News   GLOBAL  |  Apr 02, 2020
 8.5K     0 
News   GLOBAL  |  Apr 01, 2020
 39K     0 
News   GLOBAL  |  Apr 01, 2020
 4.7K     0 

Agreed, but how much flexibility and capacity does a once-daily 2-car RDC train provide, which departs Victoria in the morning and returns from Courtenay in the afternoon? As for the cost of restoring only Victoria to Duncan, you just have to add the two first numbers in the respective column of the table I posted above, so $62, $109 or $150 million, depending on quality of tracks and service you desire.

In any case, it seems to me that fixing whatever is wrong with the Highway can be done quicker, at less cost and achieve much higher benefits...

I should've checked the numbers, thanks for that.

Good point re. the low cost option. Ideally we'd spend that bit extra. I did some quick Googling and found that the Malahat has been seeing upgrades recently - $34 million committed in 2016 and most of the work is complete or nearing completion. The problem is that the two main causes of accidents are only partially being addressed. Issue 1 is the winding nature of the road - the Malahat is a fairly old pass of the mountains north of the city and bends and curves significantly. The province is expanding the number of lanes and adding medians but not on every part of the highway. Between people not putting on winter tires (as they aren't need on the island outside of the pass and much further north), speeding and various other forms of distracted and dangerous driving, head-on collisions are bound to happen.

The second issue is that it's not a formal grade-separated highway. The Malahat has a number of homes and businesses scattered along it, with a concentration at one of the highest and more winding points. Quite a few accidents occur regularly when people try to enter the highway or turn around near the village of Malahat. The upgrades offer turn around points but people will continue making u-turns on the portions where median barriers haven't been erected.

To adequately address all these issues, BC would likely have to close or expropriate and demolish most of the homes and businesses along the highway - there's effectively no room to expand the ROW for the highway through the pass. Even where there is room, they need to dynamite and clear cut some pristine forest. Thus far the political will is there for small upgrades like this but I question if there's enough to properly upgrade the highway. Same with the megaproject alternative - building a bridge to bypass the Malahat completely and cross Saanich Inlet.

Also, doesn't the report suggest the initial phase could allow for 2-4 passenger trains a day? That would allow for a pair of daily trains, no? Like I definitely see your point that it wouldn't add a ton of flexibility but we're still talking $500-730m max (assuming they restore service on the Port Alberni corridor) and still significant increase in capacity to move people and, importantly, freight, should the Malahat be closed for a significant period of time.
 
Also, doesn't the report suggest the initial phase could allow for 2-4 passenger trains a day? That would allow for a pair of daily trains, no? Like I definitely see your point that it wouldn't add a ton of flexibility but we're still talking $500-730m max (assuming they restore service on the Port Alberni corridor) and still significant increase in capacity to move people and, importantly, freight, should the Malahat be closed for a significant period of time.
With a one-way travel time of 5 hours, you will always need as many trains as you operate round-trips. Have a look at the kind of passenger volume (expressed in passenger-km) $500-730m of capital expenditure generate in any metropolitan transportation infrastructure setting. Also, it is much easier to bridge disruptions on rail infrastructure through replacement vehicles on the road (e.g. buses) than vice-versa. The anticipated passenger volumes don't justify anything beyond 2 round-trips per day and buying additional trainsets just for the one disruption per year is hardly justifiable.

That said, the kind of stimulus package I would pack for Western Canada would include short-term and long-term funding to construct facilities and to allow bus companies to expand their fleets (where needed) to build an inter-provincial intercity bus network, serving every larger community at least daily (where practical) and tender out the bus services through PSO (public service obligation) contracts (just like the UK tenders out its rail services). This is what the federal government should have done when Greyhound abandoned Western Canada (maybe giving them a PSO contract for a transition period of 1-3 years, while the new network is set up), but they unfortunately chose to just watch them go out of business...

Speaking of train colours I'm really curious why VIA went to black and yellow for the future.
Just out of curiosity: what other obvious color-choices jump into your eye when you visit VIA's website and Social Media presences...?
 
BC's Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has published a report which finally puts a realistic price tag at restoring the Victoria-Courtenay service:

View attachment 243424
Source: WSP (2020, p.5)

Unfortunately, the cost of just restoring the service which operated until unsafe track conditions forced its suspension is estimated at $227.3 million, which translates with a ridership figure of 45,706 in 1988 (sorry, couldn't find any more recent ridership figure, but would be surprised if it had increased since then) to a capital cost of $5,000 per rider. To compare, this is equivalent to spending $29.9 billion to get VIA's Corridor ridership from 4.1 to 9.9 million, whereas the sales pitch for HFR promises to achieve the same with only $4 billion...

Just to provide an illustrative example for why the costs of restoring the ROW have escalated so much:
View attachment 243425
Source: WSP (2020, p.21)

Part of the challenge you face with restoring the line is the same issues with the one to Churchill. It has been left to deteriorate, and will continue to do so till it no longer exists. When it comes to stimulus money, this line is a great opportunity. If done right, the commuter service could be set up to meet the demand that exists on the Malahat. I think that even with the slower speed, with it being safe and relatively free from interruption, it would be well used for commuter rail. If cruise ships come back in style, having this as an excursion would also make it viable.
 
Part of the challenge you face with restoring the line is the same issues with the one to Churchill. It has been left to deteriorate, and will continue to do so till it no longer exists. When it comes to stimulus money, this line is a great opportunity. If done right, the commuter service could be set up to meet the demand that exists on the Malahat. I think that even with the slower speed, with it being safe and relatively free from interruption, it would be well used for commuter rail. If cruise ships come back in style, having this as an excursion would also make it viable.
Would you be able to back your speculation with any sort of back-of-the-envelope calculations or is this just your notoriously unreliable gut-feeling speaking here?

Also, did you have enough time to read (and understand) my explanations why air passengers are more forgiving about a two-hour delay than rail passengers or do you want me to explain it to you in simpler terms?
 
Last edited:
Posted this elsewhere. Will post here.


These are some of the conditions being imposed on airline bailouts elsewhere. Rail integration. Reduction of domestic/regional flights. I hope we have similar foresight in our government. HFR should enable integration of Ottawa and Montreal and Peterborough into Toronto.
 
Just out of curiosity: what other obvious color-choices jump into your eye when you visit VIA's website and Social Media presences...?

I thought the blue-green motif was representative of the environmental virtue of rail travel and would be continued. I get the need for universal branding and can appreciate the branding book and the uniformity it brought about. Not sure, how I feel about yellow and black as the thematic colours though. Guess I'll have to wait to see what it looks like on the tracks!
 
The best way to look at the E&N is similar to the White Pass and Yukon Railway. When you compare the 2, except for the fact that one is not standard gauge, they both have had similar challenges when it comes to rebuilding them. They both are not connected to the rest of the NA railway network. They both primarily would be passenger service.

So, a real world thing that exists and is a private run, profitable thing that we could compare it to is a good start.
 
The best way to look at the E&N is similar to the White Pass and Yukon Railway. When you compare the 2, except for the fact that one is not standard gauge, they both have had similar challenges when it comes to rebuilding them. They both are not connected to the rest of the NA railway network. They both primarily would be passenger service.

So, a real world thing that exists and is a private run, profitable thing that we could compare it to is a good start.
You really have a talent for presenting the coincidence that you can identify two characteristics which two railroads have in common as a proof that one should be the role model for the other - and that makes it unfortunately very frustrating to respond to you. Because I hate to have to repeatedly break down for you why there is barely anything the two lines have in common, especially when it comes to restoring rail service on Vancouver Island:

As you could have easily researched on Wikipedia, the WP&YR was closed down in 1982 when the global market prices of metals eroded and forced most of its freight customers out of business, but reopened only 6 years later owing to an emerging boom of cruise tourism into Alaska. Even though the population served by the still operational parts of this railroad is negligible (Skegway and Carcoss share less than 2,000 inhabitants between themselves), the views over the White Pass this line offers seem to be simply breath-taking:
White-Pass-and-Yukon-Route-Skagway-Train-18.jpg


How exactly does any of that make the WP&YR a role model for Vancouver Island to follow? I have not the slightest idea, so please enlighten us!
 
Last edited:
Someone passed me this internal communication to VIA employees -

Message to all VIA Rail employees


Dear colleagues,

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to disrupt our passenger services from coasts to coast, there is a great level of uncertainty as to when both domestic and international travel will resume. Nonetheless, despite this crisis, most of our transformation projects are still moving forward, carried out by dedicated teams who are working diligently to achieve the objectives we have set. The Heritage Program launched in 2018, which aims to renovate our HEP fleet that operates mostly on our long-distance routes, is one of those important projects.

Regrettably, in recent weeks, rigorous inspections have revealed new structural issues in some of these cars, which have travelled many kilometres since they were built. These unfortunate setbacks mean that we need to scale up the inspection program and quickly carry out structural repairs on a greater number of cars than originally planned. This decision is driven by our firm commitment and dedication to the safety of our employees and passengers.

The abnormal context we are currently facing with COVID-19 and the measures required by our governments to limit the spread of the pandemic have created an opportunity we will seize, since a reduced number of HEP cars are currently in service. This will allow our maintenance centre teams in Montréal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver to focus and complete the required inspection and repair work, without further impact on our operations and service offering, so that the upgraded cars can be reintegrated into the network as soon as possible and so that we can be ready in time for the 2021 peak season.


Suspension of the Canadian and the Ocean until November 2020

For all these reasons, we are extending the suspension of the Canadian and Ocean operations at least until next November. Until then, and depending on the results of our inspections, we will evaluate our options to offer a reduced service starting in November 2020 and will keep you informed on the progress of this project. Our goal remains to ensure that we are fully prepared for the post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

We understand that the consequences could be difficult for many of us and we will do our best to minimize the impact. As announced yesterday, the compensation program and remuneration measures that were put in place in the wake of COVID-19 will be maintained until further notice. Over the next few weeks, we will assess the impact of today's decision and, once we have a clearer picture of the situation, we will inform you of the necessary changes.

I am confident that, together, we will be able to face this situation and bounce back even stronger, and I am proud to witness the commitment and collaborative spirit shown in tackling this new challenge. I would like to acknowledge the outstanding contribution of all those who, through their expertise, agility and resourcefulness, have turned around quickly enough and came up with the constructive solutions needed to successfully deliver the Heritage Program and provide our passengers with more reliable cars that will enhance their customer experience across Canada.

Rest assured that we will keep you informed as developments unfold.

In the meantime, should you need support, don't hesitate to take advantage of the Employee Assistance Program services (Morneau Shepell) at 1-800-387-4765

Cynthia

- Paul
 
Internal communications are for internal stakeholders only and don’t belong into public forums, that’s what press releases are for:
VIA Rail extends the suspension of the Canadian and the Ocean

MONTRÉAL, May 6, 2020 /CNW Telbec/ - As the COVID-19 crisis continues to disrupt its passenger services from coast to coast, VIA Rail Canada (VIA Rail) announces the extension of the suspension of the Canadian and the Ocean services, its long-distance routes, and the suspension of the Sleeper class on the Winnipeg-Churchill route until November 1, 2020. While there is still a great deal of uncertainty as to when both domestic and international travel will resume, VIA Rail will continue to assess how it can support the recommendations of the public health authorities in their response to the pandemic and in preparation for the progressive service recovery.

VIA Rail is also accelerating a previously established comprehensive program for the inspection and repair work regarding its Heritage Modernization Program that started in 2018. At that time, the Corporation undertook initiatives to renovate VIA Rail's HEP equipment which have logged millions of kilometres since being put into service. In the course of recent weeks, some new structural issues have been discovered which will need to be addressed. "As a result, we will be in a position to progressively bring back our renowned long-distance services to full capacity for the upcoming 2021 peak season," said Cynthia Garneau, President and CEO.

"This was not an easy decision to make but, given the current circumstances, the health and safety of our passengers, crew members and local communities must come first. As the travel industry grapples with the effects of COVID-19, we will use this extended pause to assess and identify which measures to implement in order to get back on track as soon and as safely as possible," concluded Cynthia Garneau.


CALL CENTRES

All passengers with reservations affected by this suspension of services will be contacted and reimbursed automatically. To facilitate cancellations and refunds, we've extended our cancellation policy to include all travel through November 1, 2020, to allow passengers to cancel their upcoming reservations autonomously online at any time prior to departure and receive a full refund in addition to not incurring any service charges, regardless of when the ticket was purchased.

Alternatively, customers may contact the VIA Customer Centre by email at service@viarail.ca or by phone at 1-888-VIA-RAIL (1-888-842-7245), TTY 1-800-268-9503 (hearing impaired). Due to the current situation related to COVID-19, the VIA Customer Centre is open 9:00 to 17:00, Monday through Friday and it may take some time to speak with an agent due to a reduction in staff.

[...]
 
Internal communications are for internal stakeholders only and don’t belong into public forums, that’s what press releases are for:


Oh the irony.

I was looking at taking the Ocean to Halifax this summer when visiting my uncle in PEI.
 
they should really take this as an opportunity to give all their long haul railcars a full refurb. Hopefully this will also
allow them to realize that they need to get rid of these dinosaurs and replace them with new cars. Keep 1 set as a historic set but new trains are
really needed.

What about the communities that require these trains? They will be shafted come the summer/fall when things start to get better and travel is ok again.
 
Internal communications are for internal stakeholders only and don’t belong into public forums, that’s what press releases are for:


With great respect; this forum is predicated on sharing information; and the use of pseudonyms is so that people can feel free, should they wish, to share information that would otherwise be confidential or simply not public.

No one here wants to see anyone's personnel file; but information such as this, by a Crown Corporation for which we all pay; which compromises no one at all is entirely fair game.

I understand this is your employer, and on their behalf you may feel aggrieved that one of your own chose to share this information with an outsider.

But if we stopped publishing on this site, anything that wasn't expressly intended for public consumption, most of us would leave.

The views of insiders are of interest and the perspective offered by an internal communication is insightful.

I'm personally thankful to @crs1026 as I am @smallspy and many others, yourself included, who share insights and information that would not otherwise, normally be public.

There was no harm in publishing this.
 

Back
Top