Tail Wags Dog in Canada.

Those of us who are involved in passenger rail issues here in the U.S. do a lot of complaining about the relationship between Amtrak and the freight railroads. And for good reason: With the exception of the Washington-New York-Boston service (otherwise known as the Northeast Corridor), Amtrak trains operate on track owned by privatet railroads. It is–at best–an uneasy arrangement,

One or two of the private railroads in the U.S. do make an effort to run Amtrak trains on time. The other freight railroads run Amtrak trains on time as long as that doesn’t have a negative effect on their operating agreement with Amtrak.

VIA Rail’s Train No. 1, the westbound Canadian with several hundred paying passengers on board,
waits on a siding until a CN freight comes lumbering by.

VIA Rail trains, on the other hand, run on track owned by Canadian National Railway and from what I hear, CN is ruthless when it comes to moving VIA trains, especially sally between Vancouver. In fact, things got so bad that VIA added—Are you ready for this?—ten hours to their  Vancouver-Toronto schedule.

However, that created equipment problems and because there was insufficient time between departures, VIA was forced to reduce the number of round trips per week from three to two. Obviously that’s had a negative impact on ridership and therefore on revenue.

And all this time we thought Amtrak was getting shabby treatment from the freights!

One Comment

  1. Everyone thinks CN is out to screw VIA. Not so. CN doesn’t have either the personnel or capacity to run its OWN trains, after years of mismanagement and asset stripping by E Hunter Harrison and Paul Telier. It is easier for them to just look like jerks to VIA than to deal with their massive lack of infrastructure, and make the billions of dollars of investment needed to fix it. Also, VIA does have protections under the Canadian Transportation Act, their spineless managers have never dared use it agains CN.

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