At its Annual Public Meeting today, VIA Rail Canada reported that its financial performance continued to improve in 2011. With revenue growth in most markets across Canada and rigorous controls on costs, over the past two years VIA Rail has required $30 million less in government funding for operations before pension costs.
“As we move forward, we are on track to achieve significant improvements in VIA’s overall performance by 2017, Canada’s 150th anniversary,“ VIA Chairman Paul Smith said. “We are building a strong, resilient national passenger service that will deliver better service to Canadians at less cost to taxpayers – a service that is capable of growth for the future.”
VIA also discussed results for the first quarter of 2012, noting that weak markets and continued economic uncertainty have affected both ridership and revenues, compared with the first quarter of 2011.
“While we faced a challenging first quarter, we are confident that we can meet our performance objectives for 2012,” VIA President and Chief Executive Officer Marc Laliberté said.
VIA outlined key initiatives for 2012, including:
• Completing capital investment projects in trains, tracks, stations and technology. Renewed locomotives and passenger equipment will deliver faster, more efficient, more reliable service. Increasing track capacity will meet growing market demand for passenger rail in the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor. Better passenger stations and facilities, along with better online services, will enhance the experience of traveling by rail.
• Continuing to fine-tune VIA’s services, schedules and fares to serve markets more efficiently, and better integrating passenger rail with other public transportation services. VIA also outlined a new “Escape Fare” which will provide better alternatives to car travel in key markets.
• Increasing efficiency and customer service through technology initiatives, such as electronic ticketing and mobile booking. A new and more customer-friendly online fare display will give customers more options at their finger-tips to plan and buy the train trip most suitable to their needs.
Mr. Laliberté described VIA’s agenda as “a process of change that will continue, as we keep fine tuning and adjusting our business to deliver the right service for Canadians. And over time, more and more customers are going to get on board. That, in the end, is how we will meet the big challenge in the years ahead – building a more cost effective rail service for the future.”