fully loaded fifty-seat coach.

  • The most serious Via accident to date occurred on 8 February 1986, when a Via train collided with a CN freight train near Hinton, Alberta, killing 23 people and injuring 71.
  • On 20 November 1994, at approximately 18:20, Via train No. 66 travelling eastward at approximately 96 mph, struck a piece of rail intentionally placed on the track at Mile 242.07 of the CN North America Kingston Subdivision, in Brighton, Ontario. A fire erupted and the trailing portion of the locomotive and the first two passenger cars behind the locomotive became engulfed in flames. Forty-six of the 385 passengers were injured, most while exiting the train in life-threatening conditions. 2 local residents were charged and convicted after an investigation by the local police.
  • On 3 September 1997, the Canadian (train No. 2) from Vancouver to Toronto, travelling eastward at 67 mph, derailed at Mile 7.5 of the CN Wainwright Subdivision, near Biggar, Saskatchewan. Thirteen of nineteen cars and the two locomotives derailed. Seventy-nine of the 198 passengers and crew on board were injured, 1 fatally and 13 seriously. Approximately 600 feet of main track was destroyed. The cause was determined to be an axle bearing failure which was detected but erroneously ignored. Via was heavily criticized for a lack of attention to safety.
  • On 23 April 1999, Via train No. 74 travelling eastward at Mile 46.7 on the CN Chatham Subdivision in Thamesville, Ontario derailed after a switch was left open by a CN worker causing the train to jump the tracks and collide with stationary hoppers on the adjacent track, derailing the locomotive and its four-passenger cars. The two engineers were killed and 77 of the 186 passengers injured, four seriously. Approximately 50 m of the main track and 100 m of the yard track were destroyed.
  • On 12 April 2001, the Ocean bound for Montreal derailed in Stewiacke, Nova Scotia, at a manually operated main track switch. A standard CN switch lock used to secure the switch in correct position had been tampered with. The two locomotives and the first two cars continued on the main track, but the following cars took a diverging route onto an industrial track adjacent to the main track. Nine of the cars derailed and a farm supply building, as well as the industrial track were destroyed. Four occupants of the building escaped without injury prior to impact. There were 132 persons on board the train. 22 persons were transported to hospital in either Truro or Halifax. Nine were seriously injured. A 15-year-old boy pleaded guilty to the charge of mischief endangering life relating to the lock tampering.
  • On 26 February 2012, Via Train No. 92 en route to Toronto, derailed in Burlington, Ontario, killing all three railroad engineers and injuring 46 (three seriously). The cause of the derailment is attributed to the excessive speed of the train travelling through a switch from track 2 to track 3.
  • 2013 Via Rail Canada terrorism plot: In April 2013, two men inspired by al-Qaeda were charged with plotting to derail a Via train in the Greater Toronto Area. In 2015, both men were convicted of terrorism-related offenses and sentenced to life imprisonment. One of the two men was mentally unstable and misdiagnosed with schizophrenia.
  • On 18 September 2013, a collision occurred between train No. 51 and a double-decker OC Transpo bus that failed to stop at a level crossing in Ottawa, Ontario. Six people were killed and 31 injured (11 critically), all of whom were on the bus. The impact resulted in the train derailing approximately 100–200 feet (30–61 m) down the track.
  • On 5 July 2018, a train with 16 passengers and five crew members derailed north of Hudson Bay, SK while travelling from Winnipeg to Churchill. Passengers and crew sustained only minor injuries, but it took several hours for emergency crews to arrive due to the remote location of the incident. Paramedics and firefighters had to wait near the tracks for CN rail trucks to arrive that could transport them to the crash site.
  • On 31 December 2019, a train with five crew and seven passengers derailed and tipped on its side near Katrime, Manitoba; the incident is still under investigation, and no one was seriously injured.
  1. Since the most recent corporate plan was published, the Guelph Subdivision, used by Via between Kitchener and London, has reverted to CN from the Goderich-Exeter Railway.
  1. "Annual Report 2018"(PDF). Via Rail Canada. RetrievedMay 13, 2019.
  2. Sustainable Mobility Report 2018(PDF) (Report). Via Rail Canada. p. 5.
  3. Nelligan, Tom (1982). Via Rail Canada: The first five years. PJT Publishing. ISBN 0-937658-08-1.
  4. Jason Fekete (February 29, 2016). "Via Rail seeking federal budget funding for $1.3B passenger car upgrade in Toronto-Montreal corridor". National Post. RetrievedMarch 2, 2016.
  5. "Transport 2000 Hotline". Transport2000.ca. January 30, 2004. Archived from the original on April 20, 2011. RetrievedMarch 10, 2011.
  6. "Via upgrades to cost $700 million". Archived from the original on June 5, 2004.
  7. "Via gets hundreds of millions in federal funding". CBC. October 11, 2007. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. RetrievedOctober 11, 2007.
  8. "Backgrounder: New Funding For Via Rail Canada"(PDF). Via Rail. October 11, 2007. RetrievedOctober 23, 2007.
  9. Beeby, Dean (October 20, 2007). "Via train late? You're not alone". Toronto: The Globe and Mail. RetrievedOctober 23, 2007.
  10. "Canada's Economic Action Plan". Department of Finance of Canada. January 27, 2009. RetrievedDecember 28, 2011.
  11. "Update: Strike Action—Via Rail Canada cancels all services effective immediately". Via Rail Canada Inc. Archived from the original on July 25, 2009.
  12. "Via Rail, CAW reach tentative agreement to avoid strike". Progressive Railroading. June 28, 2010. RetrievedJune 29, 2010.
  13. "Via Rail continues its modernization and takes action to better meet customer demand" (Press release). Via Rail. June 27, 2012. RetrievedJune 27, 2012.
  14. "Via train service to Sarnia cut in half". Archived from the original on January 15, 2013. RetrievedJuly 6, 2012.
  15. "Niagara travellers impacted by Via cuts". Archived from the original on January 15, 2013. RetrievedJuly 6, 2012.
  16. "Via Rail blames low ridership for cuts to Kitchener service". RetrievedJuly 6, 2012.
  17. "London area hit hard by nationwide Via Rail cuts". RetrievedJuly 6, 2012.
  18. "Via Rail cuts means fewer trains to, from Windsor". RetrievedJuly 6, 2012.
  19. "Via Rail service between Matapédia, New Carlisle and Gaspé suspended". RetrievedAugust 23, 2013.
  20. Chow, Olivia. "Bill C-577 Via Rail Canada Act: An Act respecting Via Rail Canada and making consequential amendments to another Act".
  21. De Souza, Mike; Robinson, Megan (March 11, 2020). "Does Via Rail's survival depend on a new route through Ontario and Quebec?". Global News. RetrievedMay 3, 2020.
  22. "Via Rail's $150 passes for unlimited travel sold out". RetrievedJune 12, 2018.
  23. "Winter's extreme weather made trains extremely late, Via Rail reports". The Globe and Mail.
  24. "2018 Annual Public Meeting Questions and Answers — Part 1"(PDF). Via Rail Canada.
  25. "Opinion: Passenger-train service falling off the rails". Vancouver Sun. August 29, 2016.
  26. "Via train chronically late: Rail advocates". October 22, 2018.
  27. "What's holding up Via's Canadian? (Updated)". Railway Age. May 30, 2018.
  28. Small, Kaylen (May 24, 2018). "Pain on the train: Via Rail passengers frustrated with delays on cross-Canada journey". CBC News.
  29. "Travel credits". www.viarail.ca.
  30. "New Via sked to keep 'Canadian' on time in Jasper – Jasper's source for news, sports, arts, culture, and more". The Fitzhugh.
  31. "Did Via Rail keep its promise? Let's ask". Riding the buses. December 6, 2018.
  32. "Lovely trip - Review of Via Rail Canada, Quebec, Canada". TripAdvisor.
  33. "Via Rail Selects Siemens Canada to Replace its Quebec-Windsor Corridor Fleet". RetrievedDecember 19, 2018.
  34. "Via Rail places 989 million train order with Siemens". RetrievedDecember 19, 2018.
  35. General, The Office of the Secretary to the Governor. "VIA Rail Canada Inc. [Civil Institution]". reg.gg.ca. RetrievedSeptember 14, 2021.
  36. Taylor, Roger (November 9, 2015). "Via looks at expanding Atlantic service". Chronicle Herald. Herald Limited. RetrievedNovember 20, 2015.
  37. "Summary of the 2017 – 2021 Corporate Plan and 2017 Operating and Capital Budgets"(PDF). Via Rail Canada. RetrievedFebruary 26, 2019.
  38. Campbell, Francis (December 8, 2018). "Commuter rail 'far from dead' in Halifax". The Chronicle Herald. RetrievedFebruary 26, 2019.
  39. Woodford, Zane (June 18, 2019). "Halifax council kills commuter rail proposal". Toronto Star. RetrievedFebruary 3, 2020.
  40. Peddle, Stuart (June 19, 2019). "Halifax commuter rail not coming, but councillor still holding out hope". The Chronicle Herald. RetrievedFebruary 3, 2020.
  41. "Proposal for High Frequency Rail in the Québec City – Toronto Corridor". Via Rail. RetrievedMay 5, 2020.
  42. Platt, Brian (February 28, 2018). "Federal budget approves new fleet of trains for Via Rail, but dedicated tracks still under study". National Post. RetrievedJune 12, 2018.
  43. "Via high Frequency Rail (HFR) Project not part of 2019 Federal Budget, but Continues to be Evaluated – Transport Action Ontario". March 27, 2019.
  44. "High Frequency Rail: AECOM and Arup consortium selected as Owner's Engineers" (Press release). Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Via Rail Canada, Inc. January 28, 2020. RetrievedMay 5, 2020.
  45. "Quebec funds Gaspé railway revival". May 9, 2017. RetrievedJune 12, 2018.
  46. Inc, Via Rail Canada. "Via Rail service between Churchill and Gillam suspended indefinitely due to closure of the railway infrastructure in northern Manitoba". www.newswire.ca.
  47. "Ship brings propane to Churchill, will leave with stranded Via Rail train". CTV News. October 15, 2017.
  48. "'We are free:' Churchill celebrates return of train service with prime minister". Edmonton Journal. November 1, 2018.
  49. "Newsroom – Arctic Gateway Group".
  50. Canada, Western Economic Diversification (September 14, 2018). "Government of Canada announces support for acquisition and repair of Churchill rail line by Arctic Gateway Group". gcnws.
  51. "'It's very exciting': First rail tourists in 560 days depart for Churchill, Man". CBC News. December 2, 2018.
  52. "Churchill reconnected". cangeotravel.ca.
  53. Tasker, John Paul (February 13, 2020). "Via Rail cancels most trains nationwide, CN closes Eastern Canadian network as Indigenous protests continue". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. RetrievedFebruary 14, 2020.
  54. Shah, Maryam (February 13, 2020). "Via Rail cancels most trains across the country as CN shuts down rails in eastern Canada". Global News. RetrievedFebruary 14, 2020.
  55. Slaughter, Graham (February 13, 2020). "Via Rail cancels trains across Canada, CN shuts down Eastern Canada network amid pipeline protests". CTV News. RetrievedMay 15, 2020.
  56. "COVID-19: Via Rail continues suspension of all Toronto-Vancouver passenger trains until May 1". vancouversun.com. RetrievedApril 24, 2020.
  57. Group, Travelweek (March 23, 2020). "Via Rail announces service changes in response to COVID-19 - Travelweek". www.travelweek.ca. RetrievedApril 24, 2020.
  58. "Stops in between two stations". Via Rail.
  59. "Seat Assignment". February 11, 2014.
  60. "Train routes by region". Via Rail. RetrievedMarch 10, 2011.
  61. Via Rail. "Helpful links for the business traveller". Viarail.ca. RetrievedJanuary 12, 2012.
  62. "Classes aboard the Jasper-Prince Rupert train". Via Rail. RetrievedMarch 10, 2011.
  63. "Classes aboard the Montréal-Halifax train (the Ocean)". Via Rail. RetrievedMarch 10, 2011.
  64. "Classes aboard the Toronto-Vancouver train (the Canadian)". Via Rail. RetrievedMarch 10, 2011.
  65. "Smoking to be banned on Via train". The Gazette. Montreal, QC. April 15, 1993. pp. A3.
  66. DeMont, John (August 2002). "All Aboard!". Maclean's. 115 (34): 16.
  67. Via Rail. "Onboard menus for all trains". RetrievedFebruary 24, 2013.
  68. "On-Train Entertainment". Via Rail. RetrievedSeptember 30, 2010.
  69. "As of November 2008, the Internet Wi-Fi services on Via Rail Canada trains running between Windsor, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City are operated by 21Net". Archived from the original on June 13, 2010..
  70. "NOMAD awarded contract by Via Rail and Government of Canada". Nomad Digital Ltd. December 13, 2010. Archived from the original on July 17, 2011.
  71. Via Rail. "Free Wi-Fi". Viarail.ca. RetrievedFebruary 24, 2013.
  72. "Baggage Policy"(PDF). Via Rail Canada. June 2017. RetrievedFebruary 26, 2019.
  73. Via Rail. "Special needs". RetrievedFebruary 24, 2013.
  74. "Explore Our Train Journeys". Via Rail Canada. RetrievedDecember 7, 2018.
  75. "Via Rail Annual Report 2017"(PDF). Via Rail Canada. p. 2.
  76. Host, Stephen C. (November 20, 2018). "GEXR leased segment reverts to CN". Railway Age. New York. RetrievedMarch 11, 2019.
  77. "Our partners". February 15, 2018.
  78. "Train fleet - Rolling stock | Via Rail". corpo.viarail.ca. RetrievedFebruary 5, 2020.
  79. Email from Bruno Riendeau, Senior Advisor, Environment, to Alaric Hall, October 20, 2011. Cf. http://docs.wri.org/wri_co2comm_2002_commuting_protected.xls Archived January 12, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, sheet 8, cell C36 (figures from 2002) and http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/programs/environment-ecofreight-about-voluntary-racemissions2007-2-1134.htm Archived May 17, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  80. respectively http://docs.wri.org/wri_co2comm_2002_commuting_protected.xls Archived January 12, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, sheet 8, cell C33, figures from 2002; "Updated Comparison of Energy Use & CO2 Emissions From Different Transportation Modes"(PDF). Archived from the original(PDF) on May 15, 2013. RetrievedNovember 23, 2012. table 1.1, figures from 2007
  81. "Sustainable development"(PDF). March 24, 2009. Archived from the original(PDF) on March 24, 2009.
  82. figures from 2007.
  83. Respectively http://lipasto.vtt.fi/yksikkopaastot/henkiloliikennee/raideliikennee/junat_henkiloe.htm, figures for 2007; http://www.lipasto.vtt.fi/yksikkopaastot/henkiloliikennee/tieliikennee/linja-autote/latiee.htm, figures for 2010.
  84. "Railway Investigation Report R94T0357". Transportation Safety Board of Canada. June 26, 1996.
  85. "Railway Investigation Report R97H0009". Transportation Safety Board of Canada. August 5, 1998.
  86. Canada, Government of Canada, Transportation Safety Board of (February 13, 2001). "Railway Investigation Report R99H0007".
  87. "Railway Investigation Report R01M0024". Transportation Safety Board of Canada. January 7, 2003.
  88. "Teen faces victims of N.S. train wreck". CBC. CBC News.
  89. Blackwell, Tom (April 22, 2013). "Canadian terrorist plot to attack Via train thwarted, two arrested: RCMP". National Post.
  90. Diana Mehta, Men convicted in Via terror plot handed life sentences, Canadian Press (September 23, 2016).
  91. Richard Warnica, Legal battle over convicted terrorist Chiheb Esseghaier’s sanity set as lawyers appointed for appeal, National Post (January 13, 2016).
  92. Richard Warnica, Would-be terrorist Chiheb Esseghaier is clearly insane, but should that even matter in court?, National Post (August 28, 2015).
  93. Commisso, Christina; Puzic, Sonja (September 18, 2013). "Via train and city bus crash in Ottawa, at least six dead, 30 injured". CTV News. RetrievedSeptember 18, 2013.
  94. Canada, Transportation Safety Board of (July 11, 2018). "Rail transportation safety investigation R18W0168 - Transportation Safety Board". www.tsb.gc.ca. RetrievedOctober 26, 2019.
  95. "Railway incident presents emergency responders with unique challenge". www.saskhealthauthority.ca. RetrievedOctober 26, 2019.
  96. "Manitoba RCMP respond to passenger train derailment near Portage La Prairie". CJOB. RetrievedFebruary 5, 2020.
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Via Rail
Via Rail Language Watch Edit Via Rail Canada Inc reporting mark VIA ˈ v iː e operating as Via Rail or Via is a Canadian Crown corporation that is mandated to operate intercity passenger rail service in Canada It receives an annual subsidy from Transport Canada to offset the cost of operating services connecting remote communities Via Rail Canada Inc TypeCrown corporationIndustryRail transportFoundedJanuary 12 1977 44 years ago 1977 01 12 HeadquartersPlace Ville Marie Montreal Quebec CanadaArea servedCanadaKey peopleCynthia Garneau President and CEO Francoise Bertrand Chairperson RevenueCA 392 6 million 2018 1 Operating incomeCA 272 6 million 2018 Total assetsCA 1 467 billion 2018 Number of employees3 234 2020 Websiteviarail wbr caGeographic map of the Via Rail systemOverviewStations called at378 2 Reporting markVIADates of operation1977 presentPredecessorPassenger services operated by the Canadian National Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway as well as other smaller companiesTechnicalTrack gauge4 ft 8 1 2 in 1 435 mm standard gaugeLength12 500 kilometres 7 800 mi Via Rail operates over 500 trains per week across eight Canadian provinces and 12 500 kilometres 7 800 mi of track 97 per cent of which is owned and maintained by other railway companies mostly by Canadian National Railway CN Via Rail carried approximately 4 39 million passengers in 2017 the majority along the Corridor routes connecting the major cities of the Quebec City Windsor Corridor and had an on time performance of 73 per cent 1 Contents 1 History 1 1 Background 1 2 Formation and early years 1 3 1980s 1 4 1990s 1 4 1 Renaissance funding 1 5 2000s 1 5 1 Sponsorship scandal 1 5 2 Increasing problems and reinstated funding 1 6 2010s 1 6 1 Service improvements 1 6 2 2018 present 2 Insignia 3 Budget and management 3 1 Expansion plans 3 1 1 Maritimes 3 1 2 High frequency rail project 3 2 Service suspensions 4 Travelling on Via 4 1 Unscheduled stops 4 2 Classes of service 4 3 On board 4 3 1 Amenities 4 3 2 Luggage 4 3 3 Accessibility and safety concerns 5 Routes and connections 5 1 Track ownership 5 2 Connections 6 Rolling stock 7 Carbon emissions 8 Accidents and incidents 9 See also 10 Notes 11 References 12 Further reading 13 External linksHistory EditThis section may have too many subsection headers dividing up its content Please help improve the section by merging similar sections and removing unneeded subheaders January 2018 Learn how and when to remove this template message Background Edit See also History of rail transport in Canada CNR Rapido train cars in Pickering July 1968 In an effort to attract riders new train cars were acquired by CN in the 1960s Yearly passenger levels on Canada s passenger trains peaked at 60 million during World War II Following the war the growth of air travel and the personal automobile caused significant loss of mode share for Canada s passenger train operators By the 1960s it was obvious to both Canadian National Railway CN and the Canadian Pacific Railway CP that passenger trains were no longer economically viable CP sought to divest itself of its passenger trains but federal government regulators and politicians balked forcing them to maintain a minimal service through the 1970s with the government subsidizing up to 80 percent of losses CN being a Crown corporation at that time was encouraged by the federal government and political interests to invest in passenger trains Innovative marketing schemes such as Red White and Blue fares new equipment such as scenic dome cars and rail diesel cars and services such as Rapido and the UAC TurboTrain trains temporarily increased numbers of passengers reversing previous declines 3 4 5 These increases proved temporary by 1977 total passenger numbers had dropped below five million The decline of passenger rail became a federal election issue in 1974 when the government of Pierre Trudeau promised to implement a nationwide carrier similar to Amtrak in the United States Starting in 1976 CN began branding its passenger services with the bilingual name Via or Via CN The Via logo began to appear on CN passenger locomotives and cars while still carrying CN logos as well That September Via published a single timetable with information on both CN and CP trains marking the first time that Canadians could find all major passenger trains in one publication In 1977 CN underwent a dramatic restructuring when it placed various non core freight railway activities into separate subsidiaries such as ferries under CN Marine and passenger trains under Via Rail which was subsequently renamed Via Rail Canada 3 6 9 Formation and early years Edit A Via Rail train at Cochrane station in August 1978 Earlier that year CNR and CPR passenger rail service were spun off into Via Rail Canada On 12 January 1977 CN spun off its passenger services as a separate Crown corporation Via Rail Canada At its inception Via acquired all CN passenger cars and locomotives Following several months of negotiation on 29 October 1978 Via assumed all CP passenger train operations and took possession of cars and locomotives Passenger train services which were not included in the creation of Via Rail included those offered by BC Rail Algoma Central Railway Ontario Northland Railway Quebec North Shore amp Labrador Railway various urban commuter train services operated by CN and CP and remaining CN passenger services in Newfoundland At this time Via did not own any trackage and had to pay right of way fees to CN and CP sometimes being the only user of rural branch lines citation needed Via initially had a tremendous variety of equipment much of it in need of replacement and operated routes stretching from Sydney Nova Scotia to Prince Rupert British Columbia and north to Churchill Manitoba Over 150 scheduled trains per week were in operation including transcontinental services regional trains and corridor services citation needed While Via remains an independent federal Crown corporation mandated to operate as a business it is hindered by the fact that it was created by an Order in Council of the Privy Council and not from legislation passed by Parliament Had Via been enabled by legislation the company would be permitted to seek funding on the open money markets as other Crown corporations such as CN have done in the past It is largely for this reason that critics say Via like Amtrak in the United States is vulnerable to federal budget cuts and continues to answer first to its political masters as opposed to the business decisions needed to ensure the viability of intercity passenger rail service 4 1980s Edit The LRC in Port Hope October 1981 Via Rail ordered the LRCs in the 1980s to replace its older train cars Greater numbers of passengers would not be Via s saviour In 1981 Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau s government endorsed Minister of Transport Jean Luc Pepin s plan which slash Via s budget leading to a 40 percent reduction in the company s operations Frequently sold out trains such as the Super Continental which reduced Via to operating only one transcontinental train The Canadian and the popular Atlantic were discontinued citation needed Via also sought to reduce its reliance on over 30 year old second hand equipment and placed a significant order with Bombardier Transportation for new high speed locomotives and cars which would be used in its corridor trains The LRC Light Rapid Comfortable locomotives and cars used advanced technology such as active tilt to increase speed but proved troublesome and took several years to work out problems by 1990 only a handful of LRC locomotives remained in service which were subsequently retired by the arrival of the GE Genesis locomotives in 2001 citation needed The election of Brian Mulroney s Progressive Conservative government in 1984 brought an initial friend to Via when several of Mulroney s commitments included rescinding the Via cuts of 1981 by restoring the Super Continental under pressure from his western caucus and the Atlantic under pressure from his eastern caucus and then Saint John mayor Elsie Wayne Prime Minister Mulroney s government gave Via funding to refurbish some of its cars and purchase new locomotives this time a more reliable model from General Motors diesel division citation needed It was during this time on 8 February 1986 that Via s eastbound Super Continental collided with a CN freight train near Hinton Alberta as a result of the freight train crew missing a signal light resulting in 23 deaths By the late 1980s inflation and other rising costs were taking their toll on federal budgets and in the Mulroney government s 1989 budget Via again saw its budget slashed surpassing even the 1981 cuts under Trudeau 1990s Edit A Via GMD FP7 leads the Canadian in Regina May 1982 The Canadian was rerouted in the 1990s ending service to several cities like Calgary Minister of Transport Benoit Bouchard oversaw the reduction in service on 15 January 1990 when Via s operations were reduced by 55 percent citation needed Services such as the Super Continental were again discontinued along with numerous disparate rural services such as in Nova Scotia s Annapolis Valley and Cape Breton Island western Canada and in the corridor The Canadian was also moved from its home rails on CP to the northerly CN route previously plied by the Super Continental The shift to the less populated and less scenic route between Toronto and Vancouver severed major western cities such as Regina and Calgary from the passenger rail network and flared western bitterness toward the Government of Canada citation needed The official justification for the rerouting was that the trains would serve more remote communities but the concentration of ridings held by the Progressive Conservatives along the CN route attracted the charge that the move was chiefly political Harvie Andre one of Alberta s federal cabinet ministers who represented Calgary stated publicly that he did not care if he never saw a passenger train again in his life citation needed The Mulroney cuts allowed Via to consolidate its fleet of cars and locomotives resulting in a fleet of refurbished stainless steel HEP 1 and HEP 2 rebuilds and LRC cars as well as rationalizing its locomotive fleet with GM and Bombardier LRC units citation needed Via was not spared from further cutbacks in Jean Chretien s Liberal government elected in 1993 Minister of Finance Paul Martin s first budget in 1994 saw further Via cuts which saw the popular Atlantic dropped from the schedule focusing the eastern transcontinental service on the Ocean CP had sold off a large portion of track the Atlantic had operated on and as Via at that time was only mandated to provide passenger services on tracks belonging to CN or CP the route was discontinued citation needed This move was seen as somewhat controversial and politically motivated as the principal cities benefiting from the Atlantic s service were Sherbrooke Quebec and Saint John New Brunswick where the only two Progressive Conservative Party Members of Parliament in Canada were elected in the 1993 federal election in which Chretien s Liberal Party took power The Ocean service which was preserved currently operates on track between Montreal and Halifax running through the lower St Lawrence River valley and northern New Brunswick The Minister of Transport in Chretien s government at the time Douglas Young was elected from a district that included Bathurst New Brunswick on the Ocean s route A remote Via service to Quebec s Gaspe Peninsula the Chaleur was also spared from being cut at this time despite carrying fewer passengers than the Atlantic citation needed Renaissance funding Edit Via Rail P42DC pulling LRC coaches towards Montreal By the late 1990s with a rail friendly Minister of Transport David Collenette in office there were modest funding increases to Via Corridor services were improved with new and faster trains a weekly tourist train the Bras d Or returned Via service to Cape Breton Island for the first time since the 1990 cuts and a commitment was made to continue operating on Vancouver Island but western Canada continued to languish with the only service provided by the Canadian and a few remote service trains in northern BC and Manitoba citation needed In a significant new funding program dubbed Renaissance a fleet of unused passenger cars which had been built for planned Nightstar sleeper services between locations in the United Kingdom and Continental Europe via the Channel Tunnel were purchased and adapted following the cancellation of the Nightstar project The new Renaissance cars were swiftly nicknamed deplaisance displeasure by French speaking employees and customers due to early problems adapting the equipment for Canadian use Doors and toilets froze in cold Atlantic Canada temperatures resulting in delays and service interruptions 5 New diesel electric P42DC locomotives purchased from General Electric GE allowed the withdrawal of older locomotives including remaining LRCs LRC passenger cars were retained and continued to provide much of the Corridor service This expansion to Via s fleet has permitted scheduling flexibility Additionally many passenger stations have been remodelled into passenger friendly destinations with several hosting co located transit and regional bus hubs for various municipalities citation needed 2000s Edit A Via locomotive leads the International with Amtrak coaches The International route was jointly operated by Via and Amtrak from 1982 to 2004 On 24 October 2003 federal Minister of Transport David Collenette announced 700 million in new funding over the next five years This funding was below the 3 billion needed to implement a high speed rail proposal in the Quebec City Windsor Corridor nicknamed ViaFast however the funding was intended to provide for faster more frequent and more reliable passenger service across Canada preserving the option for higher speed rail such as the Via Fast proposal said Collenette This new project was to be called Renaissance II 6 On 18 December 2003 Liberal Prime Minister PM Paul Martin announced a freeze in federal spending on all major capital projects including Via s five year 700 million Renaissance II program announced just six weeks earlier by outgoing PM Chretien s administration Critics of Martin s cuts claimed that he was in a distinct conflict of interest as his family through Canada Steamship Lines and various subsidiary and affiliated companies had once had a significant investment in the Voyageur Colonial Bus Lines an intercity bus line in Quebec and eastern Ontario that is a key competitor of Via citation needed Route cuts under the Martin government included the withdrawal of the seasonal Bras d Or tourist train which ran for the last time in September 2004 and the Montreal Toronto overnight Enterprise which was discontinued in September 2005 The Sarnia Chicago International was also discontinued in April 2004 by Amtrak Via s portion of the route from Toronto Sarnia remained in operation as Via was able to use their own equipment to operate the train citation needed Sponsorship scandal Edit See also Sponsorship scandal The federal Auditor General s report released publicly on 10 February 2004 showed what appeared to be a criminal misdirection of government funds intended for advertising to key Quebec based supporters of the Liberal Party of Canada Included in the Auditor General s report was the fact that Via was used as one of several federal government departments agencies and Crown corporations to funnel these illicit funds Forced to act on the Auditor General s report due to its political implications Martin s government suspended Via President Marc LeFrancois on 24 February 2004 giving him an ultimatum of several days to defend himself against allegations in the report or face further disciplinary action citation needed Several days later during LeFrancois s suspension former Via marketing department employee Myriam Bedard claimed she was fired several years earlier when she questioned company billing practices in dealing with advertising companies According to CBC News an arbitrator s report later concluded that Bedard had voluntarily left Via She was publicly belittled by Via CEO Jean Pelletier in national media on 27 February 2004 Pelletier retracted his statements but on 1 March Pelletier was fired By 5 March after failing to defend himself adequately against the allegations in the Auditor General s report LeFrancois was fired as well citation needed Increasing problems and reinstated funding Edit A Via F40PH 2D in Jasper February 2011 Via s fleet of F40PH 2Ds were refurbished in the late 2000s to meet emission standards The reversal of funding in 2003 led to a backlog of deferred maintenance and left Via unable to replace or refurbish life expired locomotives and rolling stock Conversely Via ridership increased from 3 8 million in 2005 to 4 1 million in 2006 7 On 11 October 2007 Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced federal government funding of 691 9 million over five years of which 519 million for capital projects and the remainder additional operating funding The capital funding was earmarked to refurbish Via s fleet of 54 F40PH 2 locomotives to meet new emissions standards and extend their service lives by 15 20 years refurbish the interiors of LRC coaches reduce track capacity bottlenecks and speed restrictions in the Windsor Quebec City Corridor and make repairs to a number of stations across the network 8 This announcement was similar in content to the previous Renaissance II package and once again was criticized for not including new equipment or funding for services outside the Windsor Quebec City Corridor Shortly afterwards documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act revealed that delays due to equipment failures had risen by 60 percent since the previous year The company attributed this to problems with the aging F40 locomotive fleet 9 On 27 January 2009 the Government of Canada announced in its 2009 Economic Action Plan that it would increase funding to Via by 407 million to support improvements including increased train frequencies and enhanced on time performance and speed particularly in the Montreal Ottawa Toronto corridor 10 On 21 July 2009 Via announced its engineers would go on strike as of 24 July if no deal was reached by then and began cancelling all trains in anticipation of strike The strike officially began at midnight on July 24 after it became clear that no deal had been reached Engineers had been without a contract since 31 December 2006 needs update Full service resumed on 27 July 2009 11 An additional strike by the Canadian Auto Workers CAW union representing around 2 200 employees was planned to begin on 4 July 2010 but was called off after the union and Via reached a three year contract 12 2010s Edit Via train cars at Qualicum Beach station a stop on Victoria Courtenay train The Victoria Courtenay service was suspended in March 2010 Via experienced more service cuts at the dawn of the 2010 In March 2011 the daily Victoria Courtenay The Malahat RDC service on Vancouver Island was suspended indefinitely due to deteriorating track it has yet to resume By 27 June 2012 Via announced additional service cuts due to funding issues The Canadian was reduced from three days a week to two days a week beginning November 2012 service operated twice weekly November April and thrice weekly May October until 2019 In 2019 only two trains per week operated on the full route while the third train ran only between Vancouver and Edmonton once a week in each direction The Ocean was reduced from six days a week to thrice weekly beginning October 2012 Corridor services west of Toronto were reduced with weekend service reductions to Montreal and Ottawa Ontario 13 Corridor services to Sarnia and the Niagara region were reduced to once daily in October 2012 with additional taking effect in July 2012 Sarnia was left with a single daily round trip 14 Niagara Falls lost all service except the joint Amtrak Via daily New York City Toronto Maple Leaf service 15 although Toronto regional commuter service was later provided by GO Transit Corridor services to Kitchener 16 London 17 and Windsor 18 were reduced starting in October 2012 with at least two daily round trips surviving In September 2013 the Gaspe service which had been bustituted in 2011 was suspended indefinitely 19 To address declining on time performance due to freight train traffic on Via routes MP Olivia Chow drafted a private member s bill in 2014 that would reorganize the company and allow the government to force freight rail carriers to give scheduling priority to public passenger rail However as with most private member s bills it was not passed 20 21 Service improvements Edit The Quebec Windsor corridor was the focus of service restorations and implements A direct Ottawa Quebec City train was restored with additional trips between Ottawa Montreal and Toronto being added In 2016 LRC passenger cars used for the corridor were refurbished in the Via 1 class this included single seating A passenger car adorned in Canada 150 livery August 2017 For the country s sesquicentennial Via released a special youth rail pass In March 2017 Via announced the release of a new category of rail pass valid for the month of July 2017 corresponding to Canada s sesquicentennial celebrations for youth aged 18 25 costing 150 several hundred dollars cheaper than a comparable rail pass would typically cost A larger than expected response resulted in the temporary loss of functionality for Via s website Despite plans to cap the number of passes sold at 1867 the year of Canadian Confederation over 4 000 passes were ultimately sold The company received significant backlash as it initially appeared there was no limit on the number of passes available 22 2018 present Edit Extreme winter conditions had always been an operational hazard for Via with the Ottawa routes and Canadian being most vulnerable 23 Equally summer repairs and construction often delayed trains systemwide even though schedules were regularly adjusted in an attempt to minimize delays 23 However by 2018 freight traffic on the heavily used CN lines had become a significant concern for maintaining on time service 24 25 This issue arose due to typical siding sizes which were not long enough to accommodate modern freight trains Passenger trains were consequently placed on sidings whenever two trains passed rather than freights which meant that passenger trains did not have priority on CN lines 26 27 The issue existed in all parts of the Via network although it became most extreme on the Canadian where delays increased from an average of five hours to as much as 50 over the four day journey 28 27 26 Via ultimately addressed the issue by eliminating its late policy on its cross Canada trains but retaining it for the Corridor routes 29 25 However Via continues to compensate inconvenienced guests with necessary hotel accommodations prior to the journey as well as ensuring continued transportation where a connection to a second Via train had been missed 25 As such compensation costs were factored into Via s 2018 budget By the end of 2018 the full route time on the Canadian had been increased twice to absorb freight delays 24 30 25 The second extension to five days has been mostly successful in decreasing delays and also allowed for a daytime transit of Hells Gate in BC previously transversed overnight in the dark The scheduled increased running time actually resulted in the Canadian arriving early on several occasions 31 32 However Toronto Vancouver service frequencies were reduced to only twice weekly during peak summer period with a third Toronto Edmonton run suspended entirely On 12 December 2018 Via announced that it had awarded a contract to Siemens Canada for 32 train sets to replace the entire Quebec City Windsor Corridor fleet 33 This marked the completion of a procurement process launched following the 2018 federal budget which allocated funding for the fleet replacement During the request for proposals stage Via had narrowed the potential suppliers down to Siemens Bombardier Talgo and Stadler Rail Siemens was ultimately selected after finishing first on the key criteria which included the ability to deliver in a timely fashion the quality of the product offering and the price The new fleet will consist of Siemens SC 44 locomotives hauling a combination of coaches business class cars and cab cars from the Siemens Venture series to allow bi directional operation The trains will be built at Siemens plant in Sacramento California and Siemens committed to including at least 20 percent Canadian content in the final product The order includes an option for an additional 16 train sets to be exercised if the federal government approves Via s high frequency dedicated corridor project 34 The first train set is to be delivered for testing by winter 2021 with the first sets in service by 2022 and all trains in service by 2024 The delivery of the new trains will allow Via to retire LRC and Renaissance equipment from the corridor and re allocate the HEP2 and corridor based HEP1 cars to other parts of the network Insignia EditIn addition to using commercial logos Via Rail is one of several Crown corporations that has been granted heraldic symbols by the Canadian Heraldic Authority The coat of arms was granted on May 15 2020 and presented by Canada s Chief Herald 35 An heraldic badge was approved for use at the same time as the coat of arms The badge design follows the design of a law enforcement agency badge in Canada denoting the responsibilities of Via Rail police constables The Royal Crown indicates that Via Rail has police constables appointed for the enforcement of the laws relating to the protection of persons and property 35 A flag was also granted by the Canadian Heraldic Authority It is black and charged with Via Rail s badge 35 Budget and management EditVia is operated as an independent crown corporation and receives a subsidy from the Minister of Transport to provide service to remote communities Via operates more than 500 trains per week from coast to coast The sum of 369 million was earned from passenger revenues in 2018 Over 4 74 million passenger voyages were taken in 2018 An on time ratio of 71 percent was achieved in that year Over 3 115 persons were employed by Via by the end of 2018 Via president Yves Desjardins Siciliano stated that the subsidy for passenger rail travel in Canada in 2015 was about 200 percent for every 1 travellers spend on fares Canada pays 2 in subsidy 36 As of May 2019 the Chair of the Board of Directors is Francoise Bertrand while the President and CEO is Cynthia Garneau there are 11 other persons on the Board of Directors at the same year The Annual accounts of Via are audited to GAAP principles by the Auditor General of Canada under the Financial Administration Act Via Rail Canada Inc is incorporated under the CBCA and is subject to income taxes should a profit ever be declared by it The corporation had 9 300 000 in share capital as of 2018 Via also received 394 4 million of government funding in 2018 In May 2019 Cynthia Garneau was appointed as the new CEO of Via She replaced Yves Desjardins Siciliano who completed his five year mandate on 8 May Expansion plans Edit Maritimes Edit Via has explored the introduction of daily regional service in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick connecting Halifax Moncton and Campbellton to complement the thrice weekly Ocean service to Montreal As of 2017 Via s statement was that it was exploring an eastern intercity corridor service and that further developments were dependent on infrastructure upgrades and equipment testing 37 Via has also expressed interest in operating commuter rail service on CN tracks in Halifax that would run from the city s downtown station as far as Windsor Junction 37 38 However in June 2019 Halifax regional council voted unanimously to direct staff not to pursue commuter rail service further due to infrastructure requirements and associated financial implications as well as operational considerations and restraints 39 40 High frequency rail project Edit Via developed a 4 4 billion high frequency rail HFR service plan as a response to delays faced by sharing tracks with freight trains The plan opts for a dedicated track between Toronto Ottawa Montreal and Quebec City offering more frequent trains although running at conventional speeds In Ontario Via would run a new rail line on currently underused tracks from Toronto to Ottawa through Peterborough instead of Kingston In Quebec corridor trains would travel from Montreal to Quebec City through Trois Rivieres on the north shore of the St Lawrence River rather than on the south shore through Drummondville 21 Via claimed this would allow them to run more trains in the corridor reduce trip times by 25 and improve on time performance to over 95 41 Feasibility studies were funded by the federal government in the 2016 2018 budgets and the 2018 budget allowed for the funding of the fleet replacement portion of the plan though not the dedicated rail lines 42 Contrary to expectations the 2019 federal budget did not include a final decision for new funds for HFR 43 However in January 2020 Via announced the hiring of a joint venture of engineering firms AECOM and Arup to undertake a detailed engineering study of the proposal 44 Service suspensions Edit Two former Via routes The Malahat service ended in 2011 and Chaleur service ended in 2013 are currently suspended due to poor track conditions Via plans to reintroduce service once track upgrades have been completed 37 The Quebec government announced funds for repairs to Chaleur trackage in 2017 with a completion date stated only as being several years away 45 No concrete plan to restore trackage along The Malahat has been announced as of 2020 update A Via F40PH 2D leading the Winnipeg Churchill train November 2012 The service was suspended from May 2017 to December 2018 for track maintenance The Winnipeg Churchill train was disrupted by severe spring flooding on 23 May 2017 when the Hudson Bay Railway tracks were damaged beyond standard maintenance Winnipeg Gillam service continued 46 OmniTRAX the original owner of the track refused to make the repairs saying that the track was no longer viable despite the matching federal subsidy 47 The railroad was Churchill s only land link to southern Canada and its loss resulted in significant cost of living increases for residents along the corridor a stranded train was removed by ship in October 2017 47 Service to Churchill was restored in late 2018 after the tracks Churchill port and Churchill marine tank farm were purchased by Arctic Gateway Group 48 49 The federal government assisted in the purchase with 74 million of dedicated northern infrastructure money up front and an additional commitment of 43 million over 10 years 50 48 To restore passenger rail service before winter Arctic Gateway repaired 29 washouts in 35 days Although a special Via train arrived in Churchill on 1 November the first regular Via train arrived in Churchill on 4 December 560 days after service initially ceased 51 52 On February 13 2020 following several days of blockades during the nationwide Coastal GasLink Pipeline protests Via Rail announced that it would be shutting down most of its passenger train service across Canada until further notice with the exception of the Sudbury White River train line and the Winnipeg Churchill train between Churchill and The Pas 53 54 55 Later in 2020 in response to the COVID 19 pandemic nearly all Via Rail trains were suspended with the exception of the Winnipeg Churchill train as well as one train daily on each route within the corridor 56 57 Along with the previous protest related service suspensions it is the most extensive temporary reduction of service in Via Rail s history Travelling on Via EditTravel on Via varies by region as much as class Many of Via s policies and protocols are the product of running a national train system with varying pressures and needs of different passengers communities and contexts The results are wide ranging travel experiences depending on the distance and location of the journey Unscheduled stops Edit Some Via routes outside the corridor offer the option of unscheduled stops at places where there is no station With 48 hours notice a passenger can request to entrain or detrain at a specified milepost This option is available on all of the Adventure Routes as well as the Canadian between Capreol and Winnipeg 58 Classes of service Edit Economy class seating in a Via Rail coach car with one fully reclined Escape Fare Discounted seats from economy class with restrictions on refunds and exchanges Economy Economy class seating in coach cars Passengers are usually assigned seats except trains 54 97 98 650 and 651 where passengers are separated based on train cars according to destination 59 Snacks and beverages are sold by employees with service carts in a lounge car or in a restaurant car Free Wi Fi access is provided in the Corridor and on the Ocean 60 Business class coach on the Corridor Business formerly called Via 1 First class seating available on most Corridor trains in southern Quebec and Ontario Business class offers passengers individually reserved seats more spacious seating window blinds inclusive hot three course meals complete with complimentary wine and liqueurs in seat AC power outlets and free Wi Fi access Business class passengers are also granted priority boarding and access to business lounges at major urban stations 61 Touring Available on the Skeena only in peak travel months Includes three meals per day wine with supper on train commentary from the staff and guaranteed access to the Panoramic and Park cars 62 Sleeper Plus Sleeping accommodations aboard overnight trains This service class was formerly known as Sleeper in some cases including on the now suspended Chaleur Available on the Canadian Ocean and Winnipeg Churchill trains Options for this class on the Canadian include berth sections and single double and triple bedrooms with bunkbeds and electrical outlets On other trains not all options are available Also included are first class meals in the dining car not including alcohol and access to the Skyline car and viewing salons in the glass domed Park car when available Passengers are also given priority boarding and access to the Panorama Lounges at major urban stations 63 64 Each car has access to a washroom and optionally a shower Access to business lounges where available or the Sleeper Plus Lounge in Halifax is available on departure day Prestige Via s latest premium service offering available on the Canadian only In addition to the Sleeper Plus amenities includes modernized luxurious sleeping accommodations at the rear of the train priority reservations in the dining car a concierge complimentary beverages including alcohol and schedule permitting a free tour of select Winnipeg attractions Access to business lounges is provided on both arrival and departure days in Toronto and Vancouver On board Edit Amenities Edit A Via dining car preparing for the first serving of breakfast Smoking is prohibited on all Via trains Smoking tobacco has been banned on the Corridor routes since 1993 65 and this policy was gradually extended to all trains while smoking cannabis was banned on all Via routes on the same day it was made legal in Canada The last remaining on board smoking was permitted in a smoker s lounge on some long distance routes only at certain times of day until 2002 66 Washrooms are provided for each car On sleeper cars every private room has its own separate washroom Food service varies by train All trains save the Sudbury White River train offer snacks light meals and both alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages for purchase Long distance trains offer traditional sit down dining and full meals to sleeper class passengers Economy class passengers can purchase hot take out meals prepared in the dining car on long distance trains during the peak season and eat in the sit down dining car in the off peak 67 Complimentary Wi Fi service is available in the Corridor The present Wi Fi system is provided by 21Net since November 2008 Previously the Wi Fi service was provided by Parsons commencing in February 2006 Via had upgraded the past Wi Fi system during 2011 with technology provided by Nomad Digital 68 69 70 Via was the first North American transportation service to offer Wi Fi to its passengers in early 2006 and was one of the first in the world to do so Wi Fi is also available to travellers in all classes of service who may benefit from complimentary Wi Fi service in many Quebec City Windsor corridor stations Wi Fi service has been added to the Ocean train in the service cars and to the Canadian 71 although connections are unreliable in most places outside urban centres Luggage Edit A canoe being unloaded from a luggage car on the Sudbury White River train Via offers checked luggage on its longer haul services however in the Corridor only certain trains have luggage cars In older class cars there is sufficient space at the front of the car for luggage storage In contrast the Renaissance stock has enough space underneath the seat for only one small piece of carry on luggage the remainder must be checked 72 Accessibility and safety concerns Edit Via offers pre boarding assistance to those passengers requiring extra time to board its trains Not all stations are equally accessible some have high level platforms or mechanical lifts All Via trains are capable of accommodating wheelchairs although capacity is limited 73 Routes and connections EditSee also List of Via Rail routes A map of Via Rail routes showing the frequency of Via trains on it Via operates in the provinces of Alberta British Columbia Manitoba New Brunswick Nova Scotia Ontario Quebec and Saskatchewan The only province or territory connected to the continental railway network and not served by Via is the Northwest Territories Newfoundland and Labrador Nunavut Prince Edward Island and Yukon have no rail connections to the continental network and thus no Via service Via operates over 475 trains per week over 19 routes marketed in four broad categories 74 Ontario and Quebec Corridor service comprising frequent regional and local trains between major cities in a band from Southwestern Ontario to Quebec City The vast majority of Via s trains over 400 per week operate here Cities served by Corridor trains include Windsor Sarnia London Toronto Kingston Ottawa Montreal and Quebec City In 2017 corridor service accounted for 95 percent of Via s ridership and 77 percent of its revenue 75 The Maritime Way Ocean providing long distance service between Quebec and the Maritime provinces In 2017 the Ocean accounted for 2 percent of Via s ridership and 3 percent of its revenue 75 The Great Western Way Canadian providing both long distance service between Southern Ontario and Western Canada as well as essential rail services through Northern Ontario In 2017 the Canadian accounted for 2 percent of Via s ridership and 20 percent of its revenue 75 Adventure Routes Five regional and long distance routes that offer essential rail transportation in rural northern areas In 2017 these routes in aggregate accounted for 1 percent of Via s ridership and revenue 75 The routes included in this category are Jasper Prince Rupert train former name Skeena Alberta and British Columbia Montreal Jonquiere train former name Saguenay Quebec Montreal Senneterre train former name Abitibi Quebec Sudbury White River train former name Lake Superior Ontario Winnipeg Churchill train former name Hudson Bay Manitoba and Saskatchewan Unlike Amtrak which gives every route a specific name most Via trains are identified only by their route number and destination The only named Via trains are the Canadian and the Ocean The five Adventure Routes were previously branded as the Skeena the Saguenay the Abitibi the Lake Superior and the Hudson Bay respectively and may still be referred to by these names in local usage Track ownership Edit A Via Rail train passes by a Canadian National Railway train The majority of the track Via operates on is owned by CNR As of 2017 the mileage makeup of Via s route network by track owner host railway was as follows 37 note 1 84 percent Canadian National Railway 8 percent Hudson Bay Railway 4 percent Canadian Pacific Railway 3 percent Via Rail 2 percent Metrolinx GO Transit In total about 88 percent of Via trackage is owned by Class I railroads 8 percent by shortline railroads and 5 percent by government agencies Connections Edit The Maple Leaf train outside Niagara Falls station The route is jointly operated between Via and Amtrak providing Via riders with a connection to Amtrak stations based in New York The Maple Leaf operating between New York City and Toronto via Albany Buffalo and Niagara Falls is jointly managed by Via and Amtrak The train operates using Amtrak equipment but on the Canadian side of the border is staffed by Via employees and operated as a typical Via train Two other train routes link Canada and the US the Adirondack Montreal New York and the Amtrak Cascades Vancouver Seattle Portland While both of these routes share stations with Via at their Canadian termini they are fully operated by Amtrak and single ticket connections to Via trains are not offered In addition to Amtrak Via passengers can book connecting tickets on the following services 77 GO Transit Toronto regional commuter trains Train de Charlevoix summer tourist train between Quebec City and the Charlevoix region no shared station in Quebec City bus shuttle available Union Pearson Express airport rail link from Toronto Union Station to Toronto Pearson International Airport Maritime Bus coach operator in Eastern Canada Robert Q Airbus transportation to and from Toronto Pearson International Airport and Detroit Metro Airport to several locations in Southern Ontario BC Ferries Connector offers service between downtown Vancouver and downtown Victoria Reseau de Transports de la Capitale Public transit in the Quebec City area Red Arrow coach operator in Alberta Ontario Coachway provides transportation to and from Toronto Pearson International Airport ReGIM public transit in Gaspesie Les Iles Via also has connection agreements with several local and intercity bus operators car sharing services and airlines Passengers who are flying with these airlines can combine their air and rail trips under the same record locator 77 AeroMexico Air North Air Transat Cathay Pacific First Air Hainan Airlines LOT Polish Airlines Qatar Airways Royal JordanianRolling stock EditMain article List of Via Rail rolling stock Via owns 73 locomotives and 501 passenger cars 78 Examples include the GMD F40PH 2 diesel locomotive and the famed Park class sleeper dome lounge cars found on the rear of the Canadianand the Jasper Prince Rupert train Carbon emissions EditIn 2010 Via s carbon dioxide CO2 equivalent emissions per passenger kilometre were 0 117 kg 79 For comparison this is similar to Amtrak or a car with two people 80 about twice as high as the UK rail average 81 about four times the average US motorcoach 82 and about eight times a Finnish electric intercity train or fully loaded fifty seat coach 83 Accidents and incidents EditThe most serious Via accident to date occurred on 8 February 1986 when a Via train collided with a CN freight train near Hinton Alberta killing 23 people and injuring 71 On 20 November 1994 at approximately 18 20 Via train No 66 travelling eastward at approximately 96 mph struck a piece of rail intentionally placed on the track at Mile 242 07 of the CN North America Kingston Subdivision in Brighton Ontario A fire erupted and the trailing portion of the locomotive and the first two passenger cars behind the locomotive became engulfed in flames Forty six of the 385 passengers were injured most while exiting the train in life threatening conditions 2 local residents were charged and convicted after an investigation by the local police 84 On 3 September 1997 the Canadian train No 2 from Vancouver to Toronto travelling eastward at 67 mph derailed at Mile 7 5 of the CN Wainwright Subdivision near Biggar Saskatchewan Thirteen of nineteen cars and the two locomotives derailed Seventy nine of the 198 passengers and crew on board were injured 1 fatally and 13 seriously Approximately 600 feet of main track was destroyed 85 The cause was determined to be an axle bearing failure which was detected but erroneously ignored Via was heavily criticized for a lack of attention to safety On 23 April 1999 Via train No 74 travelling eastward at Mile 46 7 on the CN Chatham Subdivision in Thamesville Ontario derailed after a switch was left open by a CN worker causing the train to jump the tracks and collide with stationary hoppers on the adjacent track derailing the locomotive and its four passenger cars The two engineers were killed and 77 of the 186 passengers injured four seriously Approximately 50 m of the main track and 100 m of the yard track were destroyed 86 On 12 April 2001 the Ocean bound for Montreal derailed in Stewiacke Nova Scotia at a manually operated main track switch A standard CN switch lock used to secure the switch in correct position had been tampered with The two locomotives and the first two cars continued on the main track but the following cars took a diverging route onto an industrial track adjacent to the main track Nine of the cars derailed and a farm supply building as well as the industrial track were destroyed Four occupants of the building escaped without injury prior to impact There were 132 persons on board the train 22 persons were transported to hospital in either Truro or Halifax Nine were seriously injured 87 A 15 year old boy pleaded guilty to the charge of mischief endangering life relating to the lock tampering 88 On 26 February 2012 Via Train No 92 en route to Toronto derailed in Burlington Ontario killing all three railroad engineers and injuring 46 three seriously The cause of the derailment is attributed to the excessive speed of the train travelling through a switch from track 2 to track 3 2013 Via Rail Canada terrorism plot In April 2013 two men inspired by al Qaeda were charged with plotting to derail a Via train in the Greater Toronto Area 89 In 2015 both men were convicted of terrorism related offenses and sentenced to life imprisonment 90 One of the two men was mentally unstable and misdiagnosed with schizophrenia 91 92 On 18 September 2013 a collision occurred between train No 51 and a double decker OC Transpo bus that failed to stop at a level crossing in Ottawa Ontario Six people were killed and 31 injured 11 critically all of whom were on the bus The impact resulted in the train derailing approximately 100 200 feet 30 61 m down the track 93 On 5 July 2018 a train with 16 passengers and five crew members derailed north of Hudson Bay SK while travelling from Winnipeg to Churchill Passengers and crew sustained only minor injuries but it took several hours for emergency crews to arrive due to the remote location of the incident Paramedics and firefighters had to wait near the tracks for CN rail trucks to arrive that could transport them to the crash site 94 95 On 31 December 2019 a train with five crew and seven passengers derailed and tipped on its side near Katrime Manitoba the incident is still under investigation and no one was seriously injured 96 See also Edit Trains portal Railways portal Companies portal VIA Rail Police ServiceList of Via Rail stations List of Via Rail rolling stockNotes Edit Since the most recent corporate plan was published the Guelph Subdivision used by Via between Kitchener and London has reverted to CN from the Goderich Exeter Railway 76 References Edit a b Annual Report 2018 PDF Via Rail Canada Retrieved May 13 2019 Sustainable Mobility Report 2018 PDF Report Via Rail Canada p 5 a b Nelligan Tom 1982 Via Rail Canada The first five years PJT Publishing ISBN 0 937658 08 1 Jason Fekete February 29 2016 Via Rail seeking federal budget funding for 1 3B passenger car upgrade in Toronto Montreal corridor National Post Retrieved March 2 2016 Transport 2000 Hotline Transport2000 ca January 30 2004 Archived from the original on April 20 2011 Retrieved March 10 2011 Via upgrades to cost 700 million Archived from the original on June 5 2004 Via gets hundreds of millions in federal funding CBC October 11 2007 Archived from the original on October 12 2007 Retrieved October 11 2007 Backgrounder New Funding For Via Rail Canada PDF Via Rail October 11 2007 Retrieved October 23 2007 Beeby Dean October 20 2007 Via train late You re not alone Toronto The Globe and Mail Retrieved October 23 2007 Canada s Economic Action Plan Department of Finance of Canada January 27 2009 Retrieved December 28 2011 Update Strike Action Via Rail Canada cancels all services effective immediately Via Rail Canada Inc Archived from the original on July 25 2009 Via Rail CAW reach tentative agreement to avoid strike Progressive Railroading June 28 2010 Retrieved June 29 2010 Via Rail continues its modernization and takes action to better meet customer demand Press release Via Rail June 27 2012 Retrieved June 27 2012 Via train service to Sarnia cut in half Archived from the original on January 15 2013 Retrieved July 6 2012 Niagara travellers impacted by Via cuts Archived from the original on January 15 2013 Retrieved July 6 2012 Via Rail blames low ridership for cuts to Kitchener service Retrieved July 6 2012 London area hit hard by nationwide Via Rail cuts Retrieved July 6 2012 Via Rail cuts means fewer trains to from Windsor Retrieved July 6 2012 Via Rail service between Matapedia New Carlisle and Gaspe suspended Retrieved August 23 2013 Chow Olivia Bill C 577 Via Rail Canada Act An Act respecting Via Rail Canada and making consequential amendments to another Act a b De Souza Mike Robinson Megan March 11 2020 Does Via Rail s survival depend on a new route through Ontario and Quebec Global News Retrieved May 3 2020 Via Rail s 150 passes for unlimited travel sold out Retrieved June 12 2018 a b Winter s extreme weather made trains extremely late Via Rail reports The Globe and Mail a b 2018 Annual Public Meeting Questions and Answers Part 1 PDF Via Rail Canada a b c d Opinion Passenger train service falling off the rails Vancouver Sun August 29 2016 a b Via train chronically late Rail advocates October 22 2018 a b What s holding up Via s Canadian Updated Railway Age May 30 2018 Small Kaylen May 24 2018 Pain on the train Via Rail passengers frustrated with delays on cross Canada journey CBC News Travel credits www viarail ca New Via sked to keep Canadian on time in Jasper Jasper s source for news sports arts culture and more The Fitzhugh Did Via Rail keep its promise Let s ask Riding the buses December 6 2018 Lovely trip Review of Via Rail Canada Quebec Canada TripAdvisor Via Rail Selects Siemens Canada to Replace its Quebec Windsor Corridor Fleet Retrieved December 19 2018 Via Rail places 989 million train order with Siemens Retrieved December 19 2018 a b c General The Office of the Secretary to the Governor VIA Rail Canada Inc Civil Institution reg gg ca Retrieved September 14 2021 Taylor Roger November 9 2015 Via looks at expanding Atlantic service Chronicle Herald Herald Limited Retrieved November 20 2015 a b c d Summary of the 2017 2021 Corporate Plan and 2017 Operating and Capital Budgets PDF Via Rail Canada Retrieved February 26 2019 Campbell Francis December 8 2018 Commuter rail far from dead in Halifax The Chronicle Herald Retrieved February 26 2019 Woodford Zane June 18 2019 Halifax council kills commuter rail proposal Toronto Star Retrieved February 3 2020 Peddle Stuart June 19 2019 Halifax commuter rail not coming but councillor still holding out hope The Chronicle Herald Retrieved February 3 2020 Proposal for High Frequency Rail in the Quebec City Toronto Corridor Via Rail Retrieved May 5 2020 Platt Brian February 28 2018 Federal budget approves new fleet of trains for Via Rail but dedicated tracks still under study National Post Retrieved June 12 2018 Via high Frequency Rail HFR Project not part of 2019 Federal Budget but Continues to be Evaluated Transport Action Ontario March 27 2019 High Frequency Rail AECOM and Arup consortium selected as Owner s Engineers Press release Montreal Quebec Canada Via Rail Canada Inc January 28 2020 Retrieved May 5 2020 Quebec funds Gaspe railway revival May 9 2017 Retrieved June 12 2018 Inc Via Rail Canada Via Rail service between Churchill and Gillam suspended indefinitely due to closure of the railway infrastructure in northern Manitoba www newswire ca a b Ship brings propane to Churchill will leave with stranded Via Rail train CTV News October 15 2017 a b We are free Churchill celebrates return of train service with prime minister Edmonton Journal November 1 2018 Newsroom Arctic Gateway Group Canada Western Economic Diversification September 14 2018 Government of Canada announces support for acquisition and repair of Churchill rail line by Arctic Gateway Group gcnws It s very exciting First rail tourists in 560 days depart for Churchill Man CBC News December 2 2018 Churchill reconnected cangeotravel ca Tasker John Paul February 13 2020 Via Rail cancels most trains nationwide CN closes Eastern Canadian network as Indigenous protests continue Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Retrieved February 14 2020 Shah Maryam February 13 2020 Via Rail cancels most trains across the country as CN shuts down rails in eastern Canada Global News Retrieved February 14 2020 Slaughter Graham February 13 2020 Via Rail cancels trains across Canada CN shuts down Eastern Canada network amid pipeline protests CTV News Retrieved May 15 2020 COVID 19 Via Rail continues suspension of all Toronto Vancouver passenger trains until May 1 vancouversun com Retrieved April 24 2020 Group Travelweek March 23 2020 Via Rail announces service changes in response to COVID 19 Travelweek www travelweek ca Retrieved April 24 2020 Stops in between two stations Via Rail Seat Assignment February 11 2014 Train routes by region Via Rail Retrieved March 10 2011 Via Rail Helpful links for the business traveller Viarail ca Retrieved January 12 2012 Classes aboard the Jasper Prince Rupert train Via Rail Retrieved March 10 2011 Classes aboard the Montreal Halifax train the Ocean Via Rail Retrieved March 10 2011 Classes aboard the Toronto Vancouver train the Canadian Via Rail Retrieved March 10 2011 Smoking to be banned on Via train The Gazette Montreal QC April 15 1993 pp A3 DeMont John August 2002 All Aboard Maclean s 115 34 16 Via Rail Onboard menus for all trains Retrieved February 24 2013 On Train Entertainment Via Rail Retrieved September 30 2010 As of November 2008 the Internet Wi Fi services on Via Rail Canada trains running between Windsor Toronto Ottawa Montreal and Quebec City are operated by 21Net Archived from the original on June 13 2010 NOMAD awarded contract by Via Rail and Government of Canada Nomad Digital Ltd December 13 2010 Archived from the original on July 17 2011 Via Rail Free Wi Fi Viarail ca Retrieved February 24 2013 Baggage Policy PDF Via Rail Canada June 2017 Retrieved February 26 2019 Via Rail Special needs Retrieved February 24 2013 Explore Our Train Journeys Via Rail Canada Retrieved December 7 2018 a b c d Via Rail Annual Report 2017 PDF Via Rail Canada p 2 Host Stephen C November 20 2018 GEXR leased segment reverts to CN Railway Age New York Retrieved March 11 2019 a b Our partners February 15 2018 Train fleet Rolling stock Via Rail corpo viarail ca Retrieved February 5 2020 Email from Bruno Riendeau Senior Advisor Environment to Alaric Hall October 20 2011 Cf http docs wri org wri co2comm 2002 commuting protected xls Archived January 12 2016 at the Wayback Machine sheet 8 cell C36 figures from 2002 and http www tc gc ca eng programs environment ecofreight about voluntary racemissions2007 2 1134 htm Archived May 17 2013 at the Wayback Machine respectively http docs wri org wri co2comm 2002 commuting protected xls Archived January 12 2016 at the Wayback Machine sheet 8 cell C33 figures from 2002 Updated Comparison of Energy Use amp CO2 Emissions From Different Transportation Modes PDF Archived from the original PDF on May 15 2013 Retrieved November 23 2012 table 1 1 figures from 2007 Sustainable development PDF March 24 2009 Archived from the original PDF on March 24 2009 figures from 2007 Respectively http lipasto vtt fi yksikkopaastot henkiloliikennee raideliikennee junat henkiloe htm figures for 2007 http www lipasto vtt fi yksikkopaastot henkiloliikennee tieliikennee linja autote latiee htm figures for 2010 Railway Investigation Report R94T0357 Transportation Safety Board of Canada June 26 1996 Railway Investigation Report R97H0009 Transportation Safety Board of Canada August 5 1998 Canada Government of Canada Transportation Safety Board of February 13 2001 Railway Investigation Report R99H0007 Railway Investigation Report R01M0024 Transportation Safety Board of Canada January 7 2003 Teen faces victims of N S train wreck CBC CBC News Blackwell Tom April 22 2013 Canadian terrorist plot to attack Via train thwarted two arrested RCMP National Post Diana Mehta Men convicted in Via terror plot handed life sentences Canadian Press September 23 2016 Richard Warnica Legal battle over convicted terrorist Chiheb Esseghaier s sanity set as lawyers appointed for appeal National Post January 13 2016 Richard Warnica Would be terrorist Chiheb Esseghaier is clearly insane but should that even matter in court National Post August 28 2015 Commisso Christina Puzic Sonja September 18 2013 Via train and city bus crash in Ottawa at least six dead 30 injured CTV News Retrieved September 18 2013 Canada Transportation Safety Board of July 11 2018 Rail transportation safety investigation R18W0168 Transportation Safety Board www tsb gc ca Retrieved October 26 2019 Railway incident presents emergency responders with unique challenge www saskhealthauthority ca Retrieved October 26 2019 Manitoba RCMP respond to passenger train derailment near Portage La Prairie CJOB Retrieved February 5 2020 Further reading EditAllen Tom 2001 Rolling Home A Cross Canada Railroad Memoir Toronto Penguin ISBN 0 670 88473 1 Greenlaw Christopher C N 2007 VIA Rail Saint Paul MN MBI ISBN 9780760325292 OCLC 71286639 Pindell Terry 1992 Last train to Toronto a Canadian rail odyssey 115 West 18th Street New York New York 10011 Henry Holt and Company Inc ISBN 0 8050 1574 4 CS1 maint location link Hanus Chris amp Shaske John 2009 Canada By Train The Complete Via Rail Travel Guide ISBN 978 0 9730897 5 2External links EditWikimedia Commons has media related to VIA Rail category Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Across Canada by train Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Rail travel in Canada Via Rail Corporate Web Site Retrieved from https en wikipedia org w index php title Via Rail amp oldid 1053267678, wikipedia, wiki, book,

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