link image


VIA Rail Reporting mark: VIA

By the 1960s both Canadian National (CN) and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) were eager to divest themselves of passenger rail service. With the growth of air travel and construction of super highways for long distance, transatlantic rail service was no longer an attractive option for most travellers. Both railways were losing money on passenger rail and wanted out.

Photo of VIA Engine
Photo: Ian Platt, 1989

In 1974 the federal government made a commitment to establish a national railway solely for passenger traffic. The name VIA (pronounced veeah) was chosen in 1976 and the railway went into service in 1978. VIA took over all the remaining CN and CPR passenger routes but not some of the smaller regional routes that were still in operation at the time.

Since VIA was not created by an act of parliament, which would have permitted it to seek additional funding and investment outside of the government, it has been the victim of poor funding and budget cuts, depending on the whims of the government in power. Between 1981 and 2007, VIA was subjected to four separate rounds of cuts. Overall the government's commitment to rail travel has varied between complete indifference to overt hostility. A portion of funding was restored in 2007 and again in 2009, but the railway still suffers from years of neglect.

Today VIA provides service to most major cities in Canada from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. Some routes, such as the popular Montreal - Toronto runs, operate several times a day. Others operate less frequently. The railway offers both regular and business class service, lounge, restaurant and panoramic dome cars.

VIA's strength lies in short intercity routes, where it remains an attractive alternative for interurban travel in more densely populated areas. It is here where passengers can enjoy a relaxing commute away from the headaches of rush hour highway travel. The railway has a reputation for providing high quality service. Online reservations can be made from the company's website.