VIA Rail : The Better Way ?

VIA Rail : The Better Way

An Open Letter to the Chairman of Via Rail, Donald Wright

I have noted a TV ad campaign that argues that customers should not be squished, squashed and squeezed. VIA is the better way to travel. And during the winter time especially in the Quebec-Toronto-Windsor corridor I would tend to agree. However, VIA Rail has some problems such that it is becoming the Better-improve-our-Service way. Specifically, your ticket kiosks and some of your ticketing agents are leaving a lot to be desired.

Within the past few months I have had more problems getting tickets on VIA from both auotomatic ticket kiosks and ticket agents. This is the last thing a “better way”service wants to do: irritate and aggravate its customers right at the point of take-off.

Take for example a recent situation at Toronto’s Union Station. I arrive 15 minutes ahead of time and I consider going to the ticket kiosk .. I slow up to contemplate the trade-offs. I have only used the kiosk machines successfully 3-4 out of 7-10 times. 50-50 chance; so I go to the eastern set of ticket booths. The line-up of 3(just gotten longer) is the same as the western set of booths. There are two ticket agents working and two standing and talking but they may open up at anytime (see screenshot at left).

Unfortunate choice because both customers are are taking 3-5 minutes to get their tickets.

Not to worry there is another ticket agent coming.

Oops she has to chat with her 2 chit-chatting colleagues. Delay of game.

Okay now our replacement gal parades up and down the 5-6 empty ticket booths – apparently trying to decide which is best for her. Meanwhile our line-up has gone from 3 to 6 people waiting. More delay of game.

Finally one customer to get served, one more in front of me.

But now our replacement gal has to chat again (see picture to left). More delay of game.

Finally I will be next in line – but our eager-to-serve-you gal is still getting ready to serve.

So with 4-5 minutes until train departure, I switch tacks – and rush past 7 waiting customers over to the ticket kiosk. I get through the 15-18 input screens as fast as I can. Now its ready to take my Mastercard. I swipe it- but its as if the ticket kiosk takes a cue from the Eager to Serve VIA ticket agents – sideswiped! The ticket kiosk has booted me back to the very start of the sequence.

Needless to say I did not make the VIA train.

However, 10 minutes after my trains had departed I did find the two ticket agents still chatting away – and of course the wicket was still closed (see screenshot to left).

Now M. Chariman, tell me again why Via Rail is the better way? I think rather VIA is the better-be-improved way. And there is lots of room for improvement, and I have not said a peep about on-time service.

I shall keep readers updated on the improvements in ticket kiosk functioning and ticket agent service, if any, from time to time.

  2 comments for “VIA Rail : The Better Way ?

  1. Rusty
    April 9, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    Happened to me tooo … why post the ticket machines if they don’t work???

  2. Gary Gallant
    November 18, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    I thought that it was just me having problems using the kiosks at Union Station for the past year or so…. the ones at other locations seem to work however, including Oakville.

    Overall, most of the VIA staff are pretty good, especially those on board the trains. In the stations though, they sure don’t move too fast, but I would say that they are on average better than Air Canada (again, I would say that the Air Canada employees in the air are mostly good, the problem is the extreme slowness in the airports, and the fact that they spend so much time talking to each other and complaining rather than servicing the customers).

    VIA still is the better way versus flying, though for sure providing some incentive for those employees who do work hard would go a long way to making it better for all.

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