March 1 2013 by Bryson Forbes
A friend of mine asked me this week about arranging a trip to Montreal this summer and whether it made sense to take the train. My initial reaction was no, but it really got me thinking and I have to admit I have really changed my tune.
Admittedly my default answer is to fly and if that isn't option than I guess we are driving. The train hasn't traditionally been on my radar screen.
I took some time this week to check out VIA Rail and I was very impressed. Immediately upon arrival on the homepage, the tag line "a more human way to travel" hits you like a brick. With images still fresh in my mind from the disgruntled air travellers at Pearson airport in Toronto literally chanting in unison in the aftermath of a massive snowstorm and resulting airport chaos, the slogan landed with a little extra emphasis.
Is the train in fact a "human" way to travel than flying?
Let's evaluate shall we. For starters the first obstacle is time. The train is much slower than flying, a train will travel approximately 100 miles per hour while a commercial aircraft will hit between 500 and 600 miles per hour. However the overall process can mitigate a lot of that time. For a domestic flight to Montreal from Toronto, the airlines recommend you arrive to check in at least 90 minutes prior to departure, the flight if on time takes roughly one hour and getting off the plane, getting your bag and heading to the city centre is at least another hour. If everything is running as it should, that's three and half-hours. Taking the train requires you to arrive at least 5 minutes before the train leaves the station, but for this analysis let's be prudent and arrive 30 minutes early. The express train from Toronto to Montreal takes four and a half hours. Upon arrival you are literally downtown. All told, the train took five hours. 90 minutes more than the flight.
Next factor is reliability. There are so many more issues with that can impede the flying process than the train, security, baggage and weather to name only a few. For business travelers that need to be at their destination at a certain time, the train provides less stress.
Another benefit of the train is reliable and free Wi-Fi. VIA Rail trains are all equipped with wireless that allows those four and half hours to Montreal to be productive. Your time in comparison at the airport, on the plane and in a cab into the city when you fly is infinitely less useful.
The last factor we will evaluate today is price. It is always tough because like most things in travel, price is a moving target. However VIA Rail have a number of different fare classes, options and bundles and the price to take the train will be more predictable and should be more affordable, especially without the number taxes and surcharges that flyers absorb.
Overall, I think the tag line is appropriate and VIA Rail is a great option as we start planning our travel spring and summer. My buddy already booked his ticket with VIA Rail.
How do you feel about travelling by train?