Are the two already on a collision course, with Canadian train travellers caught in the middle?
by Larry Powell
Our Via Rail trip from Winnipeg to Toronto this week, would hardly fall into either of those categories.
First, as we waited to board, our train, The Canadian, was over two hours late arriving at the Winnipeg station from the west.
Toronto a few years ago. PLT photo.
The view from the rear window. PLT photo.
While all of this has been happening, CN freight traffic is said to be expanding rapidly. This means longer, slower trains and undoubtedly growing frustration between Via, a crown corporation, and the CNR, a now-private, shareholder-owned corporation. Apparently, Via trains such as The Canadian, can generally go faster than the freights, too. This means further delays when they get stuck behind the slower-moving freights.
But our Toronto-bound train wasn't the only one to face delays this week. The west-bound Canadian was a whopping 18 hours late leaving Winnipeg because of another disabled freight train on the main line!
By the time our own train arrived in Toronto, it was about eight hours behind-schedule.
Her companion remained cheerful, but painfully conscious of the long trip. He remarked with a smile, "I can't remember when I wasn't on this train!"
All this begs the question, could climate change and the CNR be converging on a "collision course" which might catch rail passengers in the middle?
In some way, we may have already reached that point. Mercifully, the troubles described here don't seem to be going beyond what might be called inconveniences, so far. Nor do they seem to have dampened the enthusiasm - even affection - which many passengers still feel for this amazingly civilized mode of travel.
Chinese bullet trains are capable of travelling 350 kmh. Do you suppose they share the right-of-way with freights?
So, do we need to fuss, fret or worry about getting on a train in Canada right now? Probably not.
Should we be concerned about where all this is going?