MONTREAL — VIA Rail Canada has released its 2021 annual report, which shows ridership continuing to increase but remaining well below pre-pandemic levels.
Compared to 2020, in 2021 ridership saw an increase of 31.9% while passenger revenues increased by 54.3%. Operating expenses also decreased by 3.2% compared to 2020. As such, VIA Rail achieved its goal of staying on budget within the funding allocated by the Government of Canada.
“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.”
On track to recovery
Last year, VIA Rail continuously adapted its schedule and services based on the evolution of the pandemic, and moved forward with its gradual service resumption plan. Based on the guidance of public health authorities, it implemented a mask policy, pre-boarding health checks and a mandatory vaccination policy in line with Transport Canada regulations.
In 2022, VIA Rail remains 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.
“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.
VIA Rail achieved many milestones in 2021, from its new Corridor fleet to its new reservation system.
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 VIA Rail’s Ottawa Station in November 2021. Headway was also made on both the Heritage Program and its new reservation system, which will provide passengers with a more convenient, autonomous and personalized experience, during and after their journey.
In addition, the federal government announced last July that the first steps are being taken in preparation for the procurement process of the High Frequency Rail (HFR) project.
As demand for sustainable mobility grows, so too does the need for passenger rail service. VIA Rail has made considerable progress on many fronts, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, supporting communities, and promoting equity, diversity and inclusion.
In 2020, the Corporation reviewed its policies, practices and sustainability priorities to inform the development of a five-year sustainability plan, which saw steady progress in 2021. The plan 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,” said 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.”
To rea VIA Rail’s 2021 annual report click here.