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

MONTREAL, Oct. 30 /CNW Telbec/ - 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 Côté.

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. Côté 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



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 claim.

SOURCE VIA Rail Canada Inc.

For further information: For further information: Elizabeth Huart, (514) 871-6119;; Catherine Kaloutsky; (416) 956-7683,; June Garland, Avalon Rail Inc., (414) 475-2155

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