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VIA Rail cuts: Trains 85/88 cancelled London to Sarnia, 86/89 cancelled completely + more

By shost at 9:39 pm on Wednesday, June 27, 2012

So, how will you be affected by the cuts? Anyone switching to GO (not that you really have much of a choice!)

85/88 are cancelled between London and Sarnia, and poor Sarnia is left with only one train per day. What a joke.

Cancelling 86 makes sense in light of the GO trains, but leaves Stratford and St. Marys folks in the cold. This means, to me , that 87 will quickly be changed to avoid the GO trains and run at a different time.

89, running through the north mainline in the wee morning hours (arriving in London long after Midnight) was also a likely candidate for cancellation.

There are other cuts in the VIA system elsewhere, but they are unlikely to affect Guelph/Kitchener-Waterloo users.

If you want a summary, the Conservative Government cut $20 million from VIA’s operating budget, but VIA still has hundreds of millions (?) for improvements such as stations, track, signalling, etc, but they cannot use money from one budget to help the other… VIA not being a normal company, and highly politically driven, is stuck in this very odd predicament..

The Guelph sub CTC improvements are still on the table, apparently, but I’ll believe it when it happens..

What’s your take on the whole situation?

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11 Comments

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Comment by Steve

June 27, 2012 @ 11:11 pm

The 86 always made sense to drop but the late train out of Toronto was very popular, especially with students. I am still worried the CTC / Track work could be lost but will have to wait and see. GO Trains need that CTC so we do not always get delayed out of Georgetown all the time.

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Comment by plam

June 28, 2012 @ 8:58 am

89 is a vital link connecting 67 (Montreal-Toronto express, arriving in Union Station at 9pm) to Kitchener, and GO service at 10pm is lacking. I think that the Sunday 89 is probably the busiest one; I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s otherwise fairly deserted.

86 is mostly redundant to the GO service now, so it’s not quite as useful as other trains.

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Comment by shost

June 28, 2012 @ 9:59 am

If I was to guess, perhaps 87 may be pushed later in the evening, perhaps to connect with the Montreal Express train and run it a bit earlier than 89′s current schedule.

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Comment by plam

June 30, 2012 @ 10:24 am

The connection between 67 and 89 is already tight (35 minutes); you can’t actually move 87 later to connect with 67 unless you move it to the timeslot occupied by 89.

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Comment by Boingy

June 30, 2012 @ 5:29 pm

I’ve made these comments elsewhere, but I think some of them bear repeating.

I really do fear that this is the beginning of the end for passenger rail service to the west and south of Toronto. I hate to be that pessimistic, but this new schedule really does suggest to me that VIA’s medium- to long-term intention is to abandon this market altogether.

Sound alarmist? Not really, when you consider that cities like Calgary, Regina, Thunder Bay, and Sydney, Nova Scotia have all been without passenger rail service for more than two decades. VIA has turned its back on entire regions before.

When you’re down to two trains per day to places like Guelph, Kitchener, and Stratford…and one lousy train per day to places like Sarnia, St Catharines and Niagara Falls…and when those trains are stopping at unstaffed stations where absolutely no customer service is available whatsoever (as I understand will now be the case in all of the above-named stations)….

…Well, what can you say? When you’re down to that level of service, it is pretty damned clear that the you’re not serious about serving that market any more.

This has all the hallmarks of a classic “de-marketing” strategy. Gut the service, take it down to the bare minimum that you can get away with, and make what is left so inconvenient, expensive, and generally awful that no sane person would use it. Then you can turn to the politicians and regulators and say “See? No one wants this service any more. See?” It worked brilliantly for CN and CP in the 1960s and 70s.

I truly will not be surprised if, five years from now, the 80-series and 90-series trains are gone completely and the stations in the area are all boarded up (or turned into museums or restaurants or whatever). It looks to me that they are doing their level best to push things to that point. VIA Rail looks like it has given up on southern and southwestern Ontario, and is now just going to wait until its remaining customers give up, too.

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Comment by EnviroTO

July 3, 2012 @ 3:17 am

The issue with southern Ontario routes is that if they are underperforming it is due to slow service and increasingly bad timetables and not there being a lack of an untapped demand. Certainly with the expansion of GO there is some room for VIA to re-organize schedules, although with this change it becomes important to move the planned GO yard to Stratford rather than Baden and to provide a service there. However, what VIA is cutting in terms of the schedule doesn’t match with its stated objectives.

1. Frequencies or segments being eliminated are the poorest performers in terms of ridership and revenues.

Please explain how the 5:30pm train on a Friday to Windsor is the poorest performer on the route. Not a Tuesday at 7:05pm train getting you into Windsor at 11:10pm, but a Friday rush hour train. I don’t believe it. I would like to see the ridership numbers.

2. New frequencies are being added where demand for intercity service is strong or growing.

Sure they are… at the end of 2012 or a to be determined date.

3. VIA’s operating and cost structure is designed for intercity service, not commuter service.

So the 10:10pm train to Kitchener is cancelled, but the 5:40pm stays with a GO train running 5 minutes later? The largest cuts are to weekends when people would not be commuting. Some of the changes shorten the trips the trains travel to only reach London reducing intercity service to Chatham, Windsor, and Sarnia but keeping service valuable to commuters closer to Toronto.

4. By eliminating services that duplicate those offered by commuter operators, VIA can focus on its core mandate: intercity service.

This justifies only the cutting of trains originating or terminating at Aldershot, and the weekend Niagara Falls trains. The other cuts are not at times GO operates or extend to places GO doesn’t serve.

5. In Southwestern Ontario, the ridership from cancelled trains can be absorbed by GO Transit services.

Cuts to Chatham, Windsor, Sarnia, Stratford, London, and weekday Niagara Falls trips cannot be absorbed by GO Transit.

In my opinion what should have happened is that:

A. Aldershot originating and terminating services should be cancelled as planned at times when GO Lakeshore West is providing train service to Burlington.

B. Niagara Falls services Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday which don’t continue to New York be cancelled as planned during the summer when GO is operating train service, and kept at other times.

C. Move train 84 and 85 to run to Sarnia via Brantford to provide a better schedule at the time GO service is extended to Stratford and one outbound AM and inbound PM train is added.

D. Install CTC and improve tracks to have the average speed of all routes above 100km/h… the sub 80km/h found now on the Kitchener and Niagara trains is pathetic.

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Comment by Mark Dowling

July 3, 2012 @ 9:51 am

The CTC tender has been posted on MERX by GEXR/RailAmerica with a closing date of August 20, but surely there must be a question mark over who pays how much now that Metrolinx will be operating more service than VIA in the foreseeable future.

http://www.merx.com/English/Supplier_menu.asp?WCE=Show&TAB=3&PORTAL=MERX&State=7&id=PR248098&HID=&src=nm&searchtype=&hcode=FmWN%2f8%2fECVSxyajCbr7VvA%3d%3d

Not withstanding the caveats in section 6.4.1.2 of the ESR, I suspect a way will be found to park trains in/near Stratford if not immediately on withdrawal of VIA service then soon after, and that a similar move will happen on the Niagara Falls slots VIA is vacating.

As for Sarnia, they would be better off with a two car RDC set shuttling back and forth to London several times a day, especially when VIA’s online reservation system insists that travel to London happens over the GEXR track which takes 4h30 to Toronto rather than offer connection to the faster options via Aldershot in under 4hr, only acknowledging that is even possible if you enter Oakville rather than Toronto.

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Comment by Ignorant JOE

July 6, 2012 @ 6:51 pm

So I guess ignorance is bliss.
Train 86 leaves Guelph at about 7 am and gets to Union by 825
The Guelph 735 Go train arrives at Union at 908
So which is actually effective for commuters from Guelph (or Kitchener)
Go back to your ignorance

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Comment by Sean

July 7, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

There will no longer be someone at Guelph Station selling tickets. http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2012/07/03/via-stations-will-go-unmanned

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Comment by Steve P

July 21, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

More news about the elimination of VIA employees at Kitchener, Guelph, Niagara etc

http://www.guelphmercury.com/news/local/article/765397–via-stations-to-lose-ticketing-agents

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