VIA Rail Canada to boost famed transcontinental train's accessibility and appeal

Fri Oct 30, 2009 3:45pm EDT

* Reuters is not responsible for the content in this press release.

MONTREAL, Oct. 30 /PRNewswire/ - VIA Rail Canada today announced a $19.5
million program for the reconfiguration of 12 of the stylish stainless steel
passenger cars used on its western transcontinental train, the Canadian, to
increase its accessibility and market appeal. The work is being funded from
the $407 million allocated for passenger rail improvements under the
Government of Canada's Economic Action Plan.
"It gives me great pleasure to announce the complete redesign and rebuilding
of these cars," said VIA President and Chief Executive Officer, Paul Cote.
The contract for the rebuilding of VIA's eight Chateau sleeping cars and four
Park sleeper-dome-lounge cars has been awarded to Avalon Rail, Inc., of
Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Avalon Rail specializes in remanufacturing passenger
rolling stock of all types. The company will use various Canadian engineering,
design and supply firms for a portion of the project. The cars will be
delivered in 2011.
Mr. Cote added, "Avalon Rail was selected for this demanding work through a
competitive bidding process based on numerous factors. These included price,
craftsmanship, a detailed knowledge of the equipment to be rebuilt and on-time
completion of previous projects."
"We are honoured to undertake this work for VIA," said June Garland, president
of Avalon Rail. "The Canadian is a living legend, offering thousands of
travellers from around the world the ultimate in safe, stylish and sustainable
rail travel every year for more than a half-century. I can think of no better
showcase for the skills of Avalon's dedicated craftspeople."
The work involved in the modernization and major upgrading of this classic
rolling stock is extensive. The eight Chateau sleeping cars will be
reconfigured with an all-new arrangement of six upscale cabins designed to
accommodate up to three passengers each.
Each sleeping cabin will be completely self-contained and will include an
en-suite washroom plus a separate shower. The new cabins will also feature
wood paneling, sofa seating, a widescreen television and controls to enable
passengers to raise or lower the beds whenever they desire. This elegant new
design has been selected to enable VIA's Canadian to attract the growing
clientele for more upscale travel experiences.
This program will also substantially increase the train's accessibility for
travellers with special needs. The four existing Park car bedrooms will be
replaced by two large upscale cabins. One will be identical to those in the
rebuilt Chateau sleeping cars. The other will be an extra-large,
fully-accessible cabin. It will provide separate, fully-accessible washroom
and shower facilities. Each Park car will also feature an onboard wheelchair
lift.

About Avalon Rail, Inc.

Based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Avalon Rail is renowned for the excellence of
its highly-specialized remanufacturing of vintage and contemporary passenger
rail rolling stock. The firm's skilled craftspeople have extensive experience
in renewing the sturdy and durable equipment produced from the 1930s to the
1980s by the Budd Company, the originator of stainless steel passenger rail
cars.

About VIA Rail Canada

As Canada's national rail passenger service, VIA Rail Canada's mandate is to
provide efficient, environmentally sustainable and cost-effective passenger
transportation, both in Canada's business corridor and in remote and rural
regions of the country. Every week, VIA operates 503 intercity,
transcontinental and regional trains linking 450 communities across its
12,500-kilometre route network. The demand for VIA services is growing as
travellers increasingly turn to train travel as a safe, hassle-free and
environmentally responsible alternative to congested roads and airports.

VIA's Stainless Steel Fleet Backgrounder


                                 Backgrounder

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    VIA'S STAINLESS STEEL FLEET
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The 174 cars in VIA's stainless steel fleet were primarily built for Canadian
Pacific (CP) in 1954-1955 by the Budd Company of Philadelphia, the world's
leading manufacturer of stainless steel rolling stock. These elegant and
robust cars were used to create CP's Canadian, the last all-new train of the
Art Moderne-influenced Streamlined Era. VIA bought this distinctive and
durable rolling stock when it took over the operation of the former CP
services in 1978.
Between 1990 and 1993, VIA completely rebuilt the CP cars, as well as some
additional Budd equipment acquired from the U.S. The cars were stripped to
their shells and fully remanufactured for greater efficiency and passenger
comfort at a fraction of the cost of new and unproven equipment. New interiors
and a head end power (HEP) system were installed to eliminate the obsolete
steam and battery-generator systems that previously provided lighting, heating
and air conditioning.
This $200 million project not only renewed the cars for another 15-20 years of
productive service on the Canadian and other long-haul and remote trains, but
reduced operating costs by more than $20 million annually. A subsequent HEP 2
program applied the same modernization techniques and systems to 33 Budd
stainless steel cars for use in the Quebec-Windsor Corridor.
As far back as the 1950s, Budd proudly proclaimed that not one piece of its
rolling stock had ever been retired because it had worn out. More than
half-a-century later, VIA's HEP 1 and 2 fleets reinforce that accurate.
SOURCE  VIA RAIL CANADA INC.

Elizabeth Huart, (514) 871-6119; Elizabeth_Huart@viarail.ca; Catherine
Kaloutsky; (416) 956-7683, Catherine_Kaloutsky@viarail.ca; June Garland,
Avalon Rail Inc., (414) 475-2155
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