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An interesting idea, though I’m sure most on here would be vehemently opposed, as it doesn’t serve the centre of the universe Toronto. 😜
I don't have much to say about the realignments that others have proposed or mentioned, however!; Although VIA trains are famously infrequent I don't think Ottawa-Montreal trains are really all that slow or inefficient. It's two hours from Ottawa to Montreal on VIA which is equivalent to driving in good traffic. I'll take that sort of speed in North America. It's not necessarily the same as Ottawa-Toronto which is nearly equivalent to driving but over a much longer distance and with much more annoying hurdles in between.

I anticipate the day when trains can cruise between Toronto-Ottawa without having to trundle through Smiths Falls or Gananoque.

If Via were deliberately cancelling the train, they would have waited until January, rather than cutting it right during the peak holiday travel season. Prices on Via are astronomical right now, which should theoretically indicate very high demand given that they use demand pricing. I travel fairly regularly between Ottawa and Toronto and it's been probably half a year since I've taken Via. My cutoff is $80 including tax, since that's the fixed price of a Red Arrow bus ticket (the premium bus with wide seats, better wifi than Via, and smoother ride than a Budd coach).

The last time I rode Via I was able to buy a ticket for $55 at the station an hour before departure when my Red Arrow bus was cancelled (Red Arrow gave a full refund). But the reason I had booked Red Arrow in the first place was that the Via ticket prices for that same train had been over $120 weeks earlier when I was shopping for tickets. Even an hour earlier (2h before departure) prices were over $100. The train itself was fairly empty so unless they suddenly tacked another coach on the back of the train, something is fishy with their pricing system.
Are these prices one-way or round-trip? Most of my RTs are ~$120-130, sometimes $100 if i'm lucky. If you try to book Ottawa-Toronto today most of the trips in January are available starting from $54/59.

As for the train being empty, it depends on where your boarding is and where your destination is. Under VIA's now-previous booking system if you boarded at either terminus (or close enough) you were assigned to the "Ottawa-Toronto Car", typically Car 5. The other cars were typically for people either boarding or deboarding somewhere in between. So, if you ended up in Car 4 you were probably sitting amongst Queens students coming from or going to Ottawa/Toronto, depending on the trip. If you book something like Ottawa-Belleville you're put into that car, meaning that your Car is either only busy until Kingston or only busy after Kingston, etc. All of this is moot now as VIA updates their ticket reservation system so that we actually have the freedom to dictate what seat we want to sit, and I can do my best cosplay of Man in Seat 61 on every VIA train in the Corridor.😋
 
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In theory, I agree that Ottawa and VIA should have begun with a low investment demonstration project, with Ottawa-Montreal being the idea candidate.
But in reality, I suspect there were several deal breakers:
- Any project would have had to cope with entry into Montreal from the west. It's likely that CN has only limited capacity eaSt of Dorval (or even Coteau) such that any significant added frequency demands extensive construction.of new trackage. So the "cheap" project cost might be inflated by several hundred millions just for that bit. (A very wise investment, I would say....., but there may not be an actually "cheap" demo project available.
- I suspect that any demonstration project that excluded the Trois Rivieres line would have political repercussions. If that line isn't in the initial tranche of investment, the demonstration might aggravate the Quebec voters.. (That political reality annoys me, but it is what it is)
- The whole idea of a demonstration project that leans heavily on a shared solution with a freight railway on a shared line runs directly contrary to the HfR premise. If that solution were that easy, we could build along CP and CN more broadly....except....
- Even a demonstration project with only a few kms of new construction might trigger a demand for consultation and environmental study on a scale that isn't "quick and dirty"...

IIRC, the investment that VIA was proposing on the Alexandria Sub was actually pretty affordable.... not much more than the cost of the JPO. If we had just built that instead of funding bureaucrats for three years, I'm sure VIA would have a decent line of its own that would sell the concept well..

So while that podcast makes some good points, I'm not taking it too literally as the better solution. It simply rubs salt in the whole inability to get HFR going.
I was recently looking at the track configuration between Dorval and Gare Centrale and was pleasantly surprised by how little conflict there is between CN and Via.

East of Dorval station the line widens to three tracks, with the added north track only being used by CN trains heading to/from Taschereau Yard. But as CN's main yard in the area, I assume that a large proportion of their trains are in fact heading to/from that yard.

Typical Via route in yellow
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At the yard, the junction configuration also allows CN trains to access the yard from the northernmost mainline but not the southern mainline.
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East of the yard there are two tracks for CN trains heading to the yard.
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The track configuration at the east end suggests that the two northern tracks act more as sidings rather than mainlines, but maybe there is some potential to upgrade at least one of them to be available as a mainline for CN trains heading from the yard.
Capture4.JPG


The distance from the merge to the point where Via trains split off towards Gare Centrale is only 2.4 km. It seems like building a flyover to bring a pair of Via tracks over the CN tracks would pretty much solve the conflict with CN in Montréal.
That would be a project similar in scale to the Davenport Diamond grade separation.
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West of Dorval, some other strategy is needed. Operationally speaking it would be nice if we could make CN and CPKC share one of the track pairs while Exo and Via share the other (which would need some passing tracks at local stations), but we didn't have much success with that strategy when planning the Missing Link between Brampton and Milton.
 
I don't have much to say about the realignments that others have proposed or mentioned, however!; Although VIA trains are famously infrequent I don't think Ottawa-Montreal trains are really all that slow or inefficient. It's two hours from Ottawa to Montreal on VIA which is equivalent to driving in good traffic. I'll take that sort of speed in North America. It's not necessarily the same as Ottawa-Toronto which is nearly equivalent to driving but over a much longer distance and with much more annoying hurdles in between.

I anticipate the day when trains can cruise between Toronto-Ottawa without having to trundle through Smiths Falls or Gananoque.
Indeed, I don't agree with Paige's statement that the Ottawa-Toronto line is slow. A travel time under 2h10 is the same as driving with no traffic. And there will usually be a fair bit of traffic in Montreal. The main issue as far as travel time is the reliability.

The frequency between Ottawa and Montréal is quite poor though. Last time I went to Montréal I needed to come back in the evening, and I had no choice but to take Orléans Express since the last Via train leaves Montréal at 18:50. You'd think that an evening departure from Montréal to Ottawa would be very popular among all the people from Ottawa who are in Montréal for the day.
Are these prices one-way or round-trip? Most of my RTs are ~$120-130, sometimes $100 if i'm lucky. If you try to book Ottawa-Toronto today most of the trips in January are available starting from $54/59.
Prices are all one-way including tax. It doesn't really help me if there's cheap tickets in January, since I'm travelling in December. Like I said, I always choose Via if the ticket is under $80, and yet I haven't ridden Via since my trip on the 4th of March, which cost $61.02.

Here were the advertised prices for when I was booking the intervening 3 trips I took to Toronto by bus or train:
Capture.PNG
Capture1.PNG


As for the train being empty, it depends on where your boarding is and where your destination is. Under VIA's now-previous booking system if you boarded at either terminus (or close enough) you were assigned to the "Ottawa-Toronto Car", typically Car 5. The other cars were typically for people either boarding or deboarding somewhere in between. So, if you ended up in Car 4 you were probably sitting amongst Queens students coming from or going to Ottawa/Toronto, depending on the trip. If you book something like Ottawa-Belleville you're put into that car, meaning that your Car is either only busy until Kingston or only busy after Kingston, etc. All of this is moot now as VIA updates their ticket reservation system so that we actually have the freedom to dictate what seat we want to sit, and I can do my best cosplay of Man in Seat 61 on every VIA train in the Corridor.😋
This matches my experience, I think it was indeed car 5. But regardless of how they assign seats, if there are a whole bunch of empty seats from Ottawa to Toronto, it makes no sense to be price gouging on Ottawa to Toronto tickets. They would make just as much money by lowering the price and actually selling all the seats.

The practice of grouping particular city pairs into particular coaches is useful for stations which are too short for the entire train to fit, but at normal stations it contributes to their painfully long dwell times by forcing everyone to board and alight from just one or two doors of the train, leaving the remaining doors unutilized.
 
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Indeed, I don't agree with Paige's statement that the line is slow and infrequent. The average speeds on all sides of the T-O-M triangle are faster than driving. The frequency between Ottawa and Montréal is quite poor though. Last time I went to Montréal I needed to come back in the evening, and I had no choice but to take Orléans Express since the last Via train leaves Montréal at 18:50. You'd think that an evening departure from Montréal to Ottawa would be very popular among all the people from Ottawa who are in Montréal for the day.
I'm literally begging VIA to provide a Toronto-Ottawa that leaves later than 18:30 (or an Ottawa-Toronto that leaves after 17:55!) but I understand that a 4hr30 trip if on-time makes for a late arrival for anything later than these. A Montreal-Ottawa at 20:00 or 21:00 seems like a slam dunk depending on trainset availability.
Prices are all one-way including tax. It doesn't really help me if there's cheap tickets in January, since I'm travelling in December. Like I said, I always choose Via if the ticket is under $80, and yet I haven't ridden Via since my trip on the 4th of March, which cost $61.02.
I guess the only thing I can recommend is trying to book tickets more than three or four weeks out before your trip. VIA isn't going to be as accessible as its European counterparts in this regard and should be treated as something between buses and airplanes, where some planning is required further out in order to get the best prices.
The practice of grouping particular city pairs into particular coaches is useful for stations which are too short for the entire train to fit, but at normal stations it contributes to their painfully long dwell times by forcing everyone to board and alight from just one or two doors of the train, leaving the remaining doors unutilized.
Agreed. I know this is for sure the case in Trenton Junction where the platform is too short, but it makes for issues in places like Belleville and Kingston where many are getting off at the same stop, as you point out. The new ticket system resolves this regardless.
 
I'm literally begging VIA to provide a Toronto-Ottawa that leaves later than 18:30 (or an Ottawa-Toronto that leaves after 17:55!) but I understand that a 4hr30 trip if on-time makes for a late arrival for anything later than these. A Montreal-Ottawa at 20:00 or 21:00 seems like a slam dunk depending on trainset availability.
Train 29 from Québec arrives in Montréal at 21:00. If instead of going out of service it continued to Ottawa, it would depart Montréal at 21:20 and get to Ottawa around 23:20 which is indeed on the late side but not too crazy. Ideally it would be a bit earlier than that but simply extending train 29 is presumably a more economical way of adding that departure than a separate Montréal-Ottawa trip. There currently isn't any eastbound train that late, so there shouldn't be any delays once the train reaches the Via Alexandria subdivision, though it would be nice to add an evening train in the other direction as well.

I guess the only thing I can recommend is trying to book tickets more than three or four weeks out before your trip. VIA isn't going to be as accessible as its European counterparts in this regard and should be treated as something between buses and airplanes, where some planning is required further out in order to get the best prices.
I generally don't plan my trips that far in advance. Sure, if Via were the only option I might try to change my lifestyle to accommodate Via's business practices, but they're not so I can simply take my business to any of the 8 other carriers who also operate between Ottawa and Toronto.

Agreed. I know this is for sure the case in Trenton Junction where the platform is too short, but it makes for issues in places like Belleville and Kingston where many are getting off at the same stop, as you point out. The new ticket system resolves this regardless.
It looks like we'll have the opposite issue with the new booking system. If I book a trip to Trenton Junction, it lets me pick any coach in the 4-car train even though the platform is only 2 cars long. They should probably restrict you to the coaches whose doors will actually open unless that coach is fully sold out, or at least warn you that coach 3 is the only Economy coach that will open at Trenton Junction.
 
The track configuration at the east end suggests that the two northern tracks act more as sidings rather than mainlines, but maybe there is some potential to upgrade at least one of them to be available as a mainline for CN trains heading from the yard.

That area was remodelled over the past few years, and the track use is pretty intentional. It represents block swapping and car storage for the Port of Montreal. As I understand it, the whole point being to keep trains from having to enter the yard at all. The CN yard is in much the same status as CP's Agincourt yard.... very much downgraded from the past

The distance from the merge to the point where Via trains split off towards Gare Centrale is only 2.4 km. It seems like building a flyover to bring a pair of Via tracks over the CN tracks would pretty much solve the conflict with CN in Montréal.
That would be a project similar in scale to the Davenport Diamond grade separation.

And that's the very point I was trying to make....there is likely a solution, but it will be more expensive than one would undertake for a demonstration project.

The track speeds are pretty low in that area, and there is a need for yard movements to use that section to access the Port. The short distance, and the presence of level crossings in that zone, is the problem..... once a freight train is present, one has to keep it moving otherwise the blockage is unacceptable. It's more of a bottleneck than one might think at first.

To my mind, asking CN to add frequent service to Ottawa to this route on top of existing frequent service to Toronto is likely a non-starter without this investment.Things get a lot easier when the frequent service to Ottawa becomes the frequent service to Toronto as well. So the full plan may be less impactful that the first step.

- Paul
 
West of Dorval, some other strategy is needed. Operationally speaking it would be nice if we could make CN and CPKC share one of the track pairs while Exo and Via share the other (which would need some passing tracks at local stations), but we didn't have much success with that strategy when planning the Missing Link between Brampton and Milton.

If CN and CP were compelled to share one track pair all the way westwards to Toronto, about a decade's worth of debate and deliberation would have been avoided. But I agree, that just isn't in the cards.

- Paul
 
That area was remodelled over the past few years, and the track use is pretty intentional. It represents block swapping and car storage for the Port of Montreal. As I understand it, the whole point being to keep trains from having to enter the yard at all. The CN yard is in much the same status as CP's Agincourt yard.... very much downgraded from the past

- Paul
Nitpick - those two tracks are for staging of through freight trains off of the active mainlines while awaiting new crews, and without requiring the trains to enter the yard. This is the same concept as the tracks added at Belleville and Cobourg 15 years ago, and even the spare track at the south end of MacMillan Yard.

Block swapping and storage of cars for the local industries still happens in Taschereau, although sometimes some overflow of well cars does end up out on the main.

Dan
 
I'm literally begging VIA to provide a Toronto-Ottawa that leaves later than 18:30 (or an Ottawa-Toronto that leaves after 17:55!) but I understand that a 4hr30 trip if on-time makes for a late arrival for anything later than these. A Montreal-Ottawa at 20:00 or 21:00 seems like a slam dunk depending on trainset availability.
Train 29 from Québec arrives in Montréal at 21:00. If instead of going out of service it continued to Ottawa, it would depart Montréal at 21:20 and get to Ottawa around 23:20 which is indeed on the late side but not too crazy. Ideally it would be a bit earlier than that but simply extending train 29 is presumably a more economical way of adding that departure than a separate Montréal-Ottawa trip. There currently isn't any eastbound train that late, so there shouldn't be any delays once the train reaches the Via Alexandria subdivision, though it would be nice to add an evening train in the other direction as well.
This might be less an issue of fleet than slot availability. Literally my first interaction with the Network Planning department after having been hired at VIA‘s HQ was to scold them for cancelling the OTTW-MTRL portion (dep. 20:38, arr 22:27) of train 59 (today‘s train 646 - which I took frequently on Sundays to return with my wife after spending the weekend at her parents’ house in Gatineau) at the previous timetable timetable change (effective 2015-06-01). The chief timetable planner then took the time to explain to me that this cancellation was necessary to make trains #668/669 (i.e. the 6pm departure for MTRL<=>TRTO) daily again (it had been ____5_7 only for the last year, leaving trains #68/69 with its 5pm departure as the last-train-of-the-day for the other five weekdays).

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1702144016414.png
 
It looks like we'll have the opposite issue with the new booking system. If I book a trip to Trenton Junction, it lets me pick any coach in the 4-car train even though the platform is only 2 cars long. They should probably restrict you to the coaches whose doors will actually open unless that coach is fully sold out, or at least warn you that coach 3 is the only Economy coach that will open at Trenton Junction.
I've had this happen before when I previously booked for one station but had to exit at another. Generally the staff come over and confirm at the start of the journey and then before your station that you need to exit from a different car than the one you're sitting in. This was because they only opened certain doors at certain stations and not specifically because the station platform was inaccessible.
 
My hope is that enough of our MPs hear that Via should do better and invest in the crown corporation so that it can do better.

And yet like Saunders, you constantly complain about VIA Execs and employees, doing exactly what he does: undermining faith in VIA as an institution.

Politicians aren't going to find reasons to invest in VIA when the public is convinced that VIA is a "zombie" full of useless, coddled public employees.
 
I invited Paige Saunders to join the discussion here:

Doubt he shows up. Seems more interested in his narrative, than actual facts. @Reecemartin is better. But even Reece can't help himself sometimes. Guess it's a selling point for transit YouTubers to always act like public transport employees and execs are know-nothing neaderthals. Clearly, if they were running things, public transport would be perfect.
 
And that's the very point I was trying to make....there is likely a solution, but it will be more expensive than one would undertake for a demonstration project.
Building a dedicated passenger line between Ottawa and Montréal is not merely a demonstration project, it is a permanent implementation of HFR. We are talking about a multi-billion dollar infrastructure project, not tactical urbanism. In effect it's a change in HFR project phasing to get the project off the ground.
The track speeds are pretty low in that area, and there is a need for yard movements to use that section to access the Port. The short distance, and the presence of level crossings in that zone, is the problem..... once a freight train is present, one has to keep it moving otherwise the blockage is unacceptable. It's more of a bottleneck than one might think at first.
The whole point of building an elevated structure with two tracks for Via is to separate Via trains from those movements. CN would continue using the two existing tracks.
To my mind, asking CN to add frequent service to Ottawa to this route on top of existing frequent service to Toronto is likely a non-starter without this investment.
Increasing service to Ottawa evidently needs infrastructure changes to reduce conflicts with freight in Montreal. That is a part of the discussion.
Things get a lot easier when the frequent service to Ottawa becomes the frequent service to Toronto as well. So the full plan may be less impactful that the first step.
Under HFR, hourly service to Toronto via Ottawa would add up to about 16 trains per day, and there would still be need to be a few trains to Toronto via Cornwall and Kingston, presumably at least 4 traind per day. So 20 trains per day total.

There are currently at most 11 (6 Toronto, 5 Ottawa), so the Ottawa service could be tripled to 14 trains per day without having any more trains than the minimum build out of HFR
 
And yet like Saunders, you constantly complain about VIA Execs and employees, doing exactly what he does: undermining faith in VIA as an institution.

Politicians aren't going to find reasons to invest in VIA when the public is convinced that VIA is a "zombie" full of useless, coddled public employees.
When it comes to planning major infrastructure investments such as this track proposal, HSR or HFR, the power of Via Rail management is indeed quite limited.

But the needlessly labour-intensive operating practices he discusses at the end of the video seem to stem directly from Via Rail itself, not the federal government. We're talking about policies like making everyone line up before letting them on the platform, weighing people's bags (and demanding $50 from them if their suitcase is larger than the carry-on dimensions), only allowing staff to open/close train doors, requiring a staff member for every coach, etc.
 

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