Canadian Rockies by Train - review
CANADIAN ROCKIES BY VIA RAIL - Problems that can occur
Re: VIA Rail trip 1-4 August 2006
A letter to VIA RAIL sent 15 August 2006 to which there has
been no reply as yet (7October 2006):
My wife and I took our two grandchildren on this Toronto-Vancouver
trip at a cost of $5,734.60 to see the Rockies for a, "once-in-a-lifetime"
trip. Much to our disappointment, this certainly turned out to be the case
but in a way that was very different than we expected when we obtained VIA
information on your website.
After some delay leaving Toronto, we had a long stop due to
an accident shortly out of Toronto that resulted in our being considerably
behind schedule. We did not realize, nor did we notice anything in your
trip information, that freight trains have a priority over passenger trains
that resulted in constant stops (even backing up various times) and made
it impossible to make up any time. As a result, we had no stops in daytime
when we could do anything before Jasper. Our grandchildren were unable to
leave the train at any point to do anything except briefly stretch their
legs. Things they had planned to do were not possible. For example, one
had arranged to send a friend postcards from each province but she was unable
to do this anywhere until we arrived in Vancouver.
We arrived in Jasper in the dark and, therefore our trip -
taken for the purpose of seeing the Rockies - continued through the Rockies
in the dark. In Jasper, I spent my time rushing around trying to get help
in contacting our pick up in Victoria to tell them we would be delayed and
when we would arrive. Staff on the train offered no help and suggested I
phone from Jasper but no one could tell me when we would arrive.
When we woke up in Kamloops, we were told at breakfast that
derailments on both CN and CP tracks would require taking a bus to Vancouver.
This meant that seeing the Fraser Valley (a second choice for us but at
least something worthwhile to see) was now a miss as well as the Rockies.
There were again no facilities to phone Victoria to notify people of the
further delay in our arrival (and no stops to do it on the way to Vancouver).
We had to wait all morning till past noon for the buses to
come. We were in an isolated industrial area with no facilities. No one
did anything about food although the kitchen staff could certainly have
provided it. When we walked our grandchildren to the train engines for a
picture, someone told us to go back because we were in a dangerous, industrial
area (there were no people, except for those on the train, in sight and
certainly no activity). We were put on the bus about 1:00PM without any
lunch although we were given lunch tickets at breakfast. On the bus they
had water, some pop and some cookies/crackers. We were driven to Vancouver
without any stops for food or bathroom breaks (there was a toilet on the
bus but the smell that spread into the nearby passenger area got worse and
worse as the trip progressed). Upon arrival, about 7:00PM, we just made
a later ferry to get to Victoria. We finally were able to eat on the ferry
at about 9:00 PM having had nothing since breakfast! Also, of course, our
planned ferry trip to see Bald Eagles and look for whales with the grandchildren
was ruined because of darkness.
We rested for one day and then took our charter flights back
home. In Vancouver, we were handed a letter when we got off the bus from
Mr. James Kleiner, Director Customer Experience - Customer West. He indicated
that he trusted, "we have your understanding that this was a situation
beyond VIA Rail's control." He further indicated that VIA Rail would
refund a portion of our Silver and Blue ticket fare.
Neither Mr. Kleiner nor VIA have my understanding that this
was a situation beyond VIA Rail's control in all respects. I want to assure
you that all of these events were certainly beyond my control in spite of
paying an amount for a 3-day trip that was considerably beyond what other
trips we were considering would cost for this time period - but this was,
as your website states, "the trip of a lifetime."
You will also appreciate that the price for this trip was
paid almost completely with the objective of seeing the Canadian highlights
that come after Jasper - especially with no stops before to do anything
with our grandchildren.
As a Canadian, I was embarrassed to see what can happen on
Canadian rail lines given the number of passengers from places like Europe
where rail service is reasonably reliable in our experience.
In an effort to help others, who may be considering this trip,
I have prepared a note on our experiences to put on my website so people
searching for information on this trip can learn of some of the risks they
will be taking and some of the less than Silver and Blue service levels
they might expect when things go wrong. I will wait to post this until I
get your reply so that I can include what VIA does for passengers when this
I suggest further, that your own website should be upgraded
to include information about the risks that things can go wrong, the fact
that passenger trains come second after freight trains in Canada, the fact
that most stops are in places with no access to towns and have little (often
I would like to request that you provide us with a full refund
of the cost of our VIA fares (we still have return flights, ferry and other
costs) given this trip was not only a disappointment but extremely frustrating
from almost the beginning.
Encl. Copy of tickets and copy of letter from James Kleiner
Selected statements from your website that led us to decide
to take this Rockies trip
(and our comments):
Follow the links below to plan all aspects of your Canadian
train trip, and get ready for the journey of a lifetime!
superb meals and impeccable service aboard the Canadian
(no meals from 7 in the morning till approx. 7 at night in Vancouver if
we had been able to stop and eat there and none until 9:00PM for us!!)
Can there be a better way to see the Canadian Rockies? Bring
your camera and take home some dazzling souvenirs. Even amateur photographers
can't help but come away with masterpieces, especially when the train slows
down for photo opportunities.
(what Rockies and photo opportunities?)
Take afternoon tea in the middle of Jasper National Park amid
the spectacular scenery of the Canadian Rockies.
(not for us)
you arrive in Winnipeg on Wednesday afternoon, Jasper on Thursday
afternoon, and Vancouver on Friday morning.
(not even close)
View our photos of the stunning Canadian Rockies and the Pacific region.
(obviously there is no need to reproduce here the wonderful photos of the
train in the Rockies and the mountains that appear on your site. We certainly
had no information about risks that could prevent enjoying this journey
of a lifetime experience.)
Other stops include Sudbury Junction, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Jasper
and Kamloops. (we saw nothing to tell us the few stops we had in the day
time would be outside these places where there were usually no stores, kiosks,
washrooms or ever telephones so we could notify our pick up from the ferry
of the delay)
to the sparkling Pacific Coast of British Columbia.
(we essentially saw nothing after Jasper, our treatment was deplorable for
us as adults and our grandchildren were subjected to this inexcusable treatment)