VIA Rail continues its modernization and takes action to better meet customer demand

MONTREAL, June 27, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - VIA Rail Canada announced today, as part of its ongoing modernization, that it is taking action to better meet customer demand. VIA is introducing significant improvements to its operations, including to tracks, stations and trains, better interconnectivity with other carriers, enhanced customer experience and e-services. This next phase of VIA's modernization includes adjusting frequencies on specific routes to better reflect customer demand, while maintaining service on all current routes. This is necessary to allow VIA to focus resources on improving service and attracting more customers on routes where demand is strong and growing.

VIA President & CEO Marc Laliberté said these service adjustments will unfold from July to end of October and are part of VIA's many steps to modernize Canada's national passenger rail service. The travel market is evolving and service providers must keep up. Laliberté explained the changes that are unfolding are fostering the VIA of tomorrow, including services that match market demand, safe, efficient and reliable passenger rail transportation and value to customers and taxpayers.

"By the end of the year, we will complete work to expand track capacity between Montréal and Toronto, where demand for more rail service is high," Mr. Marc Laliberté said. "We will begin operating a completely refurbished fleet of modern, high-efficiency locomotives coast-to-coast. We will start introducing vastly improved passenger cars offering more accessibility for Canadians with disabilities. We will be opening new and renovated passenger stations at key points across our network, and offer e-services so that passengers can better connect in the transportation network and work while on board our trains. Adjusting our services to better align with customer demand is an important step of our modernization - making sure we offer the right level of service to meet customer needs today, and building capacity to serve more customers in markets where demand will grow in the future."

"Where the demand varies dramatically by season, we need to adjust frequencies in order to remain efficient," Mr. Laliberté added. "In growing markets, we are adding more frequencies to meet customer demand. In addition, mandatory services in regions where there are limited transportation alternatives will remain. We are not eliminating rail service on any routes where we operate today and we are maintaining the flexibility to adjust service levels in the future, as customer needs evolve."

As part of aligning services to customer demand, VIA is partnering with other passenger services, including those of other publicly-funded providers, to better harmonize schedules and to sell fares in an integrated way on VIA's website. These changes not only contribute to an interconnected national passenger transportation system, but it is also expected to further reduce costs and increase revenues for the corporation.

Over the past two years, VIA has been working to improve both its operations and financial performance and to increase service reliability. As a result, over that period, it has required $30 million less in government funding for operations (before pension costs). Relying on an extraordinary pool of dedicated talent, VIA intends to continue delivering significant improvements to passenger rail services, for its customers and taxpayers.

As a result of this announcement, VIA's unionized workforce is expected to be reduced by some 200 full-time positions, a decrease of about 9%. Over the last three years, VIA Rail's annual attrition rate has been, on average, 8%. Since 2009, VIA has reduced its management workforce by 15%.

About VIA Rail Canada

As Canada's national rail passenger service, VIA Rail Canada's (www.viarail.ca) mandate is to provide safe, efficient and cost-effective passenger transportation, in the country's two official languages. VIA operates intercity, transcontinental and regional trains linking 450 communities across its 12,500 kilometres route network. Winner of the 2011 RAC Safety Award, VIA transports over four million passengers annually. Find out more about the capital investment program at viarail.ca/transformingvia.

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BACKGROUNDER

THE MODERNIZATION OF PASSENGER RAIL

Capital Investment: Modernizing Trains, Track and Stations

With funding from the Government of Canada, VIA is completing a $923 million investment in:

  • Locomotives: improving efficiency, reliability, and environmental performance, and reducing maintenance costs.
  • Passenger cars: Improving comfort, reliability, accessibility of passenger cars used in all parts of cross-Canada network.
  • Track: increasing capacity in the Quebec-Windsor Corridor for faster, more frequent trains
  • Passenger facilities and stations: renovating and expanding existing stations, building new stations where needed, to improve comfort and service to customers.

Detailed information on capital investment projects is available online at http://www.viarail.ca/en/about-via-rail/capital-investment

Operational efficiency

To improve the efficiency of its operations, VIA has adopted a lean management focus - streamlining operations to increase productivity and customer value, and eliminate waste.  At the same time, key investments in technology will improve service to the customer, including:

  • New electronic ticketing services, with anywhere/anytime mobile phone access;
  • Real-time, GPS enhanced train arrival and departure information;
  • Integrated schedules and ticketing with other public transportation services;
  • Improved operational efficiency through automation, including on-board services automation.

For more information on recent initiatives, see VIA's 2011 Annual Report at http://www.viarail.ca/about-via-rail/our-company/annual-report/2011-annual-report.  VIA's latest quarterly reports are available at http://www.viarail.ca/en/about-via-rail/our-company/quarterly-reports

Adjust services with market demand

Better integration and alignment with markets will allow VIA to focus energy and resources on delivering more value to more customers, in markets where demand is high and growing.  VIA will reconfigure and monitor the performance of services:

  • To better match passenger rail capacity on all routes with the demand for service on those routes;
  • To partner with other passenger services by aligning our schedules and selling their fares on VIA's website; and
  • To make service adjustments that most effectively reduce costs and increase revenues.

NEW SCHEDULES

Transcontinental Trains

The CanadianThe Canadian currently provides three round trips per week, year round, between Toronto and Vancouver.  Demand for this service is strong and growing during the summer months; VIA has invested more than $55 million to improve service along this route, and is upgrading equipment to meet customer needs.

Demand for this service during the off-peak season, however, is much lower, and has fallen steadily for the past 15 years.  Three round trips per week during the off-peak season are no longer needed to meet demand.  Beginning this November, The Canadian will offer two round trips per week during the off peak season.

The OceanThe Ocean currently provides six round trips per week between Montréal and Halifax.  VIA has invested more than $25 million to improve this service, and will continue to improve the value of this service to customers.

However, the current schedule, which has been essentially unchanged since 1990, no longer reflects current ridership or foreseeable market demand - ridership has dropped consistently for 15 years as other travel options (highways, air and bus services) have improved. Beginning this November, The Ocean will operate three round trips per week year round.

Quebec - Windsor Intercity Trains

The Montréal-Ottawa-Toronto triangle, where the demand for efficient intercity transportation is high and growing, is VIA's busiest market.  In January 2012 VIA added new frequencies, including express services, between Montréal, Ottawa and Toronto.  More frequencies will be added this year, and faster trains will reduce overall trip times.

The Southwestern Ontario market includes some of VIA's poorest-performing train services, where customer demand is very low.  At the same time, new air services, and expanding commuter rail services in the Greater Toronto area, are further reducing the need for some weekday and weekend VIA services.  Accordingly, VIA is reducing frequencies on some routes in Southwestern Ontario and will provide better integration with other public transportation services.

Montréal-Quebec City is a high demand market, and VIA hopes to add an additional frequency on this route later this year to meet the needs of customers.

Summary of Schedule Changes and e-Ticketing Introduction 

What's happening in my region? When? Why?
In the Corridor
  • Montréal-Ottawa: trains 630 & 631 are cancelled (Saturday only)
  • London-Windsor: train 70 will originate at London on Sat and Sun; train 75 with terminate at London on Fri and Sat
  • Aldershot-Toronto: train 740 is cancelled (daily except Saturday)
  • London-Toronto: train 686 is cancelled (Friday only)
  • Toronto-Niagara Falls: train 92 is cancelled on Sat and Sun; train 95 is cancelled on Fri and Sat
  • The London-Sarnia segments of trains 85 and 88 are cancelled
July 29, 2012
  • Frequencies or segments being eliminated are the poorest performers in terms of ridership and revenues (except for mandatory services).
  • New frequencies are being added where demand for intercity service is strong or growing.
  • VIA's operating and cost structure is designed for intercity service, not commuter service.
  • By eliminating services that duplicate those offered by commuter operators, VIA can focus on its core mandate: intercity service.
  • In Southwestern Ontario, the ridership from cancelled trains can be absorbed by GO Transit services.
  • We are working with other service providers like GO Transit and AMT to create seamless intermodal connections.
  • Aligning VIA's service offering with those of other publicly-funded service providers represents a more efficient and effective use of taxpayers' money.
  • Toronto-Niagara Falls: train 90 is cancelled; train 95 remaining frequencies (Sun-Thurs) are cancelled
  • Toronto-Kitchener-London: trains 89 and 86 are cancelled
End of October
2012
  • New round-trip express train between Ottawa and Toronto
  • Additional services in the Quebec-Montréal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor
End of 2012

To be determined
In the East
  • The Ocean will be reduced from 6 to 3 round trips per week, year round.
  • The Montréal-Gaspé service will remain at 3 round trips per week; the schedule will be adjusted to coincide with the new Ocean schedule.
End of October
2012
  • Ocean ridership has dropped by 50% over the past 15 years, despite improvements to the quality of the service.
  • Other transportation options have evolved in this region; better highways and air service are changing this market.
  • The reduced frequency of the Ocean reflects current ridership levels, and will allow for better use of VIA's rolling stock.
  • We remain committed to the eastern transcon, and are investing in equipment and stations for that reason.
In the West
  • The Canadian will be reduced from 3 to 2 round trips per week in the off-peak (October to April). Service will return to 3 round trips per week in the peak season.
  • No change to mandatory services between Montréal-Senneterre, Montréal- Jonquière, Sudbury-White River, Winnipeg-Churchill, or Jasper-Prince Rupert
End of October
2012
  • Demand for the Canadian is highly seasonal. Demand drops sharply in the off-peak, and has been declining steadily over the past 15 years. Demand during the peak season is still strong and growing.
  • Customers on the Canadian buy a product, not necessarily a schedule. The travel experience matters more than the frequency of departures.
  • We remain committed to the western transcon, and are investing in equipment and stations for that reason.
From coast-to-coast
  • E-ticketing will be tested first on the Montréal-Quebec City service, and then rolled-out across the network.
July (pilot)
Aug (Corridor)
Nov (Longhaul)
  • The travelling public has come to expect e-ticketing; it will simplify and enhance the customer's experience, and modernize VIA's image.

 

 

SOURCE VIA RAIL CANADA INC.

For further information:

Mylène Bélanger
Senior Advisor, Media Relations
VIA Rail Canada
514 871-6137 | 1 877 393-8787
Mylene_Belanger@viarail.ca 

Maritime Region
Malcolm Andrews
Senior Advisor, Community Relations
VIA Rail Canada
514 946-4160
Malcolm_Andrews@viarail.ca 


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