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.
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
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.
The Canadian: The 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 Ocean: The 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|
||July 29, 2012||
|| End of October
|| End of 2012
To be determined
|In the East|
|| End of October
|In the West|
|| End of October
|| July (pilot)
For further information:
Senior Advisor, Media Relations
VIA Rail Canada
514 871-6137 | 1 877 393-8787
Senior Advisor, Community Relations
VIA Rail Canada