Good news for those who enjoy train travel and live in the Windsor – Quebec city corridor. VIA Rail Canada (VIA Rail) announced in December 2018 that Siemens Canada was awarded a $989 million contract to build the 32 train sets that will replace VIA Rail’s fleet that operates in the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor. Siemens Canada was selected following a fair, open, rigorous and transparent bidding process under the oversight of an independent fairness monitor and VIA Rail’s Board of Directors. On-time delivery, quality of product and price were the criteria on which all the proponents were evaluated. The first trains are expected to be delivered for testing in 2022, and to be phased in across the Quebec-Windsor corridor over the following two years.
Oldest fleet in the world
VIA Rail currently operates some of the oldest trains in North America, some dating back to the 1950s (That makes it 70 years!), and most of the cars currently in service are nearing the end of their life. VIA Rail will retire a portion of its current fleet starting 2019, as such, on-time delivery was a key criterion to maintain the current level of services and jobs in the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor.
Looking to Austria
The Southwestern Ontario Transportation Alliance (SWOTA), has been calling for investment in modern bi-directional trains since its inception, and has previously highlighted the Austrian example as a model to follow for investment in high performance passenger rail in Canada. The funding for this equipment was announced by the federal government in April 2017, partly fulfilling a Liberal policy commitment to improved passenger transportation between Canadian towns and cities.
Accessibility is key
Starting 2022, millions of VIA Rail passengers travelling in Canada’s busiest corridor will enjoy a new era of brand new trains, with more comfortable seats, offering more spaces for people with reduced mobility and equipped with the latest technology to be more fuel-efficient and reduce the carbon footprint of travel. Bi-directional operation will lower operating cost while yielding more passenger capacity.
Enhanced universal accessibility features designed to exceed accessibility standards: multiple spaces for wheelchairs and other mobility devices on the trains, braille seat numbering, companion seating, at-seat emergency call buttons, larger fully accessible washrooms, integrated mobility device lift.
The new VIA Rail Corridor fleet will be equipped with some of the following key features: bike storage, LED lighting, USB ports, wide seats, quiet-zones, new interior design elements, flexible luggage space.
Built in California
33 new bi-directional train sets – 160 passenger cars and 40 locomotives – will be assembled at Siemens plant in Sacramento, California and based on the Siemens Viaggio design, which has been operated on Austria’s express intercity “RailJet” services in Europe since 2006. This design has also proven itself in North America on Brightline’s express rail services between Miami at West Palm Beach, which will soon be extended to Orlando and Tampa under the Virgin Trains USA brand. Similar equipment is also on order for Amtrak’s Midwestern services and to replace older equipment on California’s inter-city rail services.
Maintenance in Canada
Over its 30-year expected life, the new fleet will be maintained in Canada by qualified VIA Rail employees at VIA Rail’s Montreal and Toronto Maintenance Centers. Maintenance activities will be supported by a 15-year Technical Services and Spares Supply Agreement (TSSSA) valued at $23,7 million per year.
Need for speed
The trains will run at up to 160 km/h on existing routes, including tracks which VIA Rail services share with CN’s freight operations, and are capable of operating at more than 200 km/h if the federal government also approves VIA Rail’s High Frequency Rail proposal to provide dedicated passenger tracks in parts of the corridor.
All of a sudden, a weekend of cycling in Prince Edward County doesn’t sound too complicated anymore. While some destinations did have an extra rail car for bike storage, the one from Ottawa was removed a few years ago and used somewhere in the Rockies instead.
Sources: https://www.viarail.ca/en/about-via-rail/fleet-renewal, http://www.swota.ca/ VIA Press release