Our VIA Vignettes series tells the story of what VIA Rail means to Canadians, from the perspective of those who serve our passengers on-board trains, in stations, and in call centres and maintenance centres across the country.
The holidays are a special time for those of who work at VIA Rail. Unifor members on the railroads provide an important and indispensable service to the Canadian traveling public every day, all year round. No time of year highlights that more convincingly than the holidays. All of us have stories of making a little holiday magic happen to ensure our passengers have a happy and safe holiday with their families.
Amanda Dickie is a Service Manager based in Kjipuktuk (Halifax) Nova Scotia. She reflects upon the role that she and her colleagues provide to Maritimers around the holiday season:
I have worked with VIA Rail on its eastern long haul route The Ocean since 2016. Myself and my colleagues love our jobs and the services we are able to provide to the Maritimes.
Especially around the holidays, being a Service Manager in the East allows us to partake in many Canadian’s holiday joy by helping them reach family members and celebrations across different regions. We transport Grandparents to their Grandchildren, Uncles and Aunts to their Nieces and Nephews and provide a way for families to gather – without the railway this would simply not be possible. We get to be part of the Christmas Cheer for passengers, with our Service Attendants being able to provide small comforts and holiday cheer, such as handing out candy canes to kids, excited to see what Santa has in store for them.
VIA Rail provides an essential service to Canadians in the Maritimes to get together with one another to celebrate. Many of the regions we visit lack any form of public transportation, leaving Canadians without motor vehicles isolated from one another. Since the pandemic, air travel reductions in many areas of New Brunswick means that many cities no longer have direct flight access to their loved ones or larger medical facilities in Ontario or Halifax. We often service a more diverse population than commercial airlines, with a larger number of elderly passengers or passengers with accessibility needs for whom travel by bus or by air are simply not possible. Passengers who require the one-on-one services my crew provides. We are transporting people with care and compassion, our team always does their best to make the voyage enjoyable for everyone by going above and beyond.
Not to mention all our passengers who travel for medical reasons, to have access to care they desperately need. These Canadians have no access to the kinds of medical treatment they need in small rural areas. VIA Rail allows them to travel safely, comfortably and with dignity to their medical appointments. Ensuring they are happy and healthy enough to enjoy the holidays with their loved ones.
More than ever, Canadians need access to one another. We need a public national rail system for Canadians by Canadians to keep us united and connected.
It is time for the Federal government to invest in VIA Rail to meet the travel needs of Canadians coast-to-coast, in communities large-and-small.
Unifor’s Get Canada Back on Track campaign advocates for an expansion of publicly-owned passenger rail in Canada. The campaign stresses the need for an expansion of VIA Rail services from coast-to-coast, along with investments to replace VIA Rail’s aging long-distance fleet.