TORONTO — Canadian national railway VIA Rail Canada unveiled a premium-passenger lounge at Toronto’s Union Station.

The 6,200-square-foot Panorama Lounge, located on the ground floor near the main station entrance on Front Street West, is 2.5 times larger than its relatively cramped, darker, subterranean predecessor.

The lounge can accommodate up to 200 Business- and Sleeper-class passengers.

According to VIA officials, preservation was of high importance when constructing the space. For example, the lounge’s terrazzo and marble floors were carefully restored or replaced to match original materials. Dark-colored woodwork matches original oak panels and cabinets.

The Panorama Lounge also incorporates decidedly 21st century touches, such as free Wifi connectivity and a business center outfitted with computer stations, printers and meeting space.

A selection of artwork is commissioned from Canadian notables such as Mary Filer, Kenojuak Ashevak and Liz Magor.

Premium passengers awaiting their trains can help themselves to complimentary juices, soft drinks, teas and freshly brewed coffee, including lattes and cappuccinos. Alcohol, however, is not served.

VIA officials describe the Panorama Lounge as “a vital component” to the rail network. It was designed to ease connections for intercity travelers and for passengers riding the Canadian, VIA Rail's transcontinental touring train.

The circa-1927 Union Station is in the midst of a massive overhaul that is part of VIA Rail's $930 million capital investment project, which began in 2007.

Overseen by the city of Toronto in partnership with VIA Rail, the Union Station revitalization will also upgrade baggage areas and install new display boards by October.

VIA Rail also will upgrade tracks, train sets and other stations nationwide.

Pierre Santoni, senior director of domestic and international sales, said that approximately $300 million of VIA’s upgrade funds are being used to build a third main line in certain areas to speed passenger service past freight trains.

“Some of these freight trains are now going up to two miles long, and they’re just hard to maneuver around,” he said. “The third main line gives us the opportunity to pass them.”

VIA Rail pays commissions to travel agents and tour operators, starting from 5% and 10%, respectively.

Follow Kenneth Kiesnoski on Twitter @kktravelweekly. 


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