Via Rail's silence on 22-hour delay angers passengers on Edmonton-Vancouver run

For five years Tracy Goodwin planned to ride Via Rail through the Rocky Mountains from Edmonton to Vancouver.

'The staff don't even have any sort of information. They don't have anything to work with'

Tracy Goodwin said once the Via Rail train departed Edmonton, the trip through the Rockies was an excellent experience. (Tracy Goodwin)

For five years Tracy Goodwin planned to ride Via Rail through the Rocky Mountains from Edmonton to Vancouver.

"I've taken the train through India, Thailand, all through Europe the United States," Goodwin said.

"I love traveling by train and that's why I wanted to do this trip so much because I wanted to go through the Rockies during daylight to appreciate how beautiful our country is."

Finally, the day came.

Last Friday, she and husband Peter Shepherd arrived at the train station in Edmonton for their 7:37 a.m. departure. 

"We walked in and there was a handwritten sign that said the train was over 12 hours late," Goodwin said.

But nobody would tell them why. And later they would learn the new departure time was wildly optimistic.

'I felt really bad for the staff'

"The staff don't even have any sort of information. They don't have anything to work with," Goodwin said.
Tracy Goodwin and husband Peter Shepherd ride the rails to Vancouver. (Tracy Goodwin)

"In the end it was one of the passengers who had better information than the staff." 

It turned out the train, coming from Winnipeg, was delayed by a train derailment near Wainwright. 

Goodwin scooped up the cab and restaurant vouchers from Via and went to check out a museum and West Edmonton Mall to pass the time, but other passengers weren't so lucky, she said.

"There were people there in their 80s sitting there waiting for the entire time."

Tempers flared further when the 12-hour delay grew beyond 20 hours. 

"I felt really bad for the staff, because they were taking the brunt of everyone being upset about this," Goodwin said.

'Delayed and screwed up'

Eventually the train departed Saturday morning at 5:30 a.m. 

The 25-hour train ride, which cost the couple $1,453, turned out to be a great experience and the service and food was excellent, Goodwin said.

Still, she's not sure she'd ever do it again. 
Some people spent the 22-hour wait in the station, Goodwin said. (Tracy Goodwin)

"I don't know how you could go on a train and expect to lose that much time in your life. It's not, like, normal.

"If a European came to travel on that train trip and had a 22-hour delay, do you think that they would think we were high tech?"

The altered schedule also changed the trip itself, she said.

"They pulled into stations that we were supposed to be able to get out and see part of the town, but they were pulling in the middle of the night because they're so delayed and screwed up." 

Via Rail said this type of delay is beyond its control.

"Via Rail operates on a rail network which is mostly owned and operated by freight railways and shares the infrastructure with freight trains," the company said in a statement late Tuesday.

The company said it works continuously with the railways to improve the efficiency and on-time performance of its service.

"Furthermore, over the last few years, we have revised our maintenance processes in order to allow a late-arriving train to be turned around faster and depart at the scheduled time," Via Rail said.

"We are constantly re-evaluating our practices and procedures in order to ensure that our equipment is ready before each departure."