All Aboard,Canada Train Travel

VIA Rail—Canada
with the exception of a few Amtrak routes, rail service in Canada is operated by VIA Rail, the Canadian national rail carrier. Most VIA Rail trains are wheelchair-accessible, except for some trains running between London and Sarina, Ontario. Accessibility varies throughout the system and depends on the specific route and equipment. The most accessible VIA Rail passenger coaches are the LRC VIA 1 first-class coaches. Each first-class coach has wheelchair tie downs and an accessible bathroom. The accessible bathroom has grab bars and a sliding door with an entry width of 35 inches. Some standard coach cars also come equipped with tie-downs and an accessible bathroom. The major difference between these two types of coach cars is the door width between the cars. On the LRC VIA 1 first-class cars, the width is 28 inches, whereas on the standard coach cars it is only 25 inches. The standard VIA Rail coach cars come equipped with reduce-a-width tools, which are used to help manual wheelchairs fit through the smaller doorways. VIA Rail’s Renaissance rail cars also offer a high degree of access. Designed in the 1990s, these cars were built to offer fast overnight train service between France and England. VIA Rail purchased them in 2000, and refurbished them to include accessible features. VIA Rail added an accessible suite with wide doors and a wheelchair tie-down in each Renaissance service car, modified the economy washrooms, installed companion seats for the economy-class wheelchair tie-down spaces, and added more moveable armrests to the economy-class cars. These accessible Renaissance cars are used on the overnight train between Montreal and Toronto, on all trains between Montreal and Quebec City, and on certain trains between Montreal and Ottawa and Montreal and Halifax. Most VIA Rail stations do not have raised boarding platforms, so wheelchair-users are boarded either with the use of a station lift or with the help of VIA Rail personnel. On some routes, passengers must provide their own boarding assistance. Contact VIA Rail in advance to find out if boarding assistance is available on a particular route. VIA Rail uses a Washington Chair to board wheelchair-users who cannot stay in their own wheelchairs. This narrow chair has no arms and small wheels and is very similar to the aisle chairs used on airplanes. Wheelers are transferred to the Washington Chair for boarding, and then transferred to their seat. Once on board the train, wheelchair-users must use the Washington Chair to move about the train or to use the bathroom. VIA Rail personnel are available to assist passengers with the Washington Chair en route. Folding manual wheelchairs can be stored in the coach cars. VIA Rail also accepts wheelchairs as checked baggage, as long as the owner travels by rail in at least one direction. In most cases, power wheelchairs cannot exceed 150 pounds, be wider than 32 inches, or longer or higher than 72 inches. In some cases, VIA Rail will accept power wheelchairs as baggage if the total weight does not exceed 250 pounds. This applies only as long as the origination and destination stations have the proper facilities to load and unload them. Check with VIA Rail in advance for specifics on station equipment. On transcontinental trains, passengers who cannot access the dining car or snack counters may have their meals served in their compartment. Make sure to inform a VIA Rail employee if you require this service. Some VIA Rail sleeping cars can also accommodate stretchers. A minimum of 48 hours advance notice is required for stretcher travel. Passengers who use therapeutic oxygen are allowed to bring their own equipment aboard, but they must give VIA Rail 48 hours advance notice. VIA Rail can provide voltage regulators on certain trains, but passengers are required to provide adequate battery backup for their equipment. Advance notice (usually 48 hours) is required for accessible services on VIA Rail. Passengers must be able to attend to their own personal needs for the duration of the trip. VIA Rail employees are not required to assist passengers with eating, medical, or personal hygiene tasks. Passengers who cannot attend to their own personal care must be accompanied by an escort. VIA Rail provides free economy-class passage to required escorts. For more information on VIA Rail service, call (888) 842-7245 or visit