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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / VIA Rail Canada pushes back resumption of full ‘Ocean’ service

VIA Rail Canada pushes back resumption of full ‘Ocean’ service

By | September 13, 2021

Return of triweekly operation delayed until at least Nov. 15

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Stainless steel dome-observation on passenger train
Stainless steel dome-observation on passenger train
VIA’s eastbound Ocean heads towards Halifax, near Rogersville, New Brunswick, in February 2014. (Bob Johnston)

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — VIA Rail Canada has delayed plans to increase frequencies of its Montreal-Halifax train, the Ocean, until at least Nov. 15, Halifax Today reports.

A weekly roundtrip was restored on the route, suspended since March 2020, resumed Aug. 11 [see “VIA’s Ocean to resume once-weekly round trips …,” Trains News Wire, July 12, 2021. At the time, Oct. 1 was the target date for returning the train to its pre-pandemic level of three weekly round trips, but at the time, VIA’s reservation system offered a caveat: “While full inventory remains available on these trains after Oct. 1, as we approach the date, we will update customers as it becomes clear what service will actually be possible based on the evolution of the pandemic.” That same statement has now been updated with Nov. 15 in place of the October date.

The president of public transportation advocacy group Transport Action Atlantic, Ted Bartlett, expressed dismay that the Ocean was remaining on a limited schedule while VIA’s corridor service is approaching pre-pandemic levels.

“They’re expecting us to believe that COVID is a bigger risk in the Maritimes than it is in Ontario and Quebec, which is certainly poppycock,” he said on radio station News 95.7. “VIA has done this without any respect for the travel needs of Atlantic Canadians.”

 

 

 

11 thoughts on “VIA Rail Canada pushes back resumption of full ‘Ocean’ service

  1. Triweekly would be “full service” by VIA reckoning. Pathetic. Like something out of the fourth world.

    VIA is Canada’s silver-plated gift to Air Canada and WestJet.

  2. The same observations (pathetic, poppycock, insulting) apply to the once weekly operation of the CANADIAN, SKEENA and the northern Ontario/Quebec “Remote” services. If VIA can operate a frequent service in the Ontario/Quebec City corridor it should easily be able to fulfill its mandate to serve the entire country in ways that might be remotely useful. VIA is “proving” the lack of need for the long hauls and remote services by rendering them essentially useless. For years the CANADIAN and the SKEENA (for example) failed to make same-day connections at Jasper–just to site one example. Note the CANADIAN now runs only on Wednesday Edmonton to Jasper. The SKEENA continues only on Sundays Jasper–Prince George-Prince Rupert.

    1. Compare the original VIA timetables to the pared-back service immediately pre-COVID. I’ve ridden The Canadian a couple of times way back when, as well as some of the remote services. I don’t recall ever having to time my trip by days of operation. This reduction to less than daily doesn’t even include the many routes entirely discontinued, such as Edmonton to Calgary.

      Around October of 1974, which was pre-VIA, Passenger Train Journal ran a feature on what was left of Canadian passenger rail. It seemed like they had about as many intercity trains as USA’s young Amtrak with ten times the population. Too, these were mostly decent trains, not necessarily luxurious but not the garbage running on some American railroads pre-Amtrak.

      As I posted in the years pre-COVID, WestJet, Canada’s second airline, had more flights to some mid-sized American airports than VIA had trains to most of Canada’s major cities.

      Canada has got to get over its superiority complex that they do everything so much better than that big dirty barbaric nation to its south. No, they don’t.

  3. They might as well give it up entirely. Most of the former VIA customers have found other means to get where they are going so save the Canadian taxpayers some money and fold up the VIA long distance tent. As Mr. Fowler says above, “VIA is ‘proving’ the lack of need for the long hauls and remote services by rendering them essentially useless.”

    1. Amtrak under Anderson was going in the same direction, but somehow the US Congress listened to some of its constituents and had the will to both give Amtrak additional funding and direction, and tell it to get its long-distance act together. If the infrastructure bill passes, it will be a good starting kick in the ass. I don’t know whether the Canadian system is as attuned to the will of the populace, or maybe just the opposite. Charles, I, too, remember those pre-Via 1970’s CN trains, and they were well patronized,

        1. The year was 1986, the joint VIA/ Amtrak train from Toronto to Chicago. We got on at London (Ontario) after transferring from Kitchener, bound for Lapeer (Michigan). The train was long and it was jammed. We walked the length of the train to find two seats together. Now, VIA and Amtrak (and US D.H.S.) have decided we can live without that train. To use George Pins’ term, the Americans need a kick in the ass and the Canucks need a kick in the bum.

          PS Is anyone reading these pages surprised that VIA’s “Renaissance” toy trainsets have melted down?

  4. VIA seems to be suffering from the “Anderson Syndrome” that Amtrak was infected with earlier. But also the lack of opposition from the Provinces & local towns on the route if there is no push back to this meager service VIA will not feel pressured into restoring service. VIA seems to feel the LD routes are only for tourism & not a service to its citizens.

    1. At one day a week these VIA trains certainly are not a service to Canadian citizens. And you are correct about pushback. Where is it? If the Canadian citizenry really wanted these trains they would be demanding them from their government. But they’re not. The percent of the travelling public who uses VIA LD trains (other than foreign tourists) is smaller than the measly 1/2 of 1% that Amtrak can claim (pre-pandemic, probably less now).

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