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Sunday, May 17, 2015

VIA Rail's annual report shows year of service milestones

Increased revenues, additional trains on key routes and stronger focus on sustainable mobility highlight VIA Rail’s performance

Montréal – As highlighted in VIA Rail Canada (VIA Rail) annual report, 2014 saw Canada’s national passenger rail service succeed in increasing its revenues and in effectively containing its operating deficit, while introducing innovative new products, enhanced levels of service and additional trains on key routes. VIA Rail released its annual report to the public earlier today, after it was tabled in the House of Commons.

”While challenges abound, VIA Rail’s overall 2014 performance confirms that the travelling public is buying into the solid value proposition train travel represents,” stated President and CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano. “Starting in the second half of the year, we saw a welcome trend of increasing revenues”. Total revenues for 2014 increased 3.7% to $280.3 million.

In keeping with its enviable position as a ‘green’ alternative for environmentally aware travellers, VIA Rail has also reinforced its commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) - now reflected in a new, more comprehensive CSR Report incorporated into the 2014 Annual Report.

2014 service milestones
  • One more train in each direction was added to the Ottawa-Toronto service, Friday through Monday, bringing the total to 48 departures per week in each direction.
  • The refurbishment of VIA Rail’s LRC Business Class cars was completed.
  • The new Economy Class service features healthy food and beverage choices and a selection of   Canadian wines.
  • Seat assignment was made available in Economy Class on all Corridor trains.
  • New products for youth market were introduced: the ‘Discover Canada’ card, the 20/20 Discount card and the Semester Pass.
  • Iconic Ocean service linking Montréal and Halifax celebrated its 110th Anniversary.
  • Significant new intermodal agreements were entered into with AccesRail, China’s Hainan Airlines and the Canadian Automobile Association.
VIA Rail is pursuing a renewed vision that entails leveraging its strengths as the safest, most efficient and most environmentally responsible mode of intercity transport in Canada, as well as its potential as an engine of economic growth for the communities it serves, particularly the densely populated Québec City - Windsor corridor.

Need for dedicated passenger tracks
Potential growth in passenger volume is being inhibited by increasing rail congestion that negatively impacts on-time performance. VIA Rail shares tracks with freight railways that own 98% of the network. To address the congestion issue, VIA Rail is exploring the feasibility of acquiring or building dedicated passenger tracks, possibly  in partnership with private-sector investors and provincial or municipal governments that stand to benefit from improved transportation links. “We all share the same objective: to be of greater service to our communities and to foster economic growth and prosperity,” Mr. Desjardins-Siciliano stated.

Safety – with respect to its own operations as well as the safety of Canadians around railroads – remains the number one priority for VIA Rail, underlying all aspects of its operations. Other immediate priorities include attracting more people to travel with VIA Rail while optimizing performance and value creation.

In his message, Interim Chairman Eric Stefanson characterized 2014 as a year of “significant change and substantial progress at VIA Rail, as we worked to realize our vision of making passenger rail the preferred way to move and connect people in Canada.” Noteworthy developments from a governance perspective included a comprehensive review and subsequent restructuring of the Board committees with an aim to increase their effectiveness, as well as approval of a new hybrid pension regime for new VIA Rail employees.

Corporate Social Responsibility
In 2014, for the first time, VIA Rail’s annual report incorporates  a more comprehensive Corporate Social Responsibility Report focused on activities with respect to the ‘four pillars’ of sustainability: Safety; Environment; Employees; and Passengers and Communities. The goal is to provide stakeholders with a global overview of how VIA Rail conducts its business in a responsible manner, and to align its reporting with recognized CSR best practices.

At VIA Rail, being a responsible corporate citizen means putting safety at the forefront of everything it does. It also means caring about people. As a Corporation, VIA Rail prides itself on being close to its employees, its customers, and the citizens and communities it serves. Another crucial distinguishing feature is that rail travel represents a sound environmental choice.
Given its attractive environmental profile vis-à-vis other modes of transport, optimizing the use of passenger rail travel by Canadians and Canadian companies can help reduce the country’s carbon footprint. According to Environment Canada, one train can replace 180 cars when comparing GHG emissions per capacity.

Fuel efficiency is one area in which VIA Rail has significantly improved its environmental performance in recent years, through the modernization of its fleet and the introduction of advanced new telemetry technology aboard its locomotives. Between 2009 and 2014, it consumed 29.9% less fuel, which translates into a 26.6% reduction in GHG emissions per passenger-km. In 2014, VIA Rail used 2.2 million fewer litres of fuel compared to 2013, a reduction of 5.2% that amounts to 2.3% fewer GHG emissions per passenger-km.

Detailed information and key performance indicators regarding VIA Rail’s achievements and ongoing challenges with respect to all four pillars of sustainability can be found in the CSR section of the Annual Report.

VIA Rail’s annual report is available to download at: viarail.ca/en/annual-report-2014

About VIA Rail Canada
As Canada's national rail passenger service, VIA Rail Canada (viarail.ca) and its 2,500 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 safely transports nearly four million passengers annually. The Corporation was awarded seven Safety Awards by the Railway Association of Canada over the last eight years, and was the recipient of the 2012 Agent's Choice Award voted by Canadian travel agents and presented by Baxter Travel Media. Since 2007, the Government of Canada has invested almost a billion dollars in VIA Rail.

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