May 8, 2019

VIA RAIL REPORTS RIDERSHIP AND REVENUE INCREASE FOR A FOURTH CONSECUTIVE YEAR

HIGHLIGHTS

From January 1 to December 31, 2018

All Train Routes

Total Ridership up 8% over 2017 | 4.74 million passengers

Total Revenues up 7.4% over 2017

Quebec City-Windsor Corridor

4.5 million passengers | 9.3% increase over 2017

Revenues up 11.9% over 2017

MONTRÉAL, MAY 8, 2019 - Benefiting from a four-year upward trend in the number of travellers choosing the train, VIA Rail Canada (VIA Rail) again posted strong results for 2018. With a vision of being a smarter way to move Canadians, the Corporation provided 4.74 million travellers with an easy, safe, sustainable and enjoyable travel experience. This is an increase of 8% over 2017 and a 25% increase since 2014. Revenues have reached $392.6 million, a 7.4% increase over 2017 and a 40% increase since 2014. 

“While marking VIA Rail’s 40th anniversary in 2018, we took enormous pride in our strong performance in terms of both revenue and ridership. We were also delighted with the Federal Government’s decision to fund the replacement of our aging fleet with a brand new set of trains in the Québec City-Windsor corridor. We thank the Government of Canada for their trust in VIA Rail and for this historic investment in our sustainable future,” said VIA Rail Chair of the Board, Françoise Bertrand.

“A fourth year in a row of growth in ridership and improvement in financial performance compared to 2014 is a great way to close out VIA Rail’s 40th anniversary. It is also a testament to the growing popularity of intercity train travel and the dedication and commitment of our employees. In all areas of the business, employees are working hard to attract more passengers, making them feel welcome and well-treated. Thanks in large part to their efforts, the number of passenger miles travelled on VIA Rail has increased by 23% since 2014. The resulting increase in revenue combined with efficient cost management and economies of scale have helped the company reduce the cost of mobility on Canadian taxpayers by 15% (subsidy per passenger mile, excluding pension past service cost).” said VIA Rail President and Chief Executive Officer, Yves Desjardins-Siciliano.

Mrs. Bertrand added: “A new chapter is now beginning at VIA Rail with the appointment of Mrs. Cynthia Garneau as President and CEO, effective May 9. On behalf of the Board of Directors, I wish to thank Mr. Desjardins-Siciliano for his dedication to serving Canadians, and particularly for his clear vision and profound commitment to propel VIA Rail into the future. All of us on the Board, and I am certain all employees, are grateful for his impressive achievements as well as his strong leadership. His accomplishments in the past five years along with the arrival of Ms. Garneau for a five-year mandate allow us to look to the future with confidence and to maintain our momentum towards attaining our vision.”

Annual Report Highlights

Celebrating VIA Rail’s 40th anniversary

In 2018, VIA Rail celebrated its 40th anniversary as a non-agent Canadian Crown Corporation dedicated to intercity passenger rail services through a multitude of initiatives and meaningful events. To give back to the community and to thank Canadians for their loyalty over the years, VIA Rail launched the 40 Sustainable Actions for Our 40th Anniversary national initiative. By the end of 2018, employees had volunteered and completed over 40 sustainable actions across the country including building water storage ponds in Drummondville, Québec, and supporting Butterfly Lanes in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Putting passengers first

As part of Via Rail’s ongoing effort to promote and support local Canadian products on board its trains, new menu items were selected in 2018. Also, in response to requests from passengers, upgrades were made to the selection of vegan, gluten-free and diabetic meals. The meal offerings on the Canadian train were also expanded to accommodate unforeseeable schedule changes.

VIA Rail adjusted the schedule of its Canadian service between Toronto and Vancouver to address ongoing delays caused by the significant growth of freight rail traffic. These changes were made to ensure the safety of passengers while providing them with the best possible customer experience. By adding 9 hours to the schedule, the goal is to provide passengers daytime viewing of the majestic Rocky Mountains and daylight stops to most of the larger cities. Unfortunately, despite these schedule changes, the Canadian continues to experience significant delays resulting at times in trip cancellations.

In 2018, VIA Rail revised its pet policy to allow passengers to travel with their small cats or dogs in the Québec City-Windsor corridor. The new pet policy took effect in August and passengers, travelling in both Economy and Business class, can now bring along their furry companion.

Throughout the year, more and more people chose to travel by train, with notable spikes for holidays and long weekends. Over the 2018 holiday season, VIA Rail had a 10% increase in passengers compared to the previous year. Impressive increases were also noted during the Easter (up 18%), May (up 8.4%), Canada Day (5%), Labour Day (up 9.1%) and Thanksgiving (up 3.1%) long weekends.

The Corporation also resumed passenger train service in northern Manitoba, between Gillam and Churchill in December 2018. Trains now travel again in both directions, according to the regular schedule that was in effect prior to the suspension of service in May 2017 after major flooding severely damaged the rails.

Improving operating performance

VIA Rail is Canada’s only integrated passenger train service operator. Over 3,100 employees provide every facet of our services: from train maintenance to on-train operations, in-station to call centre operations. Thanks in large part to their efforts, the number of passenger miles travelled has increased by 23% since 2014. As a result, the government operating subsidy per passenger mile (excluding pension past service cost) has been reduced from 31.4 cents to 26.7 cents, a 15% improvement. In the Quebec-Windsor Corridor, the government operating subsidy per passenger mile (excluding pension past service cost) has gone from 21.2 cents to 16.6 cents, a 22% improvement.

Modernizing VIA Rail

In December, VIA Rail announced that Siemens Canada was awarded a contract to build the 32 trainsets that will replace VIA Rail’s fleet that operates in the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor. Siemens Canada was selected following a fair, open, rigorous and transparent bidding process under the oversight of an independent fairness monitor and VIA Rail’s Board of Directors. On-time delivery, quality of product and price were the main criteria on which all the proponents were evaluated. Siemens also announced its intention to source up to 20% of its components and services from Canadian suppliers. 

Starting in 2022, millions of VIA Rail passengers travelling in Canada’s busiest Corridor will enjoy a new era of brand-new trains, with more comfortable seats and more spaces for people with reduced mobility. Equipped with the latest technology the trains will be more fuel-efficient, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of travel.

The Quebec City – Windsor corridor fleet replacement is part of VIA Rail’s transformation plan for Canadian passenger rail service. This plan also includes renovating the rolling stock that operates on VIA Rail’s long-distance routes. This renovation work represents an investment of approximately $154 million, undertaken by over 300 Canadian workers.

In addition, the 2018 Federal Budget allocated funding to Transport Canada, for the conclusion of its analysis of VIA Rail’s proposed High Frequency Rail (HFR) project. This project aims to transform passenger rail in Canada by creating a more frequent, faster, reliable and convenient service in the Québec City-Windsor corridor.

Growing VIA Rail’s community

As part of VIA Rail’s remarkable modernization and transformation plan, a new communication platform has been deployed on various marketing channels across the country. « Love the way » is about reconnecting with the pure joy of the journey. VIA Rail is encouraging more and more Canadians to rediscover the pleasure of train travel and thus contribute to a better future environmentally, economically and socially. 

VIA Rail’s travel blog continues to showcase Canada’s vibrant communities, serving as a resource for travel inspiration. 

Investing in VIA Rail’s assets

VIA Rail’s stations are being modernized to provide a better passenger experience. In Ottawa, VIA Rail’s station has become a sustainable mobility hub, with major projects that have improved its accessibility and efficiency. Work has also begun at Halifax Station to improve its overall condition while showcasing the historic architecture of this heritage building.

Since 2010, VIA Rail has increased its commitment to remaining the Canadian leader in accessible intercity travel. It has invested over $162M in its stations, rolling stock and reservation systems (phone and online) to improve accessibility. These projects will greatly transform mobility, contribute to a more inclusive Canada, and ensure Canadian passenger rail remains at the forefront of accessible transportation for travelers with mobility or other restrictions.

VIA Rail’s annual report is available at: https://media.viarail.ca/sites/default/files/publications/2018_Annual%20Report_EN.pdf

About VIA Rail Canada

As Canada’s national rail passenger service, VIA Rail (viarail.ca) and all its employees are mandated to provide safe, efficient and economical passenger transportation service, in both official languages of our country. VIA Rail operates intercity, regional and transcontinental trains linking over 400 communities across Canada, and about 180 more communities through intermodal partnerships, and safely transports nearly 4.8 million passengers annually. The Corporation has been awarded five Safety Awards and three Environment Awards by the Railway Association of Canada since 2007. Visit the “About VIA Rail” section at https://www.viarail.ca/en/about-via-rail.