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Few people have probably traveled on both Amtrak and Via Rail Canada, but for any who have, how does Via Rail Canada compare? I have ridden on Amtrak and was under-impressed with the service, but am curious about how comfortable Via Rail Canada is for cross country travel.
Really hard to say, as everyone has different experiences. I've personally never found VIA to be anything but excellent, clean, on time, and with friendly service. It is also bilingual, if that suits your fancy. The train is "fast" as far as North American trains go. It also doesn't compete with nearly as many railways for track time as Amtrak, which is Amtraks main problem with being late. It also depends on what route. For commuter stuff, I would say they are probably even.
If we're talking cross country......landscapes aside, The Canadian takes the cake, by far. It is a land cruise and has almost nothing to do with the destination. The whole trip is about the train ride.
Onboard the Canadian, a cabin for 1 is going to run you $2,324.41, Toronto to Vancouver. An upper berth alone runs $1,079.15.
Onboard the Zephyr, a superliner roomette is going to run you $764.00 even, Chicago to San Francisco (EMY)
If I'd rather just sleep in a seat on the Canadian, it will cost $623.76. On the Zephyr....$202 for a coach seat.
If I want to take a quality train ride, thru a beautiful country, I will take the Zephyr. If I want to take a land cruise thru a beautiful country, I will take the Canadian. The Canadian is probably the very last, true, trans-continental passenger train in North America.
Not just France, German, Spain, China, Japan. All light years ahead of us.
North American trains are more of a joke. Via feels like a train from 1985 China.
I have taken high speed trains from The Netherlands, from France, and from Germany. I have also taken the slower trains which still run all over Europe. I have friends that travelled in China in the 1980's and remember hearing about " soft seat " class. They think your comparison is off base.
I also used to work on Via Rail in the early 1980's for a couple of years. I love trains.
In Canada the cost of building a TGV style train is astronomical when compared to the numbers of people who would use it. Being the second largest country in the world with only 35 million people is not the same as having over 300 million people in a smaller area than what is Canada.
We fly instead. The trains, except for a few runs such as Toronto to Montreal are not used for commuting. They are tourist trains for the most part. It would be great though to see some runs, like Toronto to Montreal get a high speed train, but again it is the cost that has probably prevented that.
The question is about trans-continental railways, Amtrak and Via, so going a bit off topic let's look at transcontinental service in Europe. Except for perhaps the Orient Express luxury train, you can not stay on one train to cross it. I took a trip a couple of years ago and went from Venice to Amsterdam. To achieve this I had to change in Milan, and Bern, and Paris all in the same day. Three different train companies. You do have to change trains on Via as well, but it over a much longer period of time. Winnipeg to Vancouver is two nights.
For just getting from point A to B, yes high speed trains are superior. That's a given.
The first class TGV or Thaly's service is NOTHING like Sleeper Class on Via. TGV and Thaly's serve airline type pre-made meals to your seat. On Via you can sit in a dining car where the food was prepared from scratch using real chefs. The snack car, or Skyline Cars, are just average everday snacks though...like everywhere.
A better comparison is to compare Via type trains to similar " milk-run " trains in Europe. I have done several overnight sleeper car service in Europe. None, not one stands up to the quality you get on Via. Not in service, food, beds, etc. In fact they usually have food on a trolley ( if you can call if food, mostly packaged snacks) or a snack bar car that microwaves your meal.
The german high speed train did have a dining car which I ate in. Again, not freshly made, but airline type of food.
Comparing a Via rail trip from Toronto to Montreal, which I have also done, is comparable to a milk-run type train in Europe, but overnight service is not.
It would be wonderful to have modern high speed trans Canada train service and keep the food and dining car experience up there, however who will pay for it?
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