All aboard the Rocky Mountaineer for the adventure of a lifetime. And a picket line.
“The Best Train Experience in the World” proclaims a quote on the website, attributed to the Society of American Travel Writers. “One of the World’s Ultimate Experiences” says the Lonely Planet. Even the Daily Mail is gushing. Yep, they all see to agree, a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer is something you need to do. This should be a train trip of a lifetime.
Everything looks good. Their website promises everything will be amazing on our journey to Canadian Rocky Mountains.
There’s just the matter of the picket line to cross first.
Yes, the picket line. Our taxi driver had warned us that there was an industrial dispute as we got into his cab at 6:30am and sure enough as we get to just outside Rocky Mountaineer’s dedicated station a few miles from the centre of Vancouver, the Rocky Mountaineer experience begins.
People are shouting, placards are being waved. Those on the line take great pains to emphasise this is not a strike. This is a lockout. Long serving employees were being prevented from working by management due to a contractual dispute that had. The lockout had, by all accounts, been going on for over a month.
As those locked out wave and demand their jobs back, a few, no-doubt thick skinned, non-striking staff scuttle back and forth over the line, whisking luggage from taxis, escorting passengers to the terminal building a short way away. Normally taxis would take people straight up to the door but our driver, like many that morning, was reluctant to cross the picket line. Not that I’d blame him, but it was something necessary to do. As I glumly note, my travel insurance doesn’t cover industrial disputes.
Besides which, the Rocky Mountaineer is an integral part of our holiday and, without doubt, one of the most expensive parts. Over two days it will take us from Vancouver to Jasper, via stunning scenery and amazing views. Our hotel and hire car await us 800km away.
Over on the other side we check in and our luggage is whisked away and we’re left to sup coffee until its time to board. The station is simple but grand. An old locomotive repair shed, it was refurbished as a station and opened in 2005 after the success of the Rocky Mountaineer as a tourist train saw it outgrow its old home at the Pacific Central Station.
Large displays on one side tell the story of how the Rocky Mountaineer grew and grew. Other displays proclaim how customer service is the most important thing. It’s hard to tarry up with the concept of locking out those same staff and creating a bitter sounding industrial dispute. It doesn’t exactly mean that the passengers journey starts off very well. As we wait to board, we can only hope that things get a little better…
Tomorrow in part 2 it’s all aboard and we’re on our way on the Rocky Mountaineer.
You can read a letter from lockout staff to passengers at the Rocky Mountain Train Lockout blog. In the interest of balance I would link to a viewpoint of the Rocky Mountaineer management. But I have yet to find one.