OTTAWA — VIA Rail has rolled out the first of dozens of brand new trains, all part of its new Corridor fleet, now the building block of VIA Rail’s modernization program.
The new fleet “marks a new era for passenger rail service in the Corridor, where we served over 4.7 million passengers in 2019 and which represented 96% of our ridership pre-pandemic,” said Cynthia Garneau, VIA Rail President and CEO, at this morning’s unveiling at the Ottawa train station.
Added Garneau: “In addition to being one of the most environmentally friendly fleets in North America, this modern new fleet will offer our passengers an unparalleled, barrier-free, and fully accessible travel experience.”
Funding was announced in the 2018 federal budget and represents an investment of close to a billion dollars.
“Canadians have relied on VIA Rail to connect them for years. The new fleet will offer a new era of comfort and efficiency for the workers, families, and tourists who travel on these tracks. By supporting VIA Rail’s large-scale modernization project, we are investing in accessible, reliable, environmentally friendly ways for Canadians to see each other and see their country,” said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.
The new trains offer new levels of comfort, accessibility, and sustainability, says Garneau. Here’s a look at the key features …
- Wider aisles, automatic touchless interior doors, adjustable tray tables, comfortable and ergonomic seats, and high-speed reliable data connection.
- A barrier-free and fully accessible travel experience with onboard wheelchair lifts, five Mobility Aid Spaces (MAS) per trainset, large accessible washrooms, braille, and embossed signage.
- Advanced diesel engines and a bidirectional train configuration that allows for less operating time with the engines running making it one of the most environmentally friendly intercity fleets in North America.
Francoise Bertrand, Chairperson of the Board at VIA Rail, says that as Canada works to recover from the pandemic, VIA Rail is ready to continue building on its 44-year history and play a key role in the future of sustainable mobility in Canada.
“In the face of the climate crisis and an unprecedented demand for more sustainable mobility, the relevance of passenger rail is stronger than ever,” said Bertrand. “This new fleet and the High Frequency Rail (HFR) project will further that interconnectivity as our passengers will be able to travel more often and more quickly to more destinations.”
This morning’s unveiling showed off the first of 32 new trains in VIA Rail’s new Corridor fleet.
Winter trials of the test train will begin in December 2021, with the first train expected to go into service in Q4 2022.
In Q3 2021, between July and September, VIA Rail continued to implement its gradual service resumption plan, increasing service levels to over 50% in the Québec City-Windsor corridor and reintroducing one weekly roundtrip on the Ocean route.
As a result of these measures along with an increase in travel demand, VIA Rail recorded a rise in ridership and passenger revenues of 117% and 183% respectively during the third quarter of 2021 compared to the same period last year.
As announced in August 2021, all air travellers and interprovincial train passengers boarding in Canada must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The new rule took effect Oct. 30, 2021, however for the past month proof of a negative COVID-19 test has been sufficient for unvaccinated passengers.
However starting today, Nov. 30, if passengers cannot show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, they cannot board a plane or interprovincial train in Canada.