May 31, 2021
Q1 2021: VIA RAIL REPORTS CONTINUED IMPACTS OF THE PANDEMIC
From January 1st to March 31, 2021
- Continued implementation of preventive COVID-19 health and safety measures.
- Ridership decreased by 80.2% compared to same period in 2020.
- Operating expenses decreased by 34.1% compared to the same quarter last year.
MONTRÉAL, May 31, 2021 – As the entire country continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, VIA Rail Canada (VIA Rail) reports for its first quarter a decrease of 80.2% in ridership and an 80.9% drop in passenger revenues compared to the same period last year. These results illustrate the continued impacts COVID-19 has had on VIA Rail and the transportation industry as a whole.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the VIA Rail team has always managed to adapt to the rapidly evolving health crisis while contributing to efforts minimizing the spread of COVID-19,” said Cynthia Garneau, President and Chief Executive Officer. “As such, the first quarter was no exception: we continued to deliver our public service when circumstances allowed it, and to work on and adjust our resumption plan to ensure that we are ready to welcome all our passengers back once the situation improves. Transportation options have been severely impacted by the pandemic, but I would like to reiterate our commitment to resuming all routes across the country once conditions permit us to do so.”
Prioritizing the health and safety of passengers and employees
Since March 2020, VIA Rail has been adapting its operations according to the evolution of the pandemic and has deployed strict protocols of sanitary measures to provide the safest travel experience to its passengers.
“As the situation evolves, we will keep following recommendations from public health authorities and decrees from the federal and provincial governments. Our priority remains the health and safety of our passengers, employees and communities we serve, and no efforts should be spared to minimize risks of propagation on board our trains and in our stations, all while continuing to provide a safe, comfortable and sustainable travel experience,” declared Cynthia Garneau, President and Chief Executive Officer.
As a result of a sustained lower demand in the first quarter of 2021, the Corporation pursued the implementation of a reduced capacity for the services in operation.
Minimizing the financial impacts of the pandemic
VIA Rail continues to rigorously manage its operating expenses, which decreased by 34.1% during the first quarter compared to the same period last year. In fact, to curtail the impacts of COVID-19 on its revenues and deficit, several cost-saving measures that had previously been put in place were maintained during the first quarter of 2021. Some of these measures include:
- Reduction of some operating expenses in proportion to the level of operations,
- Temporary employee layoffs,
- Reduction of publicity and advertising initiatives,
- Reduction of services offered in stations,
- Decrease of administrative costs and the postponement of nonessential initiatives.
VIA Rail was amongst the top 50 of Canada’s best employers 2021 list published by Forbes, placing 49th in the ranking and 4th in the transportation industry. The ranking is the result of a survey of 8,000 employees working for companies with 500 or more employees, in more than 25 industries across Canada. VIA Rail’s employees are at the heart of the Corporation’s success, and this recognition demonstrates its determination to build a mobilizing employee experience while offering an inclusive and innovative culture.
In March 2021, VIA Rail announced that its Ottawa station had earned the LEED® Gold v4.1 certification for Operations and Maintenance for Existing Buildings, Canada Green Building Council’s (CaGBC) second-highest level of accreditation. This accomplishment is a testament to the Corporation’s ambition to improve sustainability across Canada. As such, it is currently working on modernizing other stations and buildings, namely its Winnipeg Station, for which a LEED certification process has already been initiated.
Ratification of Collective Agreements
In March, VIA Rail employees represented by Unifor Council 4000 ratified two-year collective agreements. The union represents more than 1,600 VIA Rail employees working in stations, on board trains, in call centres and in certain administrative positions.
VIA Rail Management Team Appointments
VIA Rail’s executive team welcomed two new members during this first quarter. On February 1st, Martine Rivard joined as Chief Employee Experience Officer, and on March 8, Marie-Claude Cardin joined as Chief Financial Officer.
VIA Rail’s 2021 first quarter report is available at: