After the locomotives, now it's time for passenger cars: VIA Rail Canada announces another major initiative, as part of a $691 million investment by the federal government



    MONTREAL, Feb. 11 /CNW Telbec/ - Following the signing of a $100 million
contract last December to upgrade its F-40 locomotive fleet, VIA Rail Canada
has announced another major investment today. This morning, the Corporation
issued a request for proposals to upgrade the LRC passenger cars used in the
Québec City-Windsor corridor.
    Ninety-eight cars are covered by the request for proposals. New
electrical and mechanical systems will be installed. Improvements will be made
to the lighting as well as the heating and air conditioning systems. This will
lead to new energy savings. VIA will take advantage of this opportunity to
renovate the interiors of the cars and will ensure that their exteriors bear
the company's new colour scheme for equipment. The work should start in 2009
and take four years to complete.
    According to Mr. Paul Côté, President and CEO of VIA, this initiative
flows directly from a five-year investment of $691 million by the federal
government to improve the reliability and sustainability of passenger rail
transportation in Canada, announced last fall by Mr. Lawrence Cannon, Minister
of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
    "By upgrading these LRC cars we will be doing more than restoring them to
their initial condition, we will improve reliability and meet current
marketplace standards of comfort and convenience for our customers," said
VIA's president, in a speech to the Canadian Club of Montreal.
    Overall, the $691 million investment will help VIA provide service that
is faster, more frequent and more reliable, Mr. Côté pointed out. It will
enable VIA to "connect people, communities and the future," which was,
moreover, the title of his speech.
    The Company plans to direct more than $200 million specifically towards
network infrastructure, "in the rails themselves," said the president. A major
portion of this investment will provide better service between Québec City,
Montréal, Ottawa, and Toronto.
    According to Mr. Côté, once the work is completed, this same Corridor
will accommodate more than one million additional passengers - an increase in
ridership of 32 percent over 2007.
    By renovating and modernizing its key stations, VIA will be able to serve
people and their communities more efficiently. VIA will use the investment to
modernize its key train stations with improved platforms, lounges, lighting,
interior and exterior renovations, expansion, and in some cases, new
facilities.
    By modernizing its equipment, VIA will also be reducing its environmental
impact. "Rebuilding our locomotives, in particular, will translate into lower
greenhouse gases and air pollution by using equipment that meets the most
stringent environmental standards," said Mr. Côté.
    With customer satisfaction ratings among the highest in the industry and
first place for passenger rail services in the 2007 Agents' Choice Awards, VIA
remains the most civilized form of transportation available to Canadians, the
more human way to travel, according to the president.

    High-speed train

    Following the recent announcement of a new study on the feasibility of a
high-speed train by the governments of Canada, Quebec and Ontario, the
president of VIA said that both he and the Corporation would cooperate fully
with the decision-makers.
    "Everyone agrees on this principle: it would be extraordinary to operate
high-speed rail in the Corridor. We need to assess the functionality of this
mode, look at every detail, in terms of both the profitability and costs of
such a major initiative, and also its potential benefits, to bring clarity to
the decision-making process," said Mr. Côté.
    "VIA's board of directors has addressed a range of strategic options with
the Canadian government - our shareholder - including those for high-speed
rail. VIA has already taken part in different studies and we will offer our
expertise - our experience in making passenger rail work - as Canada looks at
options for building more connected communities, a more connected country.
I can assure you, we are looking forward to our active participation in the
committee's study," he added.
    However, for the President and CEO of VIA, the prospect of implementing a
high-speed train should not distract the Corporation from its current
objectives.
    "Whatever the outcome of the current study on high-speed rail, the
potential of passenger rail in Canada is greater today than it has ever been
before," he said. "Exploiting this potential today is our mission at VIA Rail.
That potential exists today, and realizing it here and now is our job at
VIA Rail."

    About VIA

    As Canada's national passenger rail service, VIA Rail Canada's mandate is
to provide efficient, environmentally responsible and cost effective passenger
transportation services, both in Canada's business Corridor and in remote and
rural regions of the country. Serving more than 450 communities with a network
of inter-city, transcontinental and regional trains, demand for rail services
continues to grow as more Canadians turn to train travel as a safe and
convenient travel choice.




For further information:

For further information: VIA contact: Martin Roy, Corporate
Communications, (514) 871-6119


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