Collective Against Empty Trains Fights VIA Rail Canada High Fares

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plangan107 plangan107's picture
Collective Against Empty Trains Fights VIA Rail Canada High Fares

The Collective Against Empty Trains has started a petition demanding VIA Rail Canada fares become more affordable to fill empty seats on VIA trains. Press Release (05/22/2018) - The Collective Against Empty Trains is a group of people from Quebec who are upset that VIA Rail trains are empty due to high fares.

The group has started an online petition to raise awareness of the issue and to get people actively involved in telling VIA Rail their high fares keep people from riding the trains.

The Collective gives one clear example of VIA trains running empty. They say a photo is worth a thousand words. The photo above taken aboard the Quebec City-Montreal Train 29 on April 23rd 2018 showing two "cars" (#5 and #6) which stayed entirely empty during the whole trip. Tickets for this train were going for 69$ (one way) at the time of its departure.

Collective spokesperson Greg Sadetsky states, "That one way Quebec City-Montreal fares should always be available until all seats sell out in the 20$ range. Such a price would most certainly fill a lot of the empty train seats that are a common sight today. We want Canadians to sign the petition."

Click HERE to sign the petition.

For more information go to the groups website or the french site

For all media requests contact Greg Sadetsky at 514 651 1545.

Sean in Ottawa

The issue is not just about high fares in my opinion -- there are two other issues:

1) Train fares are erratic. Some discounts so great that you could sit on a train beside soemone paying 5 times what you are paying. There is no fare stability and so you cannot trust VIA. If they put fares within a narrower band to make them more predicatble more could use the train. For example if they made the escape fare  that is limited and can be bought only on a Tuesday, the standard fare, they might fill the trains even without offering a bottom fare below what they already have. Everyone else offeres convenience and options for purchase while VIA says if you want a reasonable price you can only buy once a week. And they wonder why people take the less comfortable and slower bus -- even when it is more expensive than their lowest fare band (when you can find it).

2) The schedules are horrible with periods of the day not served. The train ought to be useful for one day excursions but with the last "evening train" leaving at 6 pm from many locations this is not possible. The bus (Greyhound) typically has buses at 8, 9, and midnight. This is significant as if you want to spend a day and an evening in Montreal, say, from Ottawa, you have to use the bus as there is not night train. It is also significant if you want to use rail to connect to work events.

3) The fare website search feature is so poor for finding available fares that often you have to call and have the people on the phone use their tools.

These go together. It is price unpredictability that has lost so many people that VIA has less ability to send trains out. But it is still stupid to have a train an hour all day and stop at 6pm. The same number of trains could go every two hours and provide service to more people and purposes.

For example -- if they dropped just two daytime trains going East during the day and put one leaving at 10 pm and another at midnight going to Kingston, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec city. The same going West leaving Quebec city at 10 and midnight (so Montreal at midnight and 2 am) -- they woudl open options for people who want evenings and avoid  accomodations. The Western end is already benefitting from Go trains going into Union station so service from a variety of points in Ontario would follow. -- With these at the lowest fares already being offered they could fill and be profitable.

It seems that the foundation of service for VIA is to avoid having people work overtime rather than deliver the trains people could use.

As it is, VIA cannot be relied on to give a predictable fare or workable travel times.

If they did this then they might bring in enough people to run more full trains and be able to compete with lower overall fares.

Put simply the marketing, pricing and service of VIA is completely out-of-touch with what people want and need.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..oops! wrong thread


But very interesting subject! I'll send this to Québec solidaire - Françoise David almost always commuted by rail.


Not to defend all of Via's scheduling decisions, but a lot of them are forced upon Via by infrastructure limitations. Via trains run on privatized freight rail lines, many of them single-track for huge stretches, even along the Windsor-Québec City corridor. Last time I took the train, to Ottawa for the federal NDP convention in February, we were doing 150kph for big chunks of the trip, but also had to pull onto a siding and wait 20 minutes in a tiny farm town so a freight train going the opposite direction could pass. The freight railways, meanwhile, have completely different priorities than passenger rail does. If they're deferential to any pressure, it's to run trains at off-hours through major cities so as not to block level crossings during peak periods.

The point about fares is completely, er, fair. A government willing to invest more in Via would make a difference. How big a difference it would be would depend on how much money could be put into the actual track on the ground. A lot of the biggest delays are from (sensible) speed limits in urban areas, which would require fairly massive spending to improve. The train from Montréal to Québec City, for example, spends about 45 minutes of its 3.5-hour run getting from Sainte-Foy (an amalgamated former suburb) to downtown Québec. Speeding that last bit up significantly would require either bulldozing a corridor through a lot of historic buildings, or digging a billion dollars worth of tunnel.


VIA is cheaper than the bus out west. It is the best option. The real problem is what had already been mentioned- schedules and delays. Also I just read that their ridership is up by a quarter in the past year.