VIA Rail service resumption plan announced

By Transport Action | Intercity Rail and Bus

Oct 18

VIA Rail has announced the schedule for the remainder of its gradual service resumption following the Covid-19 pandemic, with a second frequency for the Ocean being added beginning in December 2021 and operations across the country to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of June 2022.

DateRouteService
December 2021The Ocean (Montreal-Halifax)Resumption of second frequency
April 2022Québec City-Windsor corridorIncrease of service levels to 85%
Regional routesResumption of second frequencies
May 2022The Canadian (Vancouver-Toronto)Full service
June 2022Québec City-Windsor corridorFull service
The OceanFull service
Regional routesFull service

Regional routes include Jasper to Prince Rupert, Sudbury to White River, and Montreal to Jonquiere and Senneterre. The Winnipeg-Churchill route will continue to operate its full three frequencies per week, as it has since the beginning of the pandemic.

VIA Rail is currently operating once weekly on most routes outside the Quebec-Windsor corridor, and approximately 80% of corridor services, with early-morning trains into Toronto from the east (#41 and #651) being notable omissions. The railway is finalizing details of the resumption plan, including access to freight railway infrastructure, and will publish specific service resumption dates and updated schedules as soon as these becomes available.

“We look forward to welcoming our passengers back on board our trains, and I would like to thank all our employees as we continue to weather this storm: their resilience and dedication are what keep us on track,” said said Cynthia Garneau, VIA Rail’s President and CEO.

The confirmation of this timeline for service resumptions is welcome, albeit slower than Transport Action had hoped and asked for, particularly on the long distance routes. VIA Rail continues to try to balance fulfilling its public service mandate with managing the financial impact of lower ridership due to the pandemic, however its approach contrasts with Amtrak’s accelerated resumption of long distance services which has stimulated a strong rebound in passenger numbers. It is also not yet clear when sleeping car service will be available on the Winnipeg-Churchill train, or whether any Skyline or Panorama observation cars will be added to the consist of the Ocean to replace the Park car.

The resumption of full service in the corridor now appears to coincide with the expected entry into service of the first two new Siemens Venture trains in summer 2022, the first of which recently arrived in Montreal to begin testing over the winter.

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