Posts Tagged ‘VIA Rail Canada’

Catching the Canadian in Winnipeg

December 16, 2020

In May 2000 Ursula and I flew to Winnipeg, Manitoba, to attend a wedding.

With VIA’s Canadian being tri-weekly, I was hoping to see it since we were visiting for just a few days.

On May 11 I ventured to the Forks in downtown Winnipeg, an historic site, meeting place and green space located at the confluence of the Red and the Assiniboine rivers.

From the Forks Market Tower I was able to get a good view of the arriving eastbound Canadian. Here are some photos of VIA train No. 2 arriving at Union Station.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

VIA Extends Long-Distance Train Suspensions

September 29, 2020

VIA Rail Canada has indefinitely extended the suspension of two long-distance trains due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Toronto-Vancouver Canadian and Montreal-Halifax Ocean had been set to resume operations on Nov. 1.

But in an announcement made last week VIA said the suspensions have been extended to an unspecified date due to due to a rise of COVID-19 cases in some regions of Canada and the recommendations of health authorities.

The carrier also said sleeping car service on its Winnipeg-Churchill route will remain suspended.

In a news release, VIA said it is working on a safe resumption of service plan.

“The authorities indicate that this situation is worrisome as we are heading into autumn and winter, which are seasons presenting a high risk for respiratory diseases,” VIA said in a statement.

“Current sanitary conditions would thus not allow for a safe service offering, especially given the duration of these trips and the close proximity between employees and passengers.”

VIA is continuing to operate some corridor service between Quebec City and Windsor, Ontario, via Toronto and Montreal.

A VIA spokesperson told Trains magazine in mid September that the passenger carrier is reviewing “ventilation systems, classes of service, schedules, and food and beverage, in order to offer a safe travel experience.”

He said the close proximity between employees and passengers and the duration of long-distance trips made it difficult to offer a safe environment.

The VIA news release cites “recent bulletins by authorities show that a second wave of the pandemic has begun in some regions of the country.”

In some regions of Canada travel restrictions limit travel to residents of the same or an adjacent province.

VIA to Require Passengers to Wear Masks

June 22, 2020

VIA Rail Canada will require its passengers to wear masks effective June 23.

The rule announced by the passenger carrier requires mask wearing during a trip except when passengers are eating or drinking, and whenever appropriate distancing cannot be maintained in stations and when boarding.

VIA attributed the move to rising ridership “as the economy is gradually reopening.”

It described the rule as being implemented for the safety and well-being employees and passengers.

Although Canada’s Minister of Transport had recommended mask wearing back in April, VIA has thus far been reluctant to do that.

VIA Extends Long-Distance Suspensions to Nov. 1

May 8, 2020

The suspension of the Canadian and Ocean of VIA Rail Canada has been extended through Nov. 1.

In a news release, VIA said sleeper class service on its Winnipeg-Churchill, Manitoba, trains has also been suspended through the same date.

“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,” the company said in the news release.

VIA said that during the service suspension it will accelerate an inspection and modernization program for its heritage passenger equipment that began in 2018.

The carrier said it will contact passengers who held reservations for travel on the affected trains about reimbursing their fare.

Passengers holding tickets during the suspension period also are encouraged to contact VIA by email at service@viarail.ca

VIA can be reached by phone at 888-VIA-RAIL(888-842-7245).

VIA CEO Cynthia Garneau said the carrier will continue to assess and identify which measures to implement in order to get back on track as soon and as safely as possible.

Garneau said the equipment overhaul program will enable VIA to progressively bring back its long-distance trains to full capacity for the 2021 peak season.

VIA has reduced the number of seats available on trains that are still operating as a way to promote social distancing.

Amtrak Mandates Some Workers to Wear Masks

April 21, 2020

Amtrak is requiring employees who interact directly with the public to wear a facial covering of some kind, preferably a mask if available.

Although passengers are not being required to wear face coverings, the carrier said it strongly encourages them and all other of its employees to wear one.

Amtrak’s new CEO William Flynn said employees should start each day with a new disposable mask or a freshly-washed cloth mask.

Flynn said Amtrak has disposable masks available at all staffed stations and crew bases.

The carrier will not provide masks for passengers. “If a customer refuses to wear a mask after an employee graciously asks, let it go. It’s not a requirement, just a recommendation,”  he said.

Amtrak Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer D. J. Stadtler, said the carrier is not mandating masks for passengers “because we travel through so many states and localities where rules are different.”

Stadtler said Amtrak is ensuring that passengers are practicing social distancing away from employees and other passengers.

At Amtrak shop facilities, wearing masks is not mandatory but the company has begun distributing 415,000 disposable masks in the past few days and expects to receive over a half a million more in the coming week.

In a related development, Canada’s Minister of Transport has asked passenger rail operators to require masks for passengers.

Airline passengers flying in Canada are being required to wear masks.

Passengers are being informed of that rule when buying a ticket and before boarding passengers must show that they have a mask in their possession.

Railroad company are being permitted to set and implement their own policies, including denying boarding to those who fail to comply with the rules.

VIA Rail Canada has “invited” passengers to wear masks, but they are not required except for international travelers using the train to reach their place of quarantine.

Pennsylvanian Suspension Extended to May 4

April 8, 2020

The suspension of Amtrak’s New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian has been extended until at least May 4.

The Pennsylvanian along with Keystone Service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, were suspended on March 19 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All of our measures in this regard have been aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19, in concert with Amtrak,” said Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokeswoman Alexis Campbell.

PennDOT pays Amtrak to operate Keystone Service and the Pennsylvanian.

Among the intermediate stops made by the Pennsylvanian are Greensburg, Latrobe, Johnstown, Altoona, Lewistown and Tyrone.

In a related development, VIA Rail Canada said the suspension of its Canadian and Prince Rupert-Prince George-Jasper service in Western Canada has been extended until at least June 1,

In a news release, VIA cited expanding travel restrictions and physical distancing measures, as well as ongoing infrastructure issues for the Prince Rupert service.

VIA Makes More Service Cuts

March 31, 2020

VIA Rail Canada said that beginning March 31 it will further cut service on most routes.

The new schedule calls for only one train per day on all routes in the Quebec City-Windsor, Ontario, corridor.

All trains will stop at every station on all routes.

Montreal-Jonquiere, Quebec; Montreal-Senneterre, Que; and Sudbury-White River, Ontario, routes will operate with one round trip per week.

The Winnipeg-Churchill, Manitoba, train is no longer offering Sleeper Plus service.

Other operations, including the Canadian and Ocean, have been suspended through May 1.

VIA said carry-on baggage assistance offered by employees is temporarily suspended on all trains across the network.

However, it said it will continue to offer the same level of assistance to passengers with disabilities and/or limited mobility.

Checked baggage service has been temporarily suspended on all routes except Sudbury-White River and Winnipeg-Churchill.

In the United States, Amtrak and CTrail Hartford Line trains have begun operating on an even more reduced schedule with a combined 11 round trips (six CTrail, five Amtrak) on weekdays and revised weekend schedules on Amtrak’s Hartford line between New Haven, Connecticut, and Springfield, Massachusetts.

Amtrak’s CZ Operation Reduced, Canada Bans Travel

March 30, 2020

The first service reduction that is related to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit Amtrak’s long-distance network although it was an unintended consequence.

Amtrak said on Sunday it would truncate the route of the California Zephyr to Chicago-Denver because an Amtrak worker assigned to the train has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

An email sent to Amtrak employees said workers exposed to that employee have gone into a 14-day self-quarantine.

That has resulted in Amtrak being short on crew members to staff the train.

On its Twitter feed Amtrak said eastbound No. 6 is to originate in Denver on March 30.

The westbound Zephyr that departed Chicago on Sunday would terminate in Denver.

No. 6 that departed Emeryville on Sunday was to turn at Reno, Nevada, with passengers continuing eastward by bus.

An online report indicated the consist of the Zephyr in recent days has been two P42DC locomotives, two sleepers, two coaches, a dining car and a Sightseer lounge.

Baggage generally cars have been removed from Amtrak trains that had them before the pandemic broke out.

In other related developments, the suspension of the Pennsylvanian, which normally operates between New York and Pittsburgh, and Keystone Service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has been extended to April 5.

Amtrak also has announced that the Auto Train will not originate on either March 30 or 31. No explanation was given, but this train derailed last week in Florida and the cancellations may are likely related to that in some manner.

In a related announcement, Amtrak said the Silver Meteor and Silver Star will originate in Miami on Monday as scheduled.

They had been originating in Jacksonville, Florida, as a byproduct of the Auto Train derailment.

North of the border, Canada has restricted domestic travel by those showing such symptoms of the coronaviras as fever, coughing, or difficulty breathing.

Transport Canada that VIA Rail Canada, intercity rail operators, and airlines screen passengers for symptoms by asking health questions and looking for visible signs of illness.

Would-be passengers showing symptoms will be prohibited from travel for 14 days or until they can present a medical certificate confirming the symptoms are not related to COVID-19.

The order does not affect commuter rail and bus travel.

Agencies, Railroads Reacting to COVID-19 Pandemic

March 17, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic continued to affect the railroad industry with federal regulatory agencies announcing actions they’ve taken to mitigate its effects.

The Federal Railroad Administration said it has activated its emergency relief docket after FRA Administrator Ronald Batory determined the imminent threat and exposure to the disease constitutes an “emergency situation” as related to railroad operations.
This means railroads may request relief from FRA regulations related to the emergency, FRA officials said.

In a statement the FRA said requests for relief must address how the request relates to the emergency and, at a minimum, specify how the petitioner or the public is affected by the emergency.

Requests for relief must also specific which FRA regulations are implicated; how a waiver of those regulations would benefit the petitioner during the emergency; and how long the railroad expects to be affected by the emergency.

If granted the relief will not exceed 60 days, agency officials said.

The Federal Transit Administration said expanded eligibility of federal assistance is available under the agency’s Emergency Relief Program to help transit agencies respond to the coronavirus.

Transit providers in states where the governor has declared an emergency related to COVID-19 will be allowed to use federal formula funds for emergency-related operating and capital expenses

In a news release FTA said the declaration raises the cap on the federal government’s share of those expenses to 80 percent from 50 percent.

Some railroads have announced steps they are taking to address the pandemic.

Norfolk Southern told its shippers and and supply chain partners that it has activated an operations command center headed by senior managers who are monitoring the COVID-19 situation and its effect on the railroad and its employees.

NS employees not directly associated with train operations have been directed to work from home.

Access to the NS Network Operations Center and other critical functions in offices has been restricted and the carrier has additional sanitizing and cleaning activities on order.

VIA Rail Canada has also announced that it has suspended its Canadian, Ocean and long distance eastern and western routes until March 27.

The Canadian intercity rail passenger carrier has also reduced service in its corridor linking Windsor, Ontario, and Quebec City by 50 percent.

Onboard meal service has been modified to conform to social distancing guidelines.

Aditional workers are being added to conduct sanitization procedures, which may result in trip delays and late departures.

VIA Working to Finish Service Restoration

March 6, 2020

VIA Rail Canada is expected to have nearly all of its passenger trains rolling again by Sunday.

The carrier suspended most service and laid off 1,000 employees in the wake of blockades on Canadian railroads.

The blockades were led by protestors of a plan to build a natural gas pipeline across First Nation land in northern British Columbia.

The hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation have opposed construction of the pipeline and most of the blockades were staged in support of their opposition.

The Toronto-Montreal VIA route will resume full service on Saturday while full service on the Toronto-Ottawa route will resume on Sunday.

The Canadian between Toronto and Vancouver resumed service on Wednesday.

Prince-Rupert – Prince-George – Jasper service remains suspended and VIA said it is working with host railroad Canadian National on a resumption timeline, VIA said.

All other VIA Rail routes are back to full service.

In a news release, VIA said it began canceling service on Feb. 13 and laid off employees starting on Feb. 19. VIA said it expects to recall the majority of those laid off.