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VIA Rail: Ridership up, but still well below pre-pandemic levels

Despite challenges in 2021 stemming from the global pandemic, VIA Rail Canada (VIA Rail) continued to connect communities and to deliver on its mandate of operating the national passenger rail service. At the same time the Corporation moved forward with key elements of its modernization program aimed at creating the VIA Rail of the future. 

VIA Rail achieved its goal of staying on budget within the funding allocated to the Corporation by the Government of Canada benefitting from an increase of 31.9% in ridership and of 54.3% in passenger revenues compared to 2020.  

“Despite the upheaval caused by the pandemic, we have successfully pursued our strategic plan, including the unveiling of our new fleet and the advancement of the High Frequency Rail project,” said Françoise Bertrand, Chairperson of the Board of Directors. “On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to thank the Government of Canada for its confidence and openness toward VIA Rail this year, as we share a common belief in the future of passenger rail. It’s time to transform passenger rail service in Canada and we are excited about the progress we have made in 2021.”

It’s Time to get back on track

Last year VIA Rail continuously adapted its schedule and services based on the evolution of the pandemic. VIA Rail followed the guidance and recommendations of public health authorities which included the adoption and enforcement of a mask policy, pre-boarding health checks, and the implementation of a mandatory vaccination policy in line with Transport Canada regulations.

Over the course of the year VIA Rail moved forward with its gradual service resumption plan, employing a balanced approach to fulfill its important public service mandate while proactively managing financial impacts.

“The agility, resilience and professionalism of the VIA Rail team from coast to coast when adapting our operations are the reasons why we continued to deliver the exemplary service VIA Rail is known for,” said Cynthia Garneau, President and Chief Executive Officer. “More than ever in 2021, VIA Rail’s success was driven by its employees, who proudly make VIA Rail welcoming and memorable to millions of passengers, and I would like to thank them for their continued dedication.”

In 2022, VIA Rail is moving forward with its gradual service recovery, remaining focused on its mandate of operating Canada’s national passenger rail service which includes offering intercity rail services and ensuring rail transportation services to regional and remote communities.

It’s Time to create the VIA Rail of the future

Modernization program

As demand for sustainable mobility grows, the relevance of passenger rail is stronger than ever.  From the new Corridor fleet – which will offer an unparalleled, fully accessible, and barrier-free travel experience – to the new reservation system, VIA Rail is proud to have hit in 2021 many major milestones of our modernization path despite pandemic-related adversity.

The first trainset of the new Québec City-Windsor corridor fleet was delivered on time and on budget for testing and was unveiled at a ceremony at our Ottawa Station in November. Furthermore, headway was made on both the Heritage Program and the new reservation system which will provide passengers with a more seamless, convenient, autonomous, and personalized experience before, during and after their journey. Finally, the federal government announced last July that the first steps are being taken in preparing for the procurement process of the High Frequency Rail (HFR) project.

Sustainability

VIA Rail has for years embraced its commitment to environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and good corporate governance. The Corporation has made considerable progress on many fronts, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, supporting communities, and promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion. Building on these foundations, sustainability continues to be a cornerstone of the Corporation’s values and commitment to deliver a more modern and sustainable transportation network.

In 2020, VIA Rail reviewed its policies, practices, and sustainability priorities to inform the development of a five-year sustainability plan which progressed steadily in 2021, and which will embed environmental, social and governance performance in all VIA Rail’s operations.

“Our Sustainability Plan is a robust and future-oriented plan to reduce our environmental footprint, enhance our role as a responsible transportation provider, and create lasting value for current and future generations,” concludes Cynthia Garneau. “As the national passenger rail service, we aspire to positively impact the lives of those around us. This plan will help ensure that VIA Rail is a driver of change for a more sustainable transportation network in Canada.”

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About the author

Harry Johnson

Harry Johnson has been the assignment editor for eTurboNews for mroe than 20 years. He lives in Honolulu, Hawaii, and is originally from Europe. He enjoys writing and covering the news.

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