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I could not help but appreciate all the Canadian scenery at my disposal. I was on one of the busiest commuter paths along the VIA Rail Canada route from Toronto to Ottawa. I sat in business class and enjoyed a sumptuous meal with wine, chocolates and the option of complete productivity. My seat was spacious and had access to electrical outlets and free Wi-Fi — if I chose to work. But I did not. Instead, I stared out into Lake Ontario and the numerous passing small towns between that floated by me.
While the bread and butter of VIA Rail are the commuters that trek between Montreal to Toronto, there is no shortage of passengers looking to take it slow. VIA Rail offers many scenic trips: Jasper to Rupert in the West; Winnipeg to Churchill in Manitoba; and Montreal to Halifax in the East, just to name a few, making it possible for agents to plan trips across Canada all the way from Vancouver to Halifax. Most of these overnight routes come with sleeper cars and have options for berth compartment travel (think the upper or lower half of a bunk bed) to cabins for families of up to four people — showers included. Beyond sleeper cars, VIA Rail also offers dining cars where travelers can enjoy fresh meals made onboard that can accommodate a variety of tastes and observation cars with domed roofs for starry nights.
According to VIA Rail, the most popular is the overnight trip is between Vancouver and Jasper. With economy prices starting around $267 in high season (June 1-Oct. 21) and VIA Rail’s Sleep Plus service, “Cabin for 1,” starting at $1,031, including applicable taxes. However, VIA Rail frequently has special fares available through their website.
Agents should know that VIA Rail is going through a massive, nearly billion-dollar, revitalization project, which includes a total makeover of Toronto’s Union Plaza and its underground network of shops and eateries. Part of the project is the new Panorama Lounge, a ground-level seating area for first-class and sleeper-class passengers. Relocated from its underground origins, the space offers priority boarding, complimentary Wi-Fi, juices, teas and coffee.
While the Union Station project will take up much of the funding, a number of other train stations across Canada will see upgrades, and a new third track is being built to allow speedy passenger trains around slower moving freight trains. Completion is expected in the spring of 2015.
VIA Rail Canada offers 5 percent commission to travel agents.