VIA again adjusts 'Canadian' schedule

RELATED TOPICS: PASSENGER | VIA RAIL CANADA | CANADA
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Canadian_Sked_1_Johnston
The westbound Canadian is running 15 hours late on Oct. 14, 2018, as it meets its eastbound counterpart in this shot from the eastbound train. VIA Rail Canada has again adjusted the 2019 Canadian, addressing sightseeing and intermediate-stop issues.
Bob Johnston
Canadian_Sked_2
A comparison of VIA's current and 2019 schedules for the Canadian (click to enlarge).
Bob Johnston; VIA Rail Canada

JASPER, Alberta — VIA Rail Canada and Canadian National have again revised the 2019 schedule for the Canadian, with the goal of keeping sightseers and intermediate-stop travelers happy — a challenge given CN’s freight traffic and summer trackwork windows.

The new schedule will take effect on April 29, 2019, for the eastbound departure from Vancouver and two days later for the westbound train from Toronto.

A comparison with the current timings — implemented last July after delays of 12 hours became the norm and a pair of trips were cancelled because trains were running more than a day late — reveals major westbound changes and lengthening (see table).

Train No. 1 reverts to a morning departure out of Toronto to adjust what had been middle-of-the-night stops at Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Edmonton, Alta., under the changes announced last month. [See "VIA shuffles 'Canadian' schedule for summer of 2019," Trains News Wire, Oct. 2, 2018.] In 2007, the Canadian departed Toronto at 9 a.m. and was due into Vancouver at 7:50 a.m., but the journey back then took three nights instead of four.

Freight congestion around Winnipeg and Edmonton continues to be a significant problem. On an October 2018 eastbound, accordion-like adventure, train No. 2 left Jasper on time; arrived into Edmonton almost five hours tardy; departed Melville, Sask., just over two hours late; but slunk into Winnipeg 6 hours, 25 minutes behind schedule at 1:25 a.m. after following CN freights. Yet significant padding helped it roll into Toronto a few minutes early two days later.

For sightseeing, the eastbound train, running directionally on Canadian Pacific, hits the Fraser River highlights east of Vancouver and manages to cover scenery in daylight on both sides of Jasper. Westbound trips will traverse the colorful lake region east of Winnipeg in daytime, but miss riverside and mountain scenery east of Jasper.

Canadian_Sked_2_Johnston
A Panorama dome heads to Prince Rupert in 2015. VIA's new schedule for the Canadian raises questions on how the company's three Panorama cars will be deployed in 2019.
Bob Johnston

While VIA first began allowing the new schedules to be booked on Thursday at www.viarail.ca, expect further tweaks:

— The company inexplicably scheduled 12:01 a.m. departures after evening layovers westbound at Edmonton and eastbound at Winnipeg, which is guaranteed to cause confusion for anyone traveling to and from those two cities; a simple fix is to move the departure ahead to 11:59 p.m., so arrivals and departures are scheduled for the same calendar day.

— This schedule will not permit a Panorama dome to be added between Vancouver-Edmonton on every Canadian, unless the third such car VIA owns is pulled from its current, every-other-round-trip assignment between Jasper and Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

— It has not been possible to reserve a Prestige Class bedroom only between Vancouver and Jasper or Edmonton, and that is still the case on through Vancouver-Toronto trains. But it will be permitted on the short-turn Edmonton-Vancouver trains. The fare with taxes for the Vancouver-to-Jasper trip, one night with two meals, is $7,077 Canadian ($5,380 U.S.) — the same fare quoted on other days from Vancouver to Winnipeg (two nights, with four meals). However, booking from Edmonton to Vancouver (two nights, three meals), Prestige class costs “only” $5,443 Canadian ($4,138 U.S.). A steal! Two Prestige cars were booked solid on the October trip.            

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