VIA Fare-for-All Plan

In 1977, six years after Amtrak began, the Canadian government created VIA, which like Amtrak is a supposedly independent corporation that actually depends heavily on government subsidies. VIA took over Canadian Pacific and Canadian National passenger trains, but not trains of smaller railroads such as the BC Railway or Ontario Northland. Prior to VIA, the government had given Canadian Pacific subsidies to operate passenger trains, and directed Canadian National–which at the time was half-owned by the Canadian government–to effectively cross-subsidize passenger trains with profits from freight trains.

Click image to download a 2.6-MB PDF of this brochure.

Prior to VIA, CP was a little more expensive than CN on most routes, which it could get away with because its trains were a little nicer. This brochure announced that the same fares would be applied to trips over either Canadian Pacific or Canadian National. The brochure also presented the VIA Pass, later known as the CanRailPass, which–like Amtrak’s USA Rail Pass–allowed people to ride as many trains as they liked within a fixed time period.

Shortly after this brochure was issued, I purchased a 22-day VIA Pass and a 30-day USA Rail Pass and rode almost every route in the Amtrak and VIA systems. I did the VIA portion first. I remember going from Victoria to Courtenay and back, then from Vancouver to Banff on CP tracks. I returned to someplace on the Fraser River, like Yale, where I crossed the river and caught a train on the CN route to Jasper, then took the train to Prince Rupert (though due to a landslide I only got as far as Smithers), then back to Jasper and continued east to Toronto. From there I rode quite a few eastern trains plus, at some point, took the train from Winnipeg to Churchill. I probably obtained this brochure in preparation for that trip.

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