The first thing I can say about the train is that it is pretty empty. I mean, I’ve taken this train before and I’d never say that I’d seen it busy, but seriously, this is ridiculous. The staff tell me it’s just because early december is a slow time. But I think the sheer cost of a regular fare ticket is the real culprit – express deals prices (about 75% off) were available for this train at some times, but they disappeared from the website weeks before the trip date.
The bartender told me that this train actually breaks even, or sometimes makes money in the summertime because of the huge influx of tourists, whereas in the Winter the train is used primarily by Canadians. I think this is telling – tourists are willing to pay the full ticket prices because it’s a once in a lifetime experience. But Canadians can’t afford a once in a lifetime experience every time they need to get around, so the train remains because of pricing mostly a tourist destination, and less a serious form of transportation.
Moving forward I’d like to see rail travel become a serious alternative to flying – as people begin to realize how unsustainable commercial air travel is, and perhaps how unsustainable also are their high paced lifestyles which require dashing across thousands of kilometres in hours rather than days. I don’t mean to say that today the train is a particularly green option – it runs on diesel, and from what I’ve been told it uses quite a bit of diesel to pull a relatively small number of people across the country. But, unlike planes, buses and automobiles, it is a live option that the train could be electrified and run on renewable, carbon neutral sources of energy.