- Ridership up 6.4%
- Passenger Revenues up 4.9%
- Funding for High Frequency Rail project
- The Fleet Replacement Program moves forward
MONTRÉAL, Aug. 30, 2019 /CNW Telbec/ - VIA Rail Canada (VIA Rail) reports an increase in ridership and in passenger revenues for the second quarter of 2019 compared to the same period last year. Between April and June, VIA Rail saw an increase of 6.4% in ridership while passenger revenues grew by 4.9% as compared to the same quarter of 2018. This represents the 14th straight quarter of increased ridership and the 21st consecutive quarter of revenue growth. VIA Rail's highest percentage increase in ridership is recorded on the regional services (13.7%), due in large part to the return of the Winnipeg-Churchill service. Furthermore, ridership and passenger revenues on the Québec City-Windsor corridor increased by 6.3% and 6.7% respectively.
"Thanks to the commitment and professionalism of our employees, we are continuing to offer Canadians an unmatched service," said Cynthia Garneau, President and CEO of VIA Rail. "Our results demonstrate, yet again, that the safe, easy, sustainable, and enjoyable experience offered by VIA Rail continues to attract more and more Canadians. At the same time, we are moving forward with our modernization program. From the recent announcement of funding to advance our High Frequency Rail project, to the progress we have made on the Fleet Replacement Program and our continued commitment to investing in our stations and infrastructure, we have been busy!"
Second Quarter Report Highlights
Putting passengers first
Funding for High Frequency Rail Project – On June 25, the Government of Canada and the Canada Infrastructure Bank joined with VIA Rail to announce $71 million in new funding for the Québec City to Toronto High Frequency Rail (HFR) project. This announcement which involves the creation of a Joint Project Office (JPO), is a critical step forward in ensuring VIA Rail continues to offer a modern passenger rail service for a more connected, more sustainable and more mobile Canada. The JPO, which is currently being established, will focus on key components of the project such as: finalizing legal and regulatory work related to safety and environmental assessments; consulting with stakeholders and Indigenous communities; examining required land and track acquisition; and completing the technical, financial and commercial analysis required for a final investment decision on HFR.
Vote of confidence from Canadians – VIA Rail was the highest-ranked transportation company, and 19th overall on the list of 50 most reputable and trusted companies in Canada according to the Boston-based Reputation Institute's 2019 RepTrack, released in May. Furthermore, in another study, the Gustavson Brand Trust Index, published by the University of Victoria's Gustavson School of Business, VIA Rail was included in the 50 most trusted brands in Canada and was the only transportation company on the list, making it number one in that category.
New "About VIA" Page – In order to showcase the many modernization initiatives underway, the Digital team at VIA Rail recently unveiled a new About VIA corporate site, which will allow visitors to follow the company's progress through video, articles and photo galleries.
Partnerships and Sponsorships
Saving the Bees with Alvéole – VIA Rail has furthered its environmental protection efforts through a partnership with Alvéole, a Canadian company that merges beekeeping with education and local communities. Beehives have been installed on the rooftops of four VIA Rail stations: Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Québec City. These eight hives (two at each station) are expected to produce a total of 800 pots of honey, 400 lip balms and 400 candles over one season, all of which will be donated to charity.
Black History Month – In April, VIA Rail collaborated, for the tenth consecutive year, with the Children's Breakfast Club of Toronto to highlight Black History Month in an initiative that saw 200 young students from diverse cultural communities across southern Ontario travel by train to Parliament Hill. The students also received a complete tour of Parliament and met Members of Parliament and representatives of the Prime Minister.
D-Day Boots Initiative – To commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the battle of Normandy, VIA Rail partnered with Veterans Affairs Canada to recreate the journey Canadian soldiers took from Vancouver to Halifax before travelling overseas to serve in Europe. For more than a month, several pairs of combat boots were placed on our trains during ceremonies hosted in VIA Rail's stations across the country. In June, the combat boots that started their journey last March in Vancouver arrived at their destination of Halifax where a ceremony was then held.
New Fleet – The concept and design phases, including the livery (exterior branding), the selection of interior colours and the configuration of seating continues on schedule. Furthermore, we are working within the timeline to engage stakeholders. The progression of these phases is attributable notably to the collaboration of Siemens, of design specialists, and to the expertise of VIA Rail teams.
New Fleet Accessibility Information Sessions – In June, as part of VIA Rail's ongoing commitment to offer barrier-free transportation for those with functional limitations or disabilities, an information session was held to showcase the accessibility areas of the new fleet. People with disabilities and their attendants were invited to review and comment on the progress made since initial consultations held in 2018. This session facilitated an open discussion and conversational exploration of the new fleet with representatives of the accessibility community and government and standards association observers (Canadian Transportation Agency). VIA Rail's ongoing collaboration with accessibility partners demonstrates its proactive approach to accessibility and its commitment to complying with new regulations under the Accessible Canada Act. The latter will help create a barrier-free Canada through the proactive identification, removal and prevention of barriers to accessibility wherever Canadians interact with areas under federal jurisdiction.
Halifax Station – Work continued at Halifax Station to make significant improvements to the overall condition of the building and showcase its historic heritage architecture. As of the end of the quarter, the main concourse roof area had been rebuilt. Renovations, which include accessibility features, will be completed in the fourth quarter.
Heritage Fleet Refurbishment Program Update – At the Montréal Maintenance Centre (MMC), work has been completed on five HEP ll Economy cars and one Business car as of the end of June 2019. Upgrades include the overhaul of their mechanical system to ensure long-term reliability and the improvement of their interior design. At the end of the quarter, four HEP ll cars were in the production line at the MMC, two Economy and two Business cars. Selected suppliers also continued with the refurbishment and renovation of other VIA Rail HEP cars in the second quarter.
Moving Toward Condition-Based Maintenance – VIA Rail's Innovation team and Reliability Engineers partnered with the University of Waterloo School of Engineering to develop a testing workbench for braking sensors. This puts our Reliability Engineers in a position to decide whether the sensors need to be replaced or not. Previously, these sensors would be replaced on a set schedule, regardless of their condition. By partnering with cutting-edge institutions, the aim is to bring significant data-driven insights and savings.
Awards and Recognition
Accessibility – On June 18, during the Grands Prix d'excellence en transports de l'Association québecoise des transports (AQTr) gala, VIA Rail won the public's choice award for Clear Station, its pilot project designed to help the blind and partially sighted navigate its stations autonomously. For this initiative, which was developed in collaboration with the International Union of Railways (UIC), VIA Rail also received the Prix Ambassadeur (Ambassador's Award), which recognizes a transportation project standing out for its innovation and technical realization aligned with sustainable mobility objectives.
Veterans Employment – VIA Rail was honoured in April with the Veterans Employment Transition Award at the annual Celebration of service on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Bestowed by an all-party committee of Parliamentarian veterans, this award recognizes VIA Rail's exceptional commitment to implementing innovative programs supporting veterans re-entering the workforce. Furthermore, that same month, representatives from VIA Rail appeared before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates to present our best practices for veteran and reservist recruitment and the positive impact they have had.
Maintaining our infrastructure
Bridge Replacement Program – On May 12, over the course of one night, VIA Rail completely replaced a bridge span in Glen Robertson, Ontario, without disrupting service. The bridge replacement aimed at improving ride comfort for passengers first and foremost, was a success. Feedback has been positive from train crews and VIA Rail management and further bridge renovations are scheduled in Q3.
Managing our Business Responsibly
Annual Public Meeting – At the end of May, VIA Rail held its 2019 Annual Public Meeting by webcast in order to reach a larger audience and engage with the public. Canadians were invited to submit questions about our operations and services in the weeks leading up to the meeting. We received over 300 questions, and the ones that came up the most were collected and put to a vote, and the top 10 were answered by the President and members of the Executive Committee during the live event.
Supporting Socio-Economic Development
Reinforcing our Relationships with Indigenous Communities – Over the past three months, VIA Rail has continued its work to strengthen its relations and cultural and economic connectedness with Indigenous communities. Meetings intended to foster mutual understanding were held with representatives from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg community, and discussions took place with several Indigenous organizations, including KAIROS and imagineNATIVE, to explore potential partnerships. VIA Rail also continued to work towards meeting the requirements of the second phase of the Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) Committed pre-certification stage, which focuses primarily on the development and deployment of Indigenous cultural awareness training for employees and on reinforcing the corporate Indigenous relations commitment and strategy created in the first phase.
Diversity and Inclusion – VIA Rail has renewed its partnership with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC), which since 2012 has provided discounted VIA Rail travel rates to new immigrants during their first year of citizenship. The launch of the mobile application Canoo, which is replacing the ICC's Cultural Access Pass, has increased the use of this promotional offer by 92.6% compared to the same quarter in 2018.
Reducing the Impact on the Environment
Going Green with Digital Trip Reports – VIA Rail's Innovation team collaborated with the Customer Experience team as well as On-Train Service (OTS) Managers to develop electronic versions of Service Managers' Trip Reports. This initiative should result in the elimination of 30,000 paper reports per year and enable the sharing of data in real time with OTS Managers.
Onboard Products Lifecycle Management – A sustainability pilot project was conducted on two VIA trains (one Economy class and one Business class) between Montréal and Québec City in order to evaluate VIA Rail's onboard products lifecycle. We are currently reviewing onboard service products and defining key drivers to measure and track change impact. Our ultimate objective is to optimize the recycling process in order to reduce the waste, to increase recycling and reuse of products used on board.
Providing the Best Customer Experience
Ottawa Station Business Lounge – A major renovation program was started this past quarter in the station's west wing, which involves the construction of a new Business lounge. The new lounge will feature increased capacity and functionality to better support operational needs. The concept for the Business lounge was concluded after several consultations with dozens of stakeholders through a successful iterative design process.
VIA Rail's first quarter report 2019 is available at: https://media.viarail.ca/sites/default/files/publications/VIA_Q2_2019_EN_1.pdf
About VIA Rail
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.
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For further information: Marie-Anna Murat, Media Relations, VIA Rail Canada, 1 877 393-8787; [email protected]