I often travel by Via Rail, and it seems like the trains are always running late
I often travel by Via Rail, and it seems like the trains are always running late. Why?—Henry Cullen, Downtown
For the record, Via claims that last year its trains were punctual 81 per cent of the time; for short-distance hauls, that means within 15 minutes of the scheduled time. The year before that wasn’t so good, with only 70 per cent timeliness. But if you find yourself waiting irately at the station to pick up your delayed loved ones (or stuck on board, praying for the return of the snack cart), Via employees aren’t the only ones to blame. One challenge is that the tracks are owned by CN, busy running its own freight trains on them. Via just rents them, and you can guess who gets priority. To make matters worse, in the GTA, Via has to share the rails with GO as well. A single delayed locomotive creates a domino effect, as each train has to travel in a set window of clear track. So a few extra minutes waiting for Granny to get on board can turn into 20 minutes while the next freight train and two GO trains pass. And that’s assuming the weather is co-operating. Leaves and ice play havoc with trains by gumming up tracks. And on hot days, the rails can expand, forcing trains to slow down—which is guaranteed to pretty much ruin everybody’s schedule. It’s a wonder the trains arrive at all.