Extra Trains for the Holidays

A young girl looking out the window of a train, passing by a coastal scene with snow in the air. Text reads The Ocean.
A Christmas present from VIA! Extra trains will once again run between Halifax and Montreal for the holiday season.

Good news for holiday travellers in Atlantic Canada: VIA Rail has announced that they will once again be running extra departures of The Ocean over the upcoming holiday season. Although a trial-run last year did not bring in as many passengers as VIA had hoped, the railway continues to believe that there is potential for extra ridership over the busy weeks around Christmas, as many people travel to spend time with their families.

As they did last year, VIA has added three extra round-trips into the schedule over a roughly two-week period, meaning there will be a total of 24 departures (12 in each direction) from Dec. 16th and Jan. 3rd, an increase of 6 total departures. It seems VIA is working to learn from the mistakes they made last year. This year’s trains have been added to the schedule earlier, and there is already promotion of the extra trains on the VIA website. How extensively they will advertise these trains remains to be seen. One thing is for sure: if we want to encourage VIA to continue running extra trains during the holidays and consider adding additional frequencies at other times of the year, these trains will need to be well used!

The Ocean normally runs between Halifax and Montreal on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday in each direction. Because Christmas Day falls on a Friday, there will be no train that day in either direction. Instead, that trip will be rescheduled to a non-normal day of the week, meaning there will effectively be 4 unusual departures in each direction, even though only 3 of those are truly “extra” trains.

Here is the schedule of additional departures:

VIA 14 (Montreal-Halifax)

Monday Dec. 21
Tuesday Dec. 22
Monday Dec. 28**
Tuesday Dec. 29

VIA 15 (Halifax-Montreal)

Tuesday Dec. 22
Monday Dec. 28**
Tuesday Dec. 29
Saturday Jan. 2

**The starred trains are re-scheduled trains from Christmas Day.

The normal Sunday/Wednesday/Friday departures of both #14 and #15 will operate as usual in addition to the trains above, with the exception of Christmas Day.

Unlike last year, not all of the extra trains will be running with Budd-built Stainless-Steel “HEP” equipment. One set of HEP equipment (including a Skyline dome, full diner and Chateau sleepers with additional sleeping accommodations) will be in service, but will only be running on two of the extra departures in each direction (unlike last year, when it was used for all 3). The HEP equipment will be used on #14 on Dec. 22 and 29th, and on #15 on Dec. 28 and Jan. 2.

The type of equipment can be easily ascertained by looking at the online reservation system. When booking for a particular date, look at the drop-down list of accommodations: if options including “upper berth”, “Cabin for 1” and “Cabin for 3” appear, the equipment is HEP. If only “Cabin for 2” and “Cabin for 2 with shower” appear, it is the usual Renaissance equipment.

As an extra incentive, there is currently a sale on Sleeper Plus class tickets for the Ocean. Passengers can save 25% off the best available fare (i.e. a normally discounted fare, if available, would be reduced by a further 25%) for travel up to Feb. 29th, if booked by October 18th. This includes the extra trains over the holidays, so though it may be a bit early for some, it is a great chance to take advantage of reduced fares for those trips.

 

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