For the last four years, I've been taking a yearly trip to New York City utilizing the eastbound Canadian and then traveling on to NYC either on the Maple Leaf or flying the next day. Last year, the Canadian was 11 hours late, which was manageable, got me into to Toronto at a reasonably decent hour with enough time for a good night's sleep before catching the Maple Leaf the next morning.
However, this year, with the frequent 20+ hour and more delays, I decided that an overnight cushion was simply not enough. Given the twice weekly off-season operation coupled with the ridiculously severe timekeeping problems, I am having to change that overnight layover into three nights in Toronto to ensure my onward travel plans are not ruined by a 48 hour late train. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Toronto, it is a very cool city with a lot to do there, but I am pretty much being forced into it defensively.
I love the Canadian, and will do what it takes to have a pleasant vacation using it, but this has gotten beyond ridiculous. On the positive side, for myself, I know enough to plan for it. But I can't help but think of the people who aren't familiar with the situation (or can't believe it) and have their travel plan monumentally disrupted with hotel nights paid for and unused, missed flights, potential thousands of dollars of last minute air tickets (what if you came from Australia?). As well as the stress of being stuck helplessly a train that they paid from somewhere north of a thousand dollars to several thousand to ride, watching it getting later and later while all their plans get wrecked. Will they come back to ride the world famous Canadian? No. Will they tell their friends about the world famous Canadian? Absolutely, they will tell them of how it ruined their trip.
I have arrived in Chicago in the wee hours of the morning on 10 or 12 or 14 hour late trains more times than I can count. I accept that long distance rail travel can involve severe delay, but 12 or 14 hours is a severe delay. I think it is foolish to plan for critical onward connections from any North American long distance train without allowing for an overnight layover. But 48 hours late is something that should never happen, barring natural catastrophe.
Amtrak has at least some statutory power, and when things have gotten bad (consistent 12-14 hour late trains on UP a few years ago, for example), they have threatened legal action and have gotten results from their host railroads. Some host railroads, BNSF being an example, try to keep Amtrak on time, it being partly proof of being able to run a fluid railroad, since they are stuck with Amtrak anyway. Yes a few years back there was meltdown on the Northern Transcon because of the oil boom, but BNSF also invested in their infrastructure to improve capacity there on a pretty timely basis once the problem became readily apparent. Also, in the worst of that, the Builder was "only" 10-14 hours late, not days. CN itself manages to run their Amtrak trains, notably the City of New Orleans, within at least a few hours of the published schedule. I can't help but think that is partly due to the fact that Amtrak has at least some weapons at their disposal they can use if need be. Via literally has nothing in terms of legal or regulatory weapons.
But beyond the regulatory issues, at a deeper level CN appears to be frankly derelict in managing their business. They can't even deliver freight because they did not invest in their infrastructure, and decided to run trains on the cheap by running a bunch of non-clearing trains because they don't want the expense run more but shorter trains or investing in lenthening their sidings and double tracking where needed. To be honest, their inability to run FOUR TRAINS A WEEK within 24 hours of schedule is the tip of an iceberg, the canary in the coal mine. They can't run transportation. Be it goods or people. Period.
Edited by zephyr17, 15 March 2018 - 04:01 PM.