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VIA Rail Improves Canadian Schedule—Sort Of

VIA #1, The Canadian is led by newly rebuilt F40PH 6434 near Jasper, Alberta photo by Timothy Stevens via Wikimedia Commons VIA #1, The Canadian is led by newly rebuilt F40PH 6434 near Jasper, Alberta photo by Timothy Stevens via Wikimedia Commons

Starting next April 29, VIA rail will make two major changes to the Canadian, the line’s four-night land cruise that travels across the country between Toronto and Vancouver:

  • The new schedules will provide for daylight travel through the train’s most scenic corridor, between Hinton, near the eastern border of Jasper National Park, and Kamloops, west of the high Rockies.
  • VIA will no longer run three weekly trains between Toronto and Vancouver for the peak summer season. Instead, it will run only two over the full route and add a third operating just between Edmonton and Vancouver.

Earlier this year, VIA was forced to pad the traditional schedule, because the Canadian National Railway could not keep it even close to meeting the timetable. The traditional schedule offered reasonably good daylight travel through the best mountain scenery, but the new padded schedule virtually eliminated the top mountain scenery. The new schedule returns to top daylight viewing.

The “sort of” modifier reflects the fact that the new schedule will cause a major headache for travelers who want to travel westward from Edmonton: Departures will be between 2:07 and 3:07 am, and as far as I can tell, the layover at Edmonton will not be long enough to let people on the train by late evening. Folks traveling eastbound have an easier time: arriving Edmonton in the early evening.

Unlike Amtrak, with its mandate to freight lines to give passenger trains priority over freights, VIA Rail has to make to with whatever priorities CN is willing to offer. And the mostly single-track line is very busy. All in all, the new schedule will be an improvement. But it’s a long way from ideal.

Ed Perkins, editor

For more travel tips from Ed Perkins, see our companion site Ed on Travel

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