Flexibility key to VIA Rail’s future

Flexibility is the key to VIA Rail Canada’s future as the rail service rolls out further details of its ongoing modernization initiative — all of which are designed to better meet customer demand. The rail company has already announced significant improvements to its operations, including to tracks, stations and trains, better inter-connectivity with other carriers, enhanced customer experience and e-services. The next phase of VIA’s modernization includes adjusting frequencies on specific routes to better reflect customer demand, while maintaining service on all current routes. The company said that this is necessary to allow it to focus resources on improving service and attracting more customers on routes where demand is strong and growing. VIA president & CEO Marc Laliberte said that the service adjustments will unfold from July to end of October and are part of VIA’s many steps to modernize Canada’s national passenger rail service. He explained that the travel market is evolving and service providers must keep up and the changes that are unfolding are fostering the VIA of tomorrow, including services that match market demand, safe, efficient and reliable passenger rail transportation and value to customers and taxpayers. “By the end of the year,” Laliberte said, “we will complete work to expand track capacity between Montreal and Toronto, where demand for more rail service is high. We will begin operating a completely refurbished fleet of modern, high-efficiency locomotives coast-to-coast. We will start introducing vastly improved passenger cars offering more accessibility for Canadians with disabilities. We will be opening new and renovated passenger stations at key points across our network, and offer e-services so that passengers can better connect in the transportation network and work while on board our trains. Adjusting our services to better align with customer demand is an important step of our modernization – making sure we offer the right level of service to meet customer needs today, and building capacity to serve more customers in markets where demand will grow in the future.” VIA’s boss pointed out that: “Where the demand varies dramatically by season, we need to adjust frequencies in order to remain efficient. In growing markets, we are adding more frequencies to meet customer demand. In addition, mandatory services in regions where there are limited transportation alternatives will remain.” However, Laliberte emphasized that: “We are not eliminating rail service on any routes where we operate today and we are maintaining the flexibility to adjust service levels in the future, as customer needs evolve.” And in aligning its services to customer demand, VIA is partnering with other passenger services, including those of other publicly-funded providers, to better harmonize schedules and to sell fares in an integrated way on VIA’s web site. The changes not only contribute to an inter-connected national passenger transportation system, but it is also expected to further reduce costs and increase revenues for the corporation. Over the past two years, VIA has been working to improve both its operations and financial performance and to increase service reliability. In making the announcement, VIA also said that its unionized workforce is expected to be reduced by some 200 full-time positions, a decrease of about 9%. Over the last three years, VIA Rail’s annual attrition rate has been, on average, 8%. Since 2009, VIA has reduced its management workforce by 15%. Go to http://www.viarail.ca for more.