Like others in the transportation industry, VIA Rail Canada (VIA Rail) continues to be severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, reporting a significant decrease in ridership and passenger revenues compared to the same period last year. During this year’s third quarter, VIA Rail recorded an 86% drop in passenger revenues as well as a decrease of 82% in ridership compared to the same quarter last year.
The safe way to travel: VIA Rail follows the guidance and recommendations of public health authorities in order to support the national effort against the pandemic. Preventive measures implemented in response to COVID-19 to protect the health and safety of passengers and employees include, amongst others, enhanced cleaning, pre-boarding screening of passengers, modified onboard services as well as the mandatory wearing of masks in stations and on board trains at all times.
Adapting our operations in response to the pandemic: The Corporation continues to adjust its operations according to the evolution of the pandemic. To better reflect the lower market demand, VIA Rail reduced its available capacity for the services in operation.
VIA Rail remains committed to serving communities across Canada and announced in October the gradual return to service in Western Canada by providing intercity transportation exclusively between Vancouver and Winnipeg as of December 11.
Managing the financial impacts of the pandemic: “As the pandemic has brought various challenges and forced VIA Rail to reduce its operations, a series of measures have been implemented in response to the crisis and to responsibly manage the funds allocated by the Government of Canada. We have had to make tough decisions over the past few months, and we recognize that these are difficult times for our employees, but our objective remains to reintegrate them as soon as customer demand allows it,” said Patricia Jasmin, Chief Financial Officer.
During the third quarter, total operating expenses decreased by 27.5%. Measures to manage the financial impacts of the pandemic include, amongst others:
- The reduction of certain of its operating expenses in proportion to the level of operations,
- Temporary layoffs of unionized, management and professional employees,
- Reduction of publicity and advertising activities,
- Reduction of services in stations,
- Reduction of administrative costs and the postponement of non-essential initiatives.
Continued focus on VIA Rail’s modernization: “Our mission to put our passengers first remains. While we continue to navigate this global health crisis, it is now more important than ever to look ahead. During this third quarter, we continued to advance on our modernization, including our flagship project: High Frequency Rail (HFR), a large-scale and environmentally friendly endeavour, for which we are hopeful to receive a favourable response by the end of the year. However, this vision that we have for sustainable travel in Canada would not be whole without the building blocks of the HFR project, namely the Corridor Fleet Replacement Program and the Heritage Program. By providing state-of-the-art trains, improved comfort and interior design, along with tracks dedicated to the transport of our passengers, VIA Rail will transform passenger rail service in Canada. The way we are moving forward is changing, and we hope that you will join us on our journey,” concluded Cynthia Garneau.
VIA Rail’s 2020 third quarter report is available in our Media Centre: https://media.viarail.ca/sites/default/files/publications/Q3%20Report%202020_VIA%20Rail_EN.pdf
-via Press Release