CN strike reveals extent of 'Canadian' padding

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CanadianSiouxLookout
Passengers aboard the eastbound Canadian take a break at Sioux Lookout, Ont., on Oct. 15, 2018.
Bob Johnston
WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Before the Teamsters Canadian Rail Conference representing CN engineers announced a tentative settlement with the railroad on Tuesday, the westbound Canadian that left Toronto on Nov. 24, spent 14 hours and 15 minutes waiting for departure times at stations across western Ontario and Manitoba.

With CN rerouting many trains though the U.S. during the work stoppage, the Canadian paused for three-and-a-half hours at CN division headquarters and VIA crew change point of Hornepayne, Ont., and stopped at 14 other remote locations between Toronto and Winnipeg from 15 minutes to an hour-and-a-half.

If no passengers are set to board at any of the 65 intermediate stations listed between Toronto and Vancouver, British Columbia, the train can leave early. It departed almost two hours early from Foleyet, Ont., east of Hornepayne on Sunday evening.

Expedited handling beyond Winnipeg continued on Nov. 26, with westbound train No. 1 getting into Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, one hour and 20 minutes early after leaving Winnipeg an hour late the previous evening. Meanwhile, eastbound train No. 2 set to arrive into Toronto today waited three hours for its scheduled departure time overnight at both Hornepayne and Capreol, Ont.

When Canadian National and VIA Rail Canada implemented a lengthened schedule for the Toronto-Vancouver, B.C., Canadian in April 2019, the goal was to ensure its passengers would traverse the Canadian Rockies in daylight despite delays inflicted by prioritized freight train movements on its transcontinental trek.

Trains News Wire’s analysis of every departure since then reveals that the effort has been successful, even though the train’s reliability and usefulness at intermediate stops as dependable transportation has been greatly diminished.

VIA said last month that it will continue to offer only two weekly cross-country trips and one weekly round-trip between Vancouver and Edmonton, Alberta, next May through October on the existing schedule after previously announcing tri-weekly service would be restored in 2020.

Even before the CN strike, train No. 1 has consistently pulled into Vancouver much earlier than the scheduled 8 a.m. arrival, with 48% arriving between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. since May 1. A VIA source tells Trains News Wire that no one is allowed to get off the train until 6:30 a.m., but Sleeper Plus and Prestige class passengers are offered a continental breakfast and may stay aboard until 8 a.m.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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