Following the announcement in London earlier this summer that VIA Rail was working to reinstate trains 82 and 83, the company has now officially confirmed their return, with a start date of October 24, 2023. Two round trips between Ottawa and Toronto are also being reinstated to help meet travel demand on weekends. The schedule changes are as follows:
|Route||Schedule||Date of reinstatement|
|82 London – Toronto||Daily except Sunday||Tuesday, October 24|
|83 Toronto – London||Daily except Saturday||Tuesday, October 24|
|644 Toronto – Ottawa||Friday, Saturday*, Sunday||Friday, October 27|
|646 Toronto – Ottawa||Thursday, Friday, Sunday||Thursday, October 26|
|43 Ottawa – Toronto||Monday, Friday, Sunday||Friday, October 27|
|647 Ottawa – Toronto||Friday and Sunday||Friday, October 27|
This is good news for commuters from London, Woodstock, and Brockville, who will now be able to arrive in Toronto before 9am, but doesn’t make up for the loss of the GO service running through Stratford which will end on October 13th. The timing of train 84 is not expected to change, leaving St Marys and Stratford without a morning train once again.
The announcement did not include trains 650/651 between Kingston and Toronto, which is also not the news were were hoping for. Transport Action has been calling for the reinstatement of these important commuter services for two years, and the region’s municipalities released a report last September showing very strong demand for them. We expect that the Minister of Transport will be hearing more from local MPs and municipalities about this.
According to VIA Rail’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Mario Péloquin, the reinstatement of these frequencies has been made possible by the addition of new Venture trains to the fleet: “The ongoing progressive introduction of VIA Rail’s 32 new trainsets is already yielding positive results, as recent increases in equipment availability, coupled with intense recruitment and training efforts, are now allowing us to reintroduce these high-demand frequencies.”
“As we continue to strike a balance between meeting our passengers’ evolving travel needs and deploying our limited resources, we remain committed to offering the most convenient, accessible and sustainable service to the highest number of Canadians.”
The process of restoring pre-pandemic service levels is far from over, and we expect further announcements will follow once more of the new trains are available. VIA Rail had accepted four new of the Venture sets into service at the end of August, when it released is second quarterly report showing that ridership had jumped to a million passengers. The eighth train was delivered to Montreal on September 5. One Venture set has been based in Toronto during the summer for crew training and familiarization, which suggests that the new fleet might also start operating on some schedules to Toronto this fall.
VIA Rail is still limited in its ability to respond to rapidly growing travel demand by the availability of train paths, and by government support for its operations and in negotiations with host railways. Transport Action continues to urge the federal government to speed up investment in the Kingston corridor and Southwestern Ontario, ahead of the High Frequency Rail procurement and co-development process.