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It’s All About Speed, Frequency and Convenience

February 2nd 2012 by Yves Desjardins-Siciliano

VIA introduced a new schedule on January 24, 2012. This schedule shortens the trip time for some of the most popular routes in the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto triangle where 50% of our passenger traffic happens. New frequencies are introduced to better meet the needs of travellers. Of particular note is the introduction of an express train between Ottawa and Toronto leaving both cities at 17:00 and making the journey in less than 4 hours. Combined with VIA’s world-class mobile Wi-Fi service, this trip is now shorter and more productive than ever before.

Shorter trip times, more frequent departures and better use of time through Wi-Fi, food & beverage service, and a comfortable environment – that is what travellers demand if they are to choose train travel over their car. This new schedule is only one initiative in response to this demand. We anticipate it will attract some 100,000 new passengers annually.

And that is the equation: if train service improves, more people will take the train; and, if more people take the train, funds will be generated so that train service can continue to improve. An improved passenger rail service used by more people is the right thing for Canada- it will lead to fewer cars on the roads, a smaller carbon footprint, safer and more productive travel and eventually, more frequent and accessible inter-city travel by all Canadians. Ultimately, changes that increase ridership will enable VIA to continuously improve its service without relying on increased government funding.

Thanks to other major infrastructure projects between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, VIA plans to introduce even more schedule improvements later in 2012, further reducing trip times and increasing frequencies. At the same time, new or renovated stations will be completed while ticketing and on-board service will be enhanced through the use of mobile technology. So stay tuned…

Making schedule changes and responding to customer demand requires careful research and planning. At VIA, the performance of each current and proposed train is analyzed in terms of passenger traffic and financial viability. Adjustments are made to align the schedule with traffic patterns, customer demand and the availability of tracks shared with freight railways. Once implemented, these changes are monitored to determine whether the objective is being met and what further changes could enhance the service while improving its financial viability.

That’s where you come in. By providing feedback – good or bad – on the new schedule and your desired schedule, you can assist VIA in making it easier for you and people like you to choose “the more human way to travel”. We thank you in advance for your feedback.

You can share your thoughts in the comments section below.

To see highlights of the changes for your city, click here.

To check out the complete new schedule, click here.

About Yves Desjardins-Siciliano

Yves Desjardins-Siciliano
Yves Desjardins-Siciliano was appointed President and CEO of VIA Rail in May, 2014. Prior to his appointment, Mr. Desjardins-Siciliano was the Corporation's Chief Corporate & Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary. He has over 30 years’ experience in legal, regulatory and government relations, business and corporate development, marketing communications and finance. Past President of the Canadian Bar Association, Quebec Division, Mr. Desjardins-Siciliano was also Chief of Staff to the federal Minister of Labour and Minister of State for Transport from 1989 to 1991.
15 Comments Leave one →
  1. Jon permalink

    Dropping 68 and 69 is a short-sighted move in my opinion. By removing the late departures from the major centres, you’re eliminating opportunities for people from out of town to have a full day and evening in TO or MTL and make it back home. As a result, those daytime trains coming to TO or MTL will not be as well patronized.

    Extra schedules during the morning and afternoon doesn’t always mean more ridership….

  2. Tom Box permalink

    I’m puzzled by the claim of “more frequent departures” with the new VIA timetable. I have gone through the old (April 26, 2011) and new (January 24, 2012) timetables, and counted up the number of westward and eastward weekday departures at each station in the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto triangle. The results are shown below.

    _______________ old _____ new
    _______________ W/E ____ W/E

    Montreal _______ 12/- ____ 12/-
    Dorval ________ 12/12 ___ 12/12
    Coteau ________ 1/1 _____ 1/1
    Cornwall _______ 5/5 _____ 4/4
    Alexandria _____ 6/5 _____ 6/5
    Cassleman _____ 2/2 _____ 2/2
    Ottawa ________ 5/6 _____ 6/7
    Fallowfield _____ 5/7 ______ 5/7
    Smiths Falls ____ 3/3 _____ 3/3
    Brockville ______ 7/9 _____ 6/8
    Gananoque ____ 1/2 _____ 1/1
    Kingston ______ 11/10 ___ 10/9
    Napanee _______ 2/1 ____ 1/2
    Belleville _______ 6/6 ____ 5/6
    Trenton ________ 2/2 ____ 2/2
    Cobourg _______ 6/9 ____ 6/8
    Port Hope ______ 2/3 ____ 1/2
    Oshawa ______ 11/12 ___ 9/11
    Guildwood _____ 7/6 ____ 6/5
    Toronto _______ -/12 ___ -/12

    The four numbers in each row are the number of westward and eastward departures in the old and new timetables. For example, the Brockville row shows that there were 7 westward and 9 eastward departures in the old timetable, and 6 westward and 8 eastward trains in the new one. I’ve counted each half of J-trains 50/52 and 54/46 separately. Since I’m only looking at the M-O-T triangle, I haven’t given a figure for eastward departures from Montreal or westward from Toronto.

    We see that the only station with increased frequency is Ottawa. Napanee has one more eastward train, but one fewer westbound. All other stations are unchanged or have a decrease in frequency.

    It seems to me that the winners in this timetable change are people making through Montreal-Ottawa or Ottawa-Toronto trips. Passengers travelling to or from intermediate points are worse off, as are Montreal-Toronto passengers.

    I’m surprised that you provide a link to the “Customize your train schedule” as the way to check out the new schedule, as that tool has numerous errors. Reservia and the PDF timetables on the VIA web site are both much more accurate.

  3. Sean permalink

    I still don’t see how canceling 68/69 and replacing them with morning trains that travel via Ottawa will increase ridership. It seems to me that all you’ve done is try to please the Ottawa market, so maybe that’s where you think the increased ridership will come from.
    And I don’t see how any of this this benefits “the triangle”. A triangle has three sides; Montreal-Ottawa, Ottawa-Toronto, Toronto-Montreal. These so-called “improvements” do nothing for Toronto-Montreal. So stop blowing sunshine up my a$$. I’m not stupid.

    • So True! It doesn`t benfit anyone but the politicans!!

      • matt permalink

        Agreed. Cutting 68/69 was the worst move that could have been made. The new MOT trains 656/659 are always empty, except on Friday and Sunday.

  4. Sean permalink

    @ Tom Box: Good job.

  5. I don`t beleive that having the last train to Montreal-Toronto(or Toronto-Montreal) leaving at 3:10 on Saturdays is bennificial to anyone but the Hotel operators, Coach Canada and WestJet! Please don`t give BS answers for doing away with a train that is important to many.

  6. Richard Marginson permalink

    Hi everyone,

    Thank you all for your comments on these recent schedule changes. Please know this schedule will evolve – we will continue to evaluate market demand, and we can make adjustments if and when they’re needed.

    Regarding the number of departures, Tom Box is correct: there are fewer departures to intermediate communities. When we focus on the route level, we see the increase in frequencies that we refer to in the blog:

    Both directions Montreal-Ottawa – Old # freqs 6 ; New # freqs 7 (+1)
    Both directions Ottawa-Toronto – Old # freqs 5 ; New # freqs 6 (+1)
    Both directions Montreal-Toronto direct – Old # freqs 6 ; New # freqs 5 (-1)
    Westbound -Montreal-Toronto via Ottawa – Old #freqs 3 ; New # freqs 5 (+2)
    Eastbound -Toronto-Montreal via Ottawa – Old #freqs 2 ; New # freqs 3 (+1)
    Westbound Montreal-Toronto total – Old # freqs 9 ; New # freqs 10 (+1)
    Eastbound Toronto-Montreal total – Old # freqs 8 ; New # freqs 8 (no change)

    Based on these changes, we anticipate that we will attract 100,000 more passengers per year. Removing trains 68 and 69 was part of this process, and it allows us to put the equipment through Ottawa, where we expect to gain some of these additional passengers.

    Once again, thank you for all of your comments and feedback.

    Richard Marginson, Community Manager

    • Tom Box permalink

      Of the ten Montreal – Toronto trains in the new timetable, four (51, 55, 69, 659) are of no practical use for end-to-end travel. Why would one want to take 51, when 53 leaves Montreal later and arrives in Toronto earlier? Similarly, 57, 65 and 67 depart later and arrive sooner than 55, 59 and 659, respectively.

      The only train running via Ottawa that might be of some practical interest for through Montreal – Toronto travel is 657, which plugs a gap in the departure times between 61 and 65. So in practice, there are six useful trains for through Montreal – Toronto travel, the same as in the old timetable. Users have lost 69, already a slow trip at 5 h 26 min, and gained 657, an even slower trip at 6 h 53 min.

      In the opposite direction, three of the eight Toronto – Montreal trips (50, 54, 656) are of no practical use for end-to-end travel, since 52, 56 and 66 have the same or later departure times and earlier arrival times than 50, 54 and 656, respectively. That leaves only five useful Toronto – Montreal departures, down from six in the old timetable.

      I recognize that there are a handful of travellers who will choose to go from Montreal to Toronto on the slower route through Ottawa, for a chance to see some different scenery and to spend more time on the train. I’ve done so myself. But even I wouldn’t want to do it on a regular basis, and I believe that for the great majority of through Montreal – Toronto passengers, the new timetable is inferior to the old one.

      Residents of intermediate points not only have less frequent service, some trips have become impossible. You can no longer get from Port Hope or Napanee to Montreal, or vice versa. You can go from Port Hope or Napanee to Ottawa every day, but you can only make the return trip on Sunday. You can go from Montreal to Trenton, but you can’t make the return trip.

  7. Folks, if VIA is to survive it has to satisfy a group of people – those who travel between Montreal (VIA HQ) and Ottawa (Fed HQ). If upping this service even further to an hourly clockface timetable helped cement government/Civil Service support for the Company, then the rest of us will have to wait patiently. In any case, with five F40PHs and a bunch of LRCs and Rens in the shop for various overhauls, it was never likely that a big service increase could be attempted. Well done Tom Box for carving through the spin.

    Yves – why have VIA not announced the timetable change on Toronto-Sarnia adding Malton (i.e. Pearson equivalent to VIA Dorval) as a stop. I would consider that a big deal worth promoting.

  8. Jacob permalink

    I’m glad that VIA added more trains, but I also think the Toronto-Kitchener-London line needs more passenger trains in my opinion, thanks VIA!

  9. Sean permalink

    The only thing that would please the politicians and civil servants in Ottawa (and probably Toronto) would be if Via were to offer Aeroplan points instead of Preference points. But then Via would have to add even more trains to/from Ottawa.

  10. What I find most interesting about this comment thread is that it is uniformly negative about the cuts to the Toronto-Montreal schedule to the benefit of the so-called Triangle, or more specifically the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal route.

    I must agree with it’s sentiment. The cancellation of train 68 has meant that I have started to take Porter as the difference in cost between VIA1 and a return flight Montreal from Toronto is not significant enough to match the inconvenience of having to end my work day early and rush to the station to catch the train.

    The reality, if one reads the analysis above this comment, is that this schedule change decision has been made on a short-sighted basis with little consideration to the needs of actual business travellers between Montreal and Toronto.

    Further to this whole matter, is the fact that the renaissance equipment has been taken off the Toronto-Montreal route and moved to the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal route. Again, inconveniencing business travellers who move between the two largest markets.

    As a senior marketing professional, I must say these decisions seem very counterproductive to enhancing the VIA brand in the business traveller segment.

  11. MikeB permalink

    I hope the upcoming schedules for late 2012 are going to involve major service increases?
    I was just in Italy, and train service between Milan and Rome (equal to Toronto and Montreal) operates about every hour in both directions. I won’t mention the high speed rail :)

    Overall while schedule changes can be a problem for some, I think people have to voice their opinion, but you can do it in a productive way which gives VIA real feedback to rely to the planners.

  12. Paul permalink

    Hello from “out West”.. where the tumbleweeds blow, and cowboys still roam…

    We really hope that VIA will come back to the Calgary _ Edmonton Corridor.

    The QE2 is Canada’s Second busiest freeway, and it’s a tangled mess to drive on. Please come back to the Calgary & Edmonton Corridor – I want to be sipping a shiraz as I clip along at 80 MPH on VIA1.

    Paul in Red Deer

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