Senior VIA News Editor (East) Tim Hayman
VIA News Co-Editor (West) Terry Muirhead
The VIA Rail F40PH-2’s at CAD Railway Services for rebuild and listed in their expected order of release:
VIA 6420, 6424, 6414 (Loto Quebec), 6445 (Coors Lite), 6408 (Coors Lite), 6415, 6435 and 6451.
Rebuilt VIA F40PH-3 6421 was released in April.
Currently, there are only two (that’s right, two!) VIA Rail F40PH-2’s still “in service” wearing the old paint scheme. The numbers are 6440, and 6453. F40PH-2 6427 had been in service until mid April, when it stopped moving about and appears to be headed to CAD. Don’t delay … get out an grab your photos while you still can! These last two units won’t likely be on the road for more than a couple of months.
Ron Visockis clicked one of the last three last yellow VIA locos in service, VIA 6427 at Belleville, ON April 7th. It would be only a short time after this photo before only two remained.
VIA Rail Privatization Concerns
There are once again rumours that the federal government may be considering the privatization of parts of the VIA Rail network. A recent article in the Globe and Mail addressed some current issues being discussed (available here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/tories-mull-privatizing-via-rail-routes/article2410637/). This discussion is not entirely new. A report earlier this year had revealed that privatization of parts or the whole of VIA’s network was presented as an option in a briefing note for the Transport Minister. However, the absence of any such plans in the recent 2012 Federal Budget, along with statements that the government does not intend to pursue privatization at this time, suggest that the government has decided against these measures for the time being. Despite this, the issue remains one of contention.
The most recent debate has been triggered by Rocky Mountaineer Rail Tours (RMR), along with some opponents of the Crown corporation, who have expressed concern with VIA Rail’s plans to enter the “high-end luxury” market with the addition of their new deluxe service on the Canadian. The service, which will use the upgraded sleepers and Park cars currently being rebuilt, is being seen by RMR as a source of direct, federally-funded competition. The president of RMR has apparently met with the federal Transport Minister, to discuss RMR’s concerns about VIA’s competition and what, if any, sections of VIA’s network they may see as desirable to obtain. Although both sides have been clear that RMR has not expressed any clear intent to take over VIA services, and that privatization plans have not been developed, it has still given many a cause to be concerned about the future of VIA’s transcontinental services.
Proponents of VIA’s expansion into the higher-end tourist market have pointed to it as a realistic way for VIA to make profits that will help subsidize less profitable routes. By charging a premium to tourists willing to pay for a higher class of service, revenues can be generated that may help offset the costs of running non-profitable route, as well as helping to make the Canadian an overall-profitable service. Many fear that privatizing the profitable parts of VIA’s services, the only sections a private company would likely be interested in, would leave what remains of the network in an even less profitable state, requiring more substantial government subsidies to maintain subsistence services in the absence of any meaningful profits elsewhere in the system.
The only thing that is really clear at the moment is that while VIA’s current network is safe for the time being, there are still some discussions of privatization in the works. Additionally, pressure to make the railway less dependent on subsidies may lead to further reductions in service on some routes. Recent comments from VIA’s president suggested that VIA is considering altering or reducing service on areas served by alternatives such as GO Transit. So nothing is set in stone and the future of VIA Rail, whether positive or negative, remains uncertain. Given that the history of VIA Rail is wrought with examples of services being cut that were once thought essential or “safe”, it’s worth getting out and riding any of the trains you may ever have wanted to as soon as you have the chance. The best way to show VIA that a service is worth continuing is to support it by riding it if you can, and you never know when it might be “too late” to make that trip you’ve been thinking about for some time.
IRSI Contracts Terminated
Following a period of uncertainty at Moncton-based Industrial Rail Services Inc (IRSI), word has leaked that VIA Rail cancelled two of its major contracts with the company. On March 16th, VIA Rail cancelled the remainder of the contract with IRSI to do work on the Renaissance fleet. This contract had included accessibility improvements and other upgrades, and although some work had been done, it had fallen behind schedule.
In more dramatic news, VIA also cancelled the remainder of the LRC rebuild program on April 11th. The contract to rebuild the 98 LRC cars had fallen behind schedule, with only 10 of an expected 27 coaches completed by early this year, and the first Business class car not expected until late this year. IRSI had experienced further delays when structural flaws were found in the car floors earlier this year. Although VIA had initially expressed an intention to cover the additional costs associated with the additional floor repairs, by early April the ever-growing disappointment with IRSI’s progress on the contract led VIA to cancel the remainder, which represents the majority of the contract. The rebuild program, though further delayed, will still be completed, but work will be awarded to another company.
Although it is not yet clear who will pick up the remaining work, and whether or not the RDC contract will also be ended, it is evident that IRSI is in trouble. Unable to pay back substantial loans, the province of New Brunswick is seeking to send IRSI into receivership and liquidate its remaining assets. This could mean the end of business for IRSI, a company that had appeared to have a bright future as a fledgling entry into the railcar remanufacturing business.
You can read more about the receivership issue HERE
Note that the story contains a downloadable .pdf of the affidavit issued from the province, which includes specific details about VIA’s cancellation of the contract.
Funding Announced for Vancouver Island
In a long awaited announcement, the Federal Government has earmarked funds to help restore the VIA Malahat Dayliner on Vancouver Island. This matches the funding already put forward by the provincial government, which was conditional on obtaining federal funds. If all goes according to plan, service could start up as early as next spring. Details can be found HERE.
VIA Capital Investment Projects Update
Completion of the C$6.9 million project to restore VIA Rail Canada's heritage “Pacific Central Station” in Vancouver, B.C., was celebrated April 12th 2012. VIA Rail completed major renovations to the station, paying strict attention to preserving the heritage features of the building, which was built in 1919.
Updates to VIA’s Capital Investment Projects web page this month include information on:
-The P42 upgrades
-Train status information technology
-Oshawa, St. Hyacinthe and Cobourg Stations
-Track electronics and terminology (including VIA’s declaration, with regard to railfans, that “At VIA Rail, we’re railfan fans!”)
-A video tour of the new accessible sleeper cabin in a Renaissance sleeper.
-A video of the train simulator trainer used to train students at the TMC
-Another tech announcement about VIA's Preference Points redemption
As usual, it’s worth having a look: Click Here to Visit the Site.
Mike Mastin shot a very late VIA #1 passing through Ashcroft, BC on April 9th at 9:57am (8.5 hours late). Recently rebuilt VIA F40PH-3 6413 leads the consist of the “Canadian”. On April 8th, VIA #1 was held at Hinton, AB for 11 hours while repairs were made to damaged rails on the 51-miles to Jasper, AB.
On April 19th, Patrick Taillon snapped Amtrak Heritage engine #66 on AMTRAK 694 enroute to Montréal from New York City passing through Lemoyne, QC.
In April, VIA was still running one set of Budd HEP-1 equipment on the Ocean, in rotation with the two Renaissance sets. In addition to the Budd consist, both of the Renaissance consists in operation in April were a little unusual. Due to accessibility upgrades currently underway (and problems at IRSI causing delays), both consists had only one service car instead of two. For one of the consists, the service car was simply removed and the consist remained the same. For the other, the consist was dramatically altered. For much of April, one of the Ocean sets was running as:
Ren Baggage 7007
(with large baggage door)
*as observed as VIA 14, April 8th 2012, and re-observed throughout April.
The first coach was running as a deadhead due to a coupler incompatibility between the baggage car and diner. Snack service for the coaches was provided at the galley of the HEP-1 coach (note that 8146 is one of only three HEP-1 coaches in the fleet that are equipped with galleys). Generally, due to high numbers of passengers traveling to and from Moncton NB, the HEP-1 coach has been used as an exclusively “Moncton” car. Passengers traveling from Halifax to Moncton are loaded in that car exclusively, which is then reloaded at Moncton with further passengers. The reverse process is done on the return trip. VIA News Editor Tim Hayman photographed the HEP-1 coach on the end of VIA 14 on April 8th in Moncton, and later caught the consist operating as VIA 15 on April 18th, at Bedford Quarry (near Halifax).
On May 27th, 1980 Stanley W. Short snapped westbound VIA #61 leaning into a banked curve on the CN Kingston Sub at Port Hope, ON led by FPA4 6763.
Brian Rackley shot VIA FPA4 6763 rolls eastbound from a station stop at London, Ontario in March, 1989.
In early October 1997 Warren Calloway snapped VIA F40PH-2 6415 at Jasper, AB still wearing her as delivered from GMDD VIA livery.
Joseph Bishop submitted these VIA F40PH-2 locomotive wraps taken in Brantford, Ontario over the years. VIA 6429 was wearing the Home Hardware scheme between 1997 and 2000. Photo date is approximately June 1998. VIA 6411 was wearing the Kool Aid between 1999 and 2000. Photo date is approximately June 2000. VIA 6411 was also spotted in The Operation Lifesaver scheme which I believe it was still wearing before its rebuild. Photo date is approximately April 2002.
© CRO May 2012