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I am curious to hear others' views on the announcement yesterday - as a very left-leaning (socially and economically) person, you can probably guess that I'm pretty sickened to hear of a proposed pseudo-privatization of Corridor services. I need opposing viewpoints to keep me balanced. Help!

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13 hours ago, InfiNorth said:

I am curious to hear others' views on the announcement yesterday - as a very left-leaning (socially and economically) person, you can probably guess that I'm pretty sickened to hear of a proposed pseudo-privatization of Corridor services. I need opposing viewpoints to keep me balanced. Help!

How good or bad a course of action is, always depend on the quality and availability of alternatives:

If this were Germany, then DB Engineering & Consulting (DB E&C) would be in charge of the planning, while the Federal and State governments would provide the funding (complemented by Deutsche Bahn's own funds and often additional funding by the European Union), the Regierungspräsident or Bezirksregierung would chair the approval process, and courts would process the unavoidable legal complaints. Once the green light has been received, DB E&C would divide the project into smaller lots and then tender these out to general and specialized construction companies (who then subcontract to entire ecosystems of suppliers). Finally, DB Netze would assume ownership of the infrastructure, on which then DB Fernverkehr or any Open Access operator (like Flixtrain) would operate their trains.

The crucial point here is that all these actors and institutions have decades of experience with projects far more complex than HFR and developed a very established and throughout (though not necessarily fast or efficient) framework. Conversely, nothing of this exists in this country, which leaves only two options: either you try to somehow translate these institutions and processes into something which fits with the legal, political and cultural subtleties of this country (a incredibly lengthy and painful path full of regrettable errors!) - or you turn to the experts of other countries and ask them to lend you their expertise, ideas and processes.

If I understand you correctly, you seem to be most concerned about the prospect of VIA's Corridor operations being privatized. Having worked 7 years at VIA, I'm inclined to say that the biggest barrier against faster and more frequent trains is neither CN nor the federal government, but the bureaucrats at Transport Canada who will go at extreme lengths to avoid making any decision or assuming any risks. You are welcome to disagree with me, but I can't imagine how intercity passenger rail could ever thrive again in this country for as long as VIA's dependency for operating subsidies puts them at the mercy of Transport Canada. For all the issues I have with the scope creep, overly aggressive requirements and counterproductive incentives present in the HFR RFEOI document, the fact that it is the only realistic chance to free intercity passenger rail travel from the shackles of TC still remains for me as HFR's strongest selling point...

Edited by Urban Sky
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On 3/6/2022 at 6:36 PM, Urban Sky said:

I don't think that CN is resisting a full restoration of the third frequency, but you would need to completely change the schedule (i.e. departure times and days of operation) and if you can't provide the tour operators with something like 18 months notice, you risk that they just cancel the spaces they already committed to (because they are not going to be enthusiastic to reorganize their itineraries around your change of mind) and losing further goodwill. Therefore, I don't see a chance for the third round-trip to be fully restored before April/May 2024 (given that it hasn't been operating during the winter since 2012).

Furthermore and as unpopular as the April 2019 schedule change was, it almost entirely solved the OTP issue (at least from a tourist's and tour operator's perspective) and I simply don't see how you could maintain an OTP which is remotely acceptable to tour operators while running three round-trips per week with only four consists. Unfortunately, the levers which are necessary to make thrice-weekly viable again (difficult to believe that this didn't even require a fourth trainset prior to 2008!) are held by the federal government, not VIA.

In any case, let's watch if the tourism-driven business model of the Canadian stabilizes as international tourism hopefully normalizes next year and then see whether it is still the best which can be done with the little resources (and hostile operating environment) which are available...

I thought I read somewhere that the third Canadian service wasn't going to be returning due to rolling stock shortage once the Renaissance cars are pulled from The Ocean ... not enough Budd sleepers to go around ... 

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29 minutes ago, cprted said:

I thought I read somewhere that the third Canadian service wasn't going to be returning due to rolling stock shortage once the Renaissance cars are pulled from The Ocean ... not enough Budd sleepers to go around ... 

That is quite plausible, but the only thing I‘ve seen written by VIA was that the third frequency is not going to be restored all the way to Toronto, as that would require a fifth trainset under the current schedule:

4E0A352A-8A17-4EBD-A9BF-447F54E9D3E5.jpeg

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18 hours ago, Urban Sky said:

That is quite plausible, but the only thing I‘ve seen written by VIA was that the third frequency is not going to be restored all the way to Toronto, as that would require a fifth trainset under the current schedule:

4E0A352A-8A17-4EBD-A9BF-447F54E9D3E5.jpeg

I don't know if that means they don't have enough sleepers but when the new fleet arrives HEP fleet can be used on the Candian/ocean. Shouldn't be hard to convert one to a dining car. The only issue would be skylines and sleepers. 

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22 hours ago, Urban Sky said:

How good or bad a course of action is, always depend on the quality and availability of alternatives:

If this were Germany, then DB Engineering & Consulting (DB E&C) would be in charge of the planning, while the Federal and State governments would provide the funding (complemented by Deutsche Bahn's own funds and often additional funding by the European Union), the Regierungspräsident or Bezirksregierung would chair the approval process, and courts would process the unavoidable legal complaints. Once the green light has been received, DB E&C would divide the project into smaller lots and then tender these out to general and specialized construction companies (who then subcontract to entire ecosystems of suppliers). Finally, DB Netze would assume ownership of the infrastructure, on which then DB Fernverkehr or any Open Access operator (like Flixtrain) would operate their trains.

The crucial point here is that all these actors and institutions have decades of experience with projects far more complex than HFR and developed a very established and throughout (though not necessarily fast or efficient) framework. Conversely, nothing of this exists in this country, which leaves only two options: either you try to somehow translate these institutions and processes into something which fits with the legal, political and cultural subtleties of this country (a incredibly lengthy and painful path full of regrettable errors!) - or you turn to the experts of other countries and ask them to lend you their expertise, ideas and processes.

If I understand you correctly, you seem to be most concerned about the prospect of VIA's Corridor operations being privatized. Having worked 7 years at VIA, I'm inclined to say that the biggest barrier against faster and more frequent trains is neither CN nor the federal government, but the bureaucrats at Transport Canada who will go at extreme lengths to avoid making any decision or assuming any risks. You are welcome to disagree with me, but I can't imagine how intercity passenger rail could ever thrive again in this country for as long as VIA's dependency for operating subsidies puts them at the mercy of Transport Canada. For all the issues I have with the scope creep, overly aggressive requirements and counterproductive incentives present in the HFR RFEOI document, the fact that it is the only realistic chance to free intercity passenger rail travel from the shackles of TC still remains for me as HFR's strongest selling point...

Appreciate the take on it - I would hope that part of the process for seeking input on this project would include international cooperation and guidance from countries with successful medium-to-long-distance, non-high speed networks. Do you know if international consultation is on the table at this point?

Also, as I'm not familiar with which shackles from TC you're referring to, I'd love for some expansion on that (safety? scheduling? priority?) since I know nothing on that front (and most fronts).

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Would it be really bad if Brightline Ran and operated the HFR line? 

VIA owns all of the property around their stations but wont convert them to hubs to make it easier for buses and other modes of transportation to connect with them.  They only did this for Kingston and Ottawa (London is in progress). 

What about all of the other stations in the corridor? Why not do the same?

 

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27 minutes ago, Shaun said:

Would it be really bad if Brightline Ran and operated the HFR line? 

VIA owns all of the property around their stations but wont convert them to hubs to make it easier for buses and other modes of transportation to connect with them.  They only did this for Kingston and Ottawa (London is in progress). 

What about all of the other stations in the corridor? Why not do the same?

 

VIA does not own its two busiest stations (TRTO and MTRL) and (to the best of my knowledge), it doesn't own much of the land around most of the other busy stations (incl. OTTW as its third-busiest station). Therefore, Brightline's real-estate-centric business model would not work...

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31 minutes ago, Urban Sky said:

VIA does not own its two busiest stations (TRTO and MTRL) and (to the best of my knowledge), it doesn't own much of the land around most of the other busy stations (incl. OTTW as its third-busiest station). Therefore, Brightline's real-estate-centric business model would not work...

But they own the station building, and could co-ordinate better transit to their stations.  It's just a matter of wanting to do it or not. 

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On 3/5/2022 at 3:03 PM, Urban Sky said:

I would expect it to return in 2023, but only West of Edmonton, as had been the case in the 2019 Summer season...

It seems to have worked out ok with the 3rd train operating only Edmonton-Vancouver and is that not the most ridership on that corridor?

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6 hours ago, Shaun said:

But they own the station building, and could co-ordinate better transit to their stations.  It's just a matter of wanting to do it or not. 

VIA does not exercise any control over transit operators. Rail stations with infrequent and often-delayed service are notoriously difficult to connect with any bus service which isn’t entirely dedicated to connect with rail services (like Amtrak‘s Thruway service)…

 

4 hours ago, roeco said:

It seems to have worked out ok with the 3rd train operating only Edmonton-Vancouver and is that not the most ridership on that corridor?

Yes, it worked fine in 2019. However, back then the Ocean was still mostly REN and thus more HEP1 cars available for the Canadian, so not sure there are still enough cars available…

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22 hours ago, Urban Sky said:

VIA does not exercise any control over transit operators. Rail stations with infrequent and often-delayed service are notoriously difficult to connect with any bus service which isn’t entirely dedicated to connect with rail services (like Amtrak‘s Thruway service)…

Looking at you, Kingston (unless something big has changed since I was there in 2019).

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On 3/9/2022 at 7:02 PM, InfiNorth said:

A bit too zany-tik-tokky for my liking (I'm more on Geoff Marshall's frequency) but super glad that someone has finally filled the niche of making VIA Rail cool on social media. Has he done the Labrador train?

No, he didn't. Then again I never knew there were any passenger trains in Labrador, certainly none that VIA ever operated.

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5 hours ago, Mark Walton said:

No, he didn.t. Then again I never knew there were any passenger trains in Labrador, certainly none that VIA ever operated.

Nope not VIA - but scheduled long-distance passenger service nonetheless.

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On 3/9/2022 at 2:57 PM, Mark Walton said:

Is anyone following DownieLive Travels By Train? Mike Downie of Vancouver is a very passionate young vlogger who recently did a 10-week trip across Canada by VIA Rail through each province, except Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island where no train operate. He's done other VIA-related videos as well, and a lot of transit-related videos about Vancouver. I don't know where he's going next, but I know I'll be there with him.

If you download the CHEK+ app you can watch the whole series now :) It was posted to CHEK, who paid for the production, roughly two months ahead of the Downie Live channel.

I actually didn't love the cross Canada series, felt too forced and insufficiency train centric, at least until the last episode. But still did enjoy watching it!

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On 3/18/2022 at 1:20 AM, Dane said:

If you download the CHEK+ app you can watch the whole series now :) It was posted to CHEK, who paid for the production, roughly two months ahead of the Downie Live channel.

I actually didn't love the cross Canada series, felt too forced and insufficiency train centric, at least until the last episode. But still did enjoy watching it!

TruEarth sponsored the series. They make a series of eco-friendly products that Mike plugs and uses regularly; the promo code DownieLive is good for a 10% discount.

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5 hours ago, Shaun said:

Better than not spending the money, however is this a sign that they may not build HFR? And why have they not Brough back more trains? Are they expecting another wave and closures?

Also gotta love that they're dumping all this money in ahead of pawning off VIA Rail to the lowest bidder.

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On 4/8/2022 at 3:21 PM, Shaun said:

Better than not spending the money, however is this a sign that they may not build HFR? And why have they not Brough back more trains? Are they expecting another wave and closures?

By my own count, VIA currently operates just under two-thirds of its regular Corridor schedule, which (despite some glaring omissions like the morning KGON=>TRTO train) should be pretty similar to what GO currently operates:

1882896524_16488367682572.thumb.png.7e4eb790b91caa53ea98bda1664f8ca5.png
Source: Cross-post from Urban Toronto

 

19 hours ago, InfiNorth said:

Also gotta love that they're dumping all this money in ahead of pawning off VIA Rail to the lowest bidder.

I really don’t understand the resistance against private-sector involvement: if the last decades of under-investment and periodical cuts have shown one thing in the intercity passenger rail networks in this country, then it’s that governments of all stripes (and of all levels of government) lack the will and attention span to envision and invest into a more rail-reliant future, as these investment don’t fit into an election cycle of 4 years. Sure, we could ask the governments of Germany, Italy, France or the UK to design and build a 21st-century rail network, but it’s much better to ask private sector companies with decades of experience with such projects and an investment horizon of 40+ years…

If I had to summarize the rationale for a private-public partnership for such a (for the modest standards of this country) complex, ambitious and pioneering project, I would probably come up with something like this post:

https://urbantoronto.ca/forum/threads/via-rail.21060/page-812#post-1800819

Edited by Urban Sky
Added minor nuances
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On 4/9/2022 at 6:58 AM, Urban Sky said:

I really don’t understand the resistance against private-sector involvement: if the last decades of under-investment and periodical cuts have shown one thing in the intercity passenger rail networks in this country, then it’s that governments of all stripes (and of all levels of government) lack the will and attention span to envision and invest into a more rail-reliant future, as these investment don’t fit into an election cycle of 4 years. Sure, we could ask the governments of Germany, Italy, France or the UK to design and build a 21st-century rail network, but it’s much better to ask private sector companies with decades of experience with such projects and an investment horizon of 40+ years…

If I had to summarize the rationale for a private-public partnership for such a (for the modest standards of this country) complex, ambitious and pioneering project, I would probably come up with something like this post:

https://urbantoronto.ca/forum/threads/via-rail.21060/page-812#post-1800819

Mainly that private sector cuts corners to maximize profits to shareholders/bonuses for CEOs, underpays employees, and won't serve the communities where it isn't immediately financially profitable (even if the social and environmental benefits are massive). Look at what has happened to BC Ferries over two decades of privatization. Or what happens when the private sector gets to decide to just cut every intercity bus overnight. Or when the private sector can't run a ferry that connects communities any more despite the alternative privately-maintained road is deadly. Or what happened to CN post-privatization. The list goes on. Privatization serves only one purpose: putting profits in the pockets of those who are already wealthy for a quick buck as a short-term win for the government pawning off the assets. BC Rail, CN, BC Ferries, Pacific Stage Lines, the list goes on of examples of why not to privatize. No way on earth you can convince me otherwise, unfortunately. 

The only example of privatization working that I've witnessed first-hand is BC Parks, and even in that case, only some of the contractors do a good job, the vast majority are typical lowest-bidder leeches. Other than that, Rocky Mountaineer is an exceptional example of how the government likes to just hand off great stuff that proves horribly profitable instead of holding onto something that works and making it work for the benefit of the people instead of for the benefit of some rich idiot's pocket book. Imagine if those profits instead went into public coffers and, say, helped subsidize regular rail services.

We need a VIA Rail Canada Act that gives VIA actual power, instead of just giving up and handing VIA Rail to some company whose only motivation to do well is written in dollar figures, not societal wellbeing.

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20 minutes ago, John Oke said:

Does anyone  know when Renaissance service west of Ottawa was cut? I swear I remember seeing them in Oshawa in like 2009/2010

And also, since I'm a youngster, why this was? Was it to keep the entire (small) REN fleet based out of MTL? 

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5 hours ago, InfiNorth said:

And also, since I'm a youngster, why this was? Was it to keep the entire (small) REN fleet based out of MTL? 

The Renaissance fleet is extremely unreliable and requires special (metric) tools which are only available at MMC. Therefore, it’s best to have them pass through Montreal as often as possible, which makes QBEC-MTRL-OTTW services the ideal deployment area…

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56 minutes ago, Urban Sky said:

The Renaissance fleet is extremely unreliable and requires special (metric) tools which are only available at MMC. Therefore, it’s best to have them pass through Montreal as often as possible, which makes QBEC-MTRL-OTTW services the ideal deployment area…

See this makes total sense. I still remember the last and only time I rode them…May 2010 lol 😕

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