What’s the longest train delay you’ve ever experienced? Sitting in Dorval station, at 8:39pm, we are 3:39 minutes late and we haven’t technically left Montreal yet. The real kicker, a Train des Banlieus just passed by, and I realized that there is a station of trains des banlieus in the Central Station, where we sat for 3 hours waiting for coaches to come take us to Dorval.
This whole episode really illustrates the poverty of Via’s contingency planning. CN has numerous reciprocal track usage agreements with CP, to increase productivity – and, at least in the Fraser Canyon, for contingency planning as well. However, there was no contingency planning when a short section of track between the central station and Dorval station in Montreal was impassable due to a gas leak. There is no shortage of rail lines off off Montreal island – CP, CN and Quebec rail all have lines. However, no one at a CN upper office thought it would be worth paying to use CP or Quebec rail tracks so the train could leave with some semblance of being on time. Heavy traffic explains why it took over 3 hours of waiting on the train before coaches could be procured.
On the upside, we spent the three hours waiting in Via’s new “Rennaisance” cars, which I think are technically via1 cars – only 3 seats across, fantastic side to side room (although only average legroom), and a modern stylish appearance. Unfortunately, the train we were bussed to has older cars, which can be hit and miss (the seats seem to wear out – sit in your seat for too long and the foam goes dead, which is fine if you can switch to a new seat). Fortunately, this train is only about half full.
We’re on our way at 8:45pm. Technically, the train was meant to arrive in Toronto at 9:47pm, so there is a decent chance we’ll be 4 hours late – which means a 100% of my ticket price is redeemable towards a future trip (effectively making this trip free). There’s a good chance because, although we’re only leaving about 3 hours and forty five minutes late, since we’ve been combined with the later, milk-run train, we have to stop at every little town – meaning the trip will take even longer.
There always seem to be upsides to downsides. Another one in this case is Via’s internet service – its experiencing trouble with satellite uplinks – patchy service. But, on the upside, they’ve removed the fees for the service until the problem is solved. So, as for right now, I have a free train trip (but 4 hours late),and free internet service (but patchy), and free sandwiches (but, do I need to say what’s wrong with Via’s sandwiches? Really?)