Wednesday 15 May 2024

VIA Venture: The new generation of VIA Rail Corridor trains

 Meet VIA's New Fleet: The Siemens Venture

A Siemens Venture set, with cab car 2305 leading, prepares to depart Drummondville in December 2023.

In much of the world, the arrival of new trains is a semi-regular occurrence. Much like other forms of transportation (airlines, buses, transit systems), lifecycle replacement tends to happen on a reasonable timeframe. For VIA Rail Canada, however, buying anything new has been a rare occurrence. Thanks to the whims of government funding, the Crown Corporation has long had to make do with second hand equipment, extensively rebuilt over and over again to keep running into the modern era. The last truly new purpose built passenger cars for VIA (also, funnily enough, the first after the Crown corporation formed) were the LRCs, delivered to VIA in the 1980s. The 1990s-built second-hand Renaissance fleet are technically the newest on the roster (with the exception of the 3 unique ex-BC Rail “Panorama” cars), but those were built for service in the UK and Europe, and despite extensive work to modify them and keep them operating, they have always struggled to adapt to the Canadian operating environment.

So it was an incredibly exciting event when VIA was given the go ahead and funding to buy an entirely new fleet of trains in 2018. After a competitive procurement process with bids from three manufacturers (Siemens, Bombardier, and Stadler), VIA Rail placed an order for 32 brand new bidirectional trainsets from Siemens in late 2018. Siemens is rapidly becoming the leading manufacturer of intercity passenger rail equipment in North America. Their Cummins-powered “Charger” locomotive has been in use with Amtrak and several commuter operators in the US, and are also on order for Montreal’s Exo. The Siemens intercity passenger car platform, dubbed “Venture”, was first developed for Florida’s Brightline service. Derived from Siemens’ European “Railjet” trains and redesigned to meet North American standards, these passenger cars feature a stainless steel carbody, a host of modern design elements, and a number of flexible options for car layouts, including cab cars for bidirectional operation. They can also be ordered as single cars, married pairs, or full semi-permanently coupled trainsets.

Venture trains have been built for Brightline, Amtrak Midwest, Caltrans, and now VIA. Amtrak has ordered a huge fleet of Venture-based trainsets (dubbed “Airo”) to replace their Amfleet I fleet as well as the Horizons and Talgos used on the Amtrak Cascades. Ontario Northland has also ordered three Venture sets, tacked on to the end of the VIA production line, for use on the restored Northlander passenger service. In the next several years, a huge percentage of short to medium distance intercity train travel in North America will use Siemens Venture trains.

When the full fleet is delivered, the Venture sets will replace everything operating in the Quebec City – Windsor Corridor, including the LRC, HEP2, and Renaissance fleets, as well as the P42 locomotives and the group of F40s currently assigned to the Corridor. When fully in service, this will offer (for the first time ever!) a uniform train experience across all VIA trains in the Corridor. While this will mean less variety for railfans, it will mean a much more consistent product for the travelling public.

A sign of things to come! Promos for the new fleet in Montreal.

VIA Rail’s Venture sets are being delivered in fixed 5-car semi-permanently coupled trainsets. In theory, these can be rearranged in the future to make up different length sets (3 and 7 car sets were proposed in VIA’s original planning presentations). Having these sets semi-permanently coupled makes for a smoother ride, with less slack between cars, and also allows for a wide, well-sealed, seamless connection between cars. Interestingly, VIA has even opted to have the locomotives semi-permanently coupled to the trainsets, though they have a standard knuckle coupler on the front end for emergency rescues or combining sets into J-trains. While this semi-permanent arrangement limits some flexibility in quickly adding or removing cars, VIA has already been functionally operating on a trainset basis for some time now, generally keeping the same sets of LRC or HEP equipment together for Corridor operations.

The base trainset is made up of:

2200 Series - SCV-42 Locomotive

2600 Series - Car 1 - Venture Business Class (41 seats plus 2 accessible spaces. Single large washroom)

2700 Series - Car 2 - Venture Business Class (46 seats plus 1 accessible space. Two small washrooms)

2900 Series - Car 3 - Venture Economy Class (66 seats plus 1 accessible space. Accessible washroom and galley)

2800 Series - Car 4 - Venture Economy Class (62 seats plus 2 accessible spaces. Two washrooms, one accessible one small)

2300 Series - Car 5 - Venture Economy Class Cab Car (62 seats. Small washroom and galley)

Each Business class car has a full galley that can prepare the Business class meal service. Cars 3 and 5 have small galleys that can supply the car service for Economy class passengers. With the ease of moving around on these trains, there is less of a need than ever to have a galley and cart restocking facility in each car.

Galley in a Business class (2600 series) car.

Small galley in a 2300-series cab car. Note the sliding glass doors, with large VIA branding on the glass.

The first Venture set was delivered to VIA in September 2021, and underwent an extensive testing period, notably during the winter to ensure the train could withstand the brutal Canadian conditions. A second set was delivered in 2022, and then really started to ramp up in 2023. The first revenue service began in late 2022, with once a week operation between Montreal and Ottawa. This slowly expanded in early 2023, and by mid-way through the year VIA had placed several sets in revenue operation. As of the time of writing this post, VIA’s 16th set has been delivered (marking the official half way point for fleet delivery!), and a steadily increasing number of the sets are in regular revenue service. Nearly all trains between Quebec, Montreal and Ottawa are now running with Ventures (set to be 100% as of May 27, 2024), and a few Ottawa-Toronto and Montreal-Toronto trains are using them as well. Service introduction into Southwestern Ontario seems to be planned for later this year, and the full fleet is expected to be delivered by the fall of 2025.  

Eric Gagnon has been keeping an updated listing of Venture delivery status on his Trackside Treasure post here, and I’d encourage you to check that out for a more comprehensive tracking.

I had a chance to get a first look inside a Venture train in January 2023. I was in Montreal and was lucky enough to be able to arrange a visit on a Tuesday morning when a revenue run was set to go out to Ottawa and back. I wasn’t able to spare time for a ride, but a contact at VIA arranged for a quick tour. I was quite impressed, and left very excited to actually ride a train in service.

My first look at a SCV-42, and a Venture train in person! At Montreal's Gare Centrale in January 2023, about to depart on its once a week revenue round trip to Ottawa.

A look inside the cab of VIA SCV-42 2202.

It would be about 11 months later when I finally made my first Venture trip, in December 2023. Once again finding myself in Montreal for work, I managed to find some free time to make a quick round trip to Drummondville and back. A week later, I made another trip on a Venture from Montreal to Ottawa, as recounted near the end of this post. More recently, I rode two additional Ventures between Montreal and Ottawa, in both Business and Economy classes.

So now that I’ve had a chance to do some touring and ride several of these trains in service, I thought I’d give a bit of an interior overview, highlight some features of the new trains, and also give my overall thoughts on the ride.


Boarding the train

The differences with these new trains begin right at the boarding doors. The exterior doors slide outwards and along the car side, similar to the plug doors on Renaissance equipment, but notably, the door is taller and the entire step trap is enclosed by the plug door. This means that both the vestibule and steps are weather sealed, preventing incursion of cold air and snow during the winter. At low platforms, a step trap lifts to expose several built-in steps, and an additional pair of steps extend and lower externally to allow easy access to low platforms. These steps were extensively tested ahead of delivery, including mounting a set of steps underneath a baggage car to see how they would handle snow and ice build up while in regular service. Steps seem to be shorter than on previous equipment (except perhaps the Renaissance cars), so boarding is quite easy. There are also built-in wheelchair lifts in some cars, which allows for passengers with wheelchairs or mobility issues to board much more easily at any station.

The most notable difference entering the car is that the vestibule area feels much less industrial than older VIA equipment. There is also a lot more room to move around, which becomes very noticeable when getting off at a station and working around other passengers.

Each vestibule door also has a digital display in the lower half of the window, showing the train, destination, and car number. This makes it easier than ever to find your way to the right car. The doors slide open along the outside of the carbody, so the signs are always visible.

High-level boarding in Montreal. 

A look at the low level steps in Drummondville. Note how the main step trap is behind the large exterior door when fully closed, and the additional steps extend from underneath the train. Step boxes no longer required.

Passengers use one of the low platforms in Ottawa for boarding. This is typical of the experience at most stations in the Corridor.

High level entry into a Business class car. Note how open and spacious the vestibule area is.

Interior features

Space, space, and more space!

One very noticeable thing in these new trains is just how much space there is. The wide aisles make it extremely easy to move around inside, and just like the vestibule areas, all spaces through the train feel much more open and less industrial than past trains. Between cars, the gangways are wide, open, and seamless, aided in large part by the semi-permanent couplings between the cars. Unlike older trains, you’d hardly know that you were even moving between cars.

Sliding glass end doors operate on motion sensors, so you never have to touch or push open a door when moving between cars.

Business class interior layout - particularly spacious.

Despite the 2+2 layout in Economy, the cars are still very open and easy to move around.

Very wide spaces throughout, and ample accessible accommodation.

That's no LRC! Note just how wide and open even the galleys are, as seen here in a 2900-series car.

Luggage space

Overhead luggage racks are open, with glass underneath so you can see where items are. There is also space under each seat for storing items. VIA has signage up in stations indicating where they want you to put your bags on these trains.

There are large luggage racks at the ends of each car (and in the middle of the cab car) that can accommodate larger suitcases. Some of these also fold up to provide bike storage space, though VIA is not offering bike space until enough of the new trains are in service to guarantee people can book these trains in both directions on a given trip.

One major critique of these trains is the shortage of large luggage space when compared to VIA’s legacy equipment. A new baggage policy introduced (and promptly scaled back) last year seemed to be the response to facilitate this, which was not popular with passengers. How VIA will handle this longer term remains to be seen.

Large luggage space at the blank end of a 2600-series Business car. Racks on the left side will lift up to allow for bike storage. 

Baggage instructions for new trains.

Digital Displays and automated announcements

There are digital displays all over the place throughout the car, which show the last and next stops, train and car number, current speed, and washroom status. There are even displays in the washrooms themselves. Announcements for safety features and next stops are provided automatically, and displayed on displays in both official languages as the announcements are made. Interestingly, announcements seem to be provided in French first and English second when in Quebec, and English first and French second when in Ontario.

The displays and automated announcements worked reliably on each of the trains I rode.

Digital displays are repeated several times through each car. The route map updates as each stop is approached and departed. Train and car number are above, and speed (real-time) is in the bottom right corner. The only odd thing is the washroom displays, which seemed (to me) to be inconsistent and at times confusing as to whether they were indicating in-use or available. 

Digital displays show a variety of information throughout the trip.

No worries about losing track of where you are while in the washroom! 


Every car in the consist has at least one washroom, and 2700 and 2800 series cars each have two. Some washrooms are large and fully accessible, while others are smaller and comparable to the space provided in older VIA equipment, though their layout is quite different. Everything in each washroom seems well laid out, with bright lighting, easy to use controls, and automatic faucets. As noted above, there are also digital displays in each washroom.

Outside of the washrooms in most cars are small fold-down seats mounted along the wall. These can be used when waiting for a free space, as well as by crew members (particularly in the case of those adjacent to the galleys).

Large accessible washroom, with powered door.

Interior of an accessible washroom.

Automatic sink and soap dispenser, and overall nice, bright layout.

Smaller washroom in a 2300-series cab car.

Smaller washroom in a 2800-series car. This is directly adjacent to the larger accessible washroom.

Trash and recycling

These cars have trash and recycling bins near the washrooms. Unlike the old trains, there don’t appear to be provisions for trash bags at each seat, which is likely a good thing for overall cleanliness.

Trash and recycling bins next to the washrooms on a 2800-series car. Note small flip-down seats ahead near the vestibule. 

Entering a 2600-series Business class car - note trash and recycling on the left. 


The on board WiFi service is supposed to be much improved on these new trains. I only experimented with it briefly, but it definitely seemed to work much better than on previous Corridor trains.

New WiFi landing screen.


The windows on this train are large and at a good height to facilitate wide views and a bright atmosphere. They aren't quite as big as the old LRC windows, but they're still quite adequate. The windows have pull down shades, which are not entirely opaque. This is nice, because it allows you to still see out of the window while also cutting down on the sun glare. This takes away some of the issue with blinds, where one passenger pulling one down ruins the view for others sharing that window!

Emergency windows have a new design on these trains. Instead of the old hammer, there is a mechanism to pull out the gasket and remove the whole window pane. I also noticed that there is a very subtly different tint to the emergency windows, though you'd be hard pressed to see that without looking at two windows side by side.  

Large windows. The roll-down shade isn't really visible, but you can just see the pull bar at the very top.

Window views. In Business class, seats are away from the window so you have a rather nice view to the windows ahead of you as well. 

Emergency exit instructions. 


One very noticeable thing right away is that these trains are very bright inside. I was initially worried that this might be very unpleasant at night, a bit more akin to riding in transit/commuter equipment. I was pleased to see that the trains do have a dimmer/warmer lighting mode, which is activated upon departing the origin station. This makes it much more comfortable onboard when riding during the early morning or evening after dark.


Seats are a major item on any train. Nice train with lousy seats? Doesn’t make for a good ride. Fortunately, I’ve found the seats on these trains are quite good. They are certainly an improvement from the recent generation of VIA seats in the refurbished LRC/HEP2 equipment. They are firm, but more cushioned than those other seats. Legroom is quite good in both classes, and space side to side is excellent even in Economy class. Wide winged headrests, coupled with moveable headrest cushions, add a nice touch. The seats have some recline and don’t encroach on the space behind.

All seats have large and extremely sturdy fold-down tray tables, which are a huge improvement from any previous version on VIA.

All seats have a plethora of power outlets, with both standard plugs and USB charging ports. There are also reading lights above each seat, with bright LEDs aimed at the particular seat in question. Each seat also has a handle near the headrest, which is helpful when walking through the train in motion.

All seats feature large winged headrests, and adjustable cushion. VIA branding on each headrest is a nice touch. 

Seat-window alignment varies on these trains. Some seats are well aligned, as seen here, but some are very poor. Another Venture train can be seen zipping by outside. 

Large, sturdy seat-back trays. 

Economy class seating. These seats are identical to those in Business class, but have less space between each seat.

Economy class seats. Those headrests sure are nice! Note the grab handles on each seat as well. 

Double seats in Business class. Note the extra space between seats and the darker upholstery. There is also slightly more leg room. Otherwise, the seats are the same as those in Economy. Note as well the glass-bottomed open luggage racks above the seats.

Economy vs. Business Class

The biggest difference between economy and business class cars in these trains is the seating layout. Both classes use the same physical seats, but Business class are spaced out in 2+1 configuration. In both classes, half of the seats face in each direction, as the trains are set up to operate bidirectionally. As with the current VIA service offering, business class also offers a full meal and drink service, handled from the galley at the end of each car. Economy class offers drink and snack service from a cart as usual, with a variety of items available for purchase. Business class also has a new feature on these trains - 4-person "privacy pods", which are meant to facilitate on-board meetings with greater privacy. 

Business class "privacy pod". Each car (2600 and 2700 series) includes one of these, which can be booked by groups. The window placement is lousy, but the purpose of these is for on board meetings, so perhaps it's not as big of an issue. Other conventional 4 and 2-seat pairs with tables are still available in each car.

Overall 2+1 seat layout in Business class.

On the 2-seat side, there is extra space between seats in Business.

Large privacy partitions are included between seats. Note as well the footrests, which are only offered in Business.

An example of Business class breakfast.

An example of a Business class lunch meal.

As always, Business class also includes snacks and drink service - check out the new VIA branded glassware!

Cab car

One new and unique element of these trains is the cab car, which allows trainsets to operate in either direction without being turned. This allows for better fleet utilization, and most importantly, it allows for through Quebec-Montreal-Ottawa trains to run without having to back out of Central station in Montreal to change direction, thereby cutting time out of the schedule. The cab cars themselves are rather neat – they are effectively an economy class coach with a cab identical to the SCV-42 grafted on to the end. From what I’ve heard, crews quite enjoy the quiet and smooth ride when operating from that end.

I have yet to ride in a cab car when leading, so I can’t speak to the ride quality, but I did ride one on a trailing trip and found it no different from another coach.

There is also a bit of a view through the door behind the cab, which passengers can look through (though standing there for long periods of time is surely not recommended!) You can see a bit of a view when trailing at the end of my video below.

View through the glass window into the cab (trailing). 

Cab car interior. Note the mid-car luggage racks.

Entry into a 2300-series cab car. Note the small galley, water bottle fill station ahead to the left, small luggage space, and additional luggage racks toward the middle of the car.

Interior of a VIA Venture cab car. Note how the layout is identical to the interior of the locomotives. [Photo taken with permission during guided tour]

Ride Quality

On the trips I made, the ride quality seemed to be extremely smooth. The trains are much quieter than LRCs or HEP2s. The new SCV-42 locomotives are also extremely quiet, so even when riding in the Business class car next to the locomotive you can barely hear the engine. Even the horn is much less audible. The ride itself also seems much smoother than legacy equipment. Some people have commented on noticing a lot of horizontal sway. I didn’t find this particularly noticeable on my trips thus far, certainly not any more than other VIA equipment.

A Venture trainset at Ottawa's high platform in spring 2024. Though I love the new livery, I wasn't initially sold on the "VIA RAIL CANADA" lettering spelled out along each car. It has grown on my over time...

Overall Thoughts

As I mentioned at the start of this post, the acquisition of new trains is a rare thing in Canada, and it’s likely that (aside from long-haul fleet replacement, which has just been given the go-ahead in the 2024 federal budget), there won’t be other new equipment for VIA until this fleet wears out, likely in ~30 years’ time. With everything being replaced with a single, uniform fleet, it’s more important than ever that this equipment be well done, since we’ll be stuck with it for the long term; so I am particularly glad, having had some time to observe and ride these trains, to say that it looks like VIA has sourced a real winner.

The trains aren’t perfect. There is a shortage of luggage space, which I hope can eventually be at least partially rectified by adding some modular luggage units. Some seats don’t align well with the windows, but if VIA eventually offers a better seating map showing window alignment, this could be addressed when selecting seats. I’m also among those that would love a return to some sort of cafĂ©/lounge car, instead of only at-seat food service (though I know VIA is settled on their current service model).

But overall, those seem to me to be fairly minor issues. The overall look, feel, comfort, and passenger experience on these trains is impressive, and a major step up from the legacy equipment in many ways. Not only do the trains feel modern, but they feel like VIA really went to great lengths to customize the design to meet their specific service needs. I’ll be sad to see the end of the LRCs, but will look forward to many years of enjoyable rides on these new trains! 

Now that VIA also has the go ahead to buy new trains for their long distance services, I hope that we'll soon be seeing progress towards a similarly modern era for VIA services from coast to coast - of course with consideration to the kinds of amenities that make those trains truly unique and enjoyable to ride.

An SCV-42 locomotive in push mode, departing Drummondville in December 2023.

Accelerating away with markers lit, the future of VIA's Corridor trains heads away on a snowy morning. I'll look forward to seeing (and riding!) many more of these as the years go on.