- Ridership up 5.1%
- Passenger Revenues up 8.4%
- Greater accessibility at the Ottawa station
- Launch of New Fleet Replacement program with Siemens Canada
- Appointment of three VIA Rail board members
- Appointment of Cynthia Garneau as President and Chief Executive Officer of VIA Rail
VIA Rail Canada is reporting a ridership increase of 5.1%, while passenger revenues improved by 8.4% compared to the first quarter of 2018. These results represent our 13th consecutive quarter of increased ridership and our 20th straight quarter of revenue growth. Additionally, ridership and passenger revenues in the Québec City-Windsor corridor grew by 5.0% and 7.8% respectively in Q1 2019, compared to the same period last year.
“Canadians have once again chosen to place their trust in VIA Rail in the first quarter of 2019,” declared Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, VIA Rail’s former President and CEO. “The continued growth of our service’s popularity is reflective of the development of a Canadian environmental conscience and the firm desire of travellers to take a smarter, easy, comfortable and sustainable way. The positive results of this first quarter and those of the past five years are indicative of our employees’ exceptional commitment. For this twentieth and final quarter as President and Chief Executive Officer of VIA Rail, now more than ever I would like to thank them for their dedication and professionalism. Likewise, I am confident that my successor, Ms. Cynthia Garneau, will accomplish great things by building upon this transformation which is already well underway.”
“I am very pleased to be taking over the reins of this iconic Canadian Crown corporation, which has seen significant success over the past five years due to the leadership of my predecessor Yves Desjardins-Siciliano. VIA Rail has made significant headway in terms of both growth and modernization. I am committed to building upon this momentum alongside all VIA Rail employees so that we can continue to innovate and transform the journey of Canadians by creating smarter ways to travel. With them, I will move forward on our well-established path towards a more sustainable and responsible future”, said Cynthia Garneau, President and Chief Executive Officer at VIA Rail.
First Quarter Report Highlights
Putting passengers first
In February VIA Rail unveiled the newly renovated Ottawa station, which is now on par with international accessibility standards for people with reduced mobility and their caregivers. A $15 million investment led to the construction of a tactile (for the visually impaired) and heated boarding platform, with an access ramp at level with the train door enabling passengers to board and detrain with ease. In addition, two new elevators now provide universal access to all platforms. VIA Rail’s objective is to make the Ottawa station the gold standard of sustainable mobility hubs, upon which VIA Rail intends to base future designs.
As part of our partnership with the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, VIA Rail hosted 250 Canadian music industry professionals and fans on the JUNO Express in March, a VIP train journeying from Toronto to the JUNO Awards in London, Ontario. The guests experienced performances by four JUNO nominees, immersive brand experiences by Canadian company Stingray, and many other musical surprises and delights.
New train fleet – Following the announcement regarding the new fleet destined for the Quebec-Windsor corridor, the first quarter of 2019 marked the kick-off of project activities with different internal VIA Rail teams, as well as the launch of the Siemens Canada procurement process to find suppliers for this important project. Shortlisted applicants were invited to the Siemens Canada Supplier Day event on March 27-28, during which they were briefed on the project. Selection of Siemens’ suppliers will be based on pricing, quality and ability to deliver on schedule.
Heritage Fleet Refurbishment Program – In February, VIA Rail employees were invited to take a tour of the first, newly renovated VIA Rail HEP II Business car. It was then officially commissioned in the Québec City-Windsor corridor until the arrival of the new fleet. Improvements include the overhaul of the cars’ current system to ensure long-term fleet reliability and the improvement of the design of their interior. In addition, VIA Rail is continuing its collaboration with selected suppliers for the refurbishment of its HEP fleet.
In the first quarter of 2019, all deliverables were shared with the International Union of Railways (UIC) following a successful proof of concept for a joint VIA Rail-UIC pilot project at the Ottawa station. The initiative involves beacon-based wayfinding and echolocation obstacle detection technology allowing blind and partially sighted travellers to navigate the station autonomously.
In February VIA Rail received the President’s Award from the Canadian Council of the Blind. The award recognizes our efforts to innovate and find new ways to break down barriers for those with limited mobility. VIA Rail’s ultimate goal is to increase accessibility across all its assets, helping to create a barrier-free Canada.
Safety and Security
Winter Readiness – Conscious of the higher-than-usual number of departure and arrival delays due to challenging weather during the 2017-2018 winter season, the Mechanical and Maintenance team proactively launched the Winter Readiness Playbook project. The purpose is to mitigate the effects of severe winter conditions on our departure times and our fleet overall by better adapting to the winter elements. When comparing winter 2018-2019 to winter 2017-2018*, the Winter Readiness Playbook contributed to a 28% reduction in all mechanics and maintenance-related train delays per million miles and a 31% reduction in mechanics and maintenance-related departure delays.
*Winter season is from October 1 to March 31.
VIA Rail Police – During the first quarter, VIA Rail Police and Corporate Security continued to hire and deploy railway police constables along the Québec City – Windsor corridor, and expanded its second detachment in London, Ontario. These measures will ensure the ongoing protection of VIA Rail passengers, employees, and property while supporting passenger train services.
Continuing to strengthen our ties with Indigenous communities
This first quarter was a particularly pivotal period in terms of consolidating our ties to certain Indigenous representatives. As part of our renewed collaboration with the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB), we held meetings to discuss procurement and the certification program for corporate performance in Aboriginal relations, as the Corporation is on track to receive its level II PAR (Progressive Aboriginal Relations) certification. VIA Rail is also a proud partner of the 2019 Indspire Gala, an annual event that supports educational programs for Indigenous youth and recognizes the achievements of Indigenous people.
Recognizing our armed forces
To highlight the contributions of the Canadian Armed Forces during the Second World War, VIA Rail partnered with Veterans Affairs Canada to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Normandy. A pair of combat boots were placed on a train to make the long journey from Vancouver to Halifax, stopping in different communities along the way for ceremonies with veterans and their families in VIA Rail stations.
Sustainable mobility is an integral part of who we are and how we conduct our business. As a result, we contributed to and participated in several events hosted by organizations with a mission to promote a sustainable economy and a greener mobility such as Trajectoire Québec and the Femmessor Institute.
High Frequency Rail
Through nearly a hundred meetings with different representatives from civil society across the Québec-Ontario corridor, VIA Rail continued the dialogue and learned the perspectives of groups on the High Frequency Rail (HFR) project. Among other outcomes, this community dialogue led Central Frontenac, the Chambre de commerce et d’industries de Trois-Rivières and the city of Trois-Rivières to confirm their support for High Frequency Rail (HFR).
Diversity and Inclusion recruitment session
On February 16, VIA Rail police officers and recruiters attended the first edition of the Diversité en uniforme (Diversity in Uniform) in Montréal. Our participation in such events helps us ensure that VIA Rail’s work force reflects the diversity of the communities that we serve.
VIA Rail Board of Directors appointments
On March 28, three new members were appointed to the VIA Rail Board of Directors. The new members are: Mr. Grant Christoff (Vancouver, BC), Ms. Miranda Keating Erickson (Calgary, AB), and Ms. Viola Ann Timmons (Regina, SK).