2023: A ‘Strong’ Year for VIA Rail

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
image description

KReiss/Wikimedia Commons

In 2023, 4.1 million passengers rode VIA Rail Canada (VIA Rail) trains, an increase of 815,000, or 24.7%, compared to 2022, marking the agency’s highest ridership since 2019, VIA Rail reported on May 14.

Total revenues increased by $197.7 million, or 29.2%, compared to 2022 due to “an increase in frequencies and higher demand,” according to VIA Rail, which says it also “pursued its modernization with the introduction of more new trains in the Corridor and the launch of a new reservation system offering a more intuitive booking experience for our customers.”

“2023 was a pivotal year for VIA Rail as we introduced new equipment, launched a modern new reservation system, restored several key train frequencies in the Québec City–Windsor corridor, and achieved a significant increase in revenues,” said Françoise Bertrand, VIA Rail’s Chairperson of the Board of Directors. “The end result is that we were able to better serve our customers and build the foundation for our future growth.”

2023 also marked the arrival of VIA Rail’s new President and Chief Executive Officer, Mario Péloquin, who joined the agency in June.

“It has been an exciting journey to be jumping aboard at a time when VIA Rail and passenger rail worldwide are in the midst of a profound and far-reaching transformation,” said Péloquin. “VIA Rail has already made substantive progress towards shaping the future of rail travel in Canada, and in 2023 we took significant steps forward, reflecting our commitment to modernization and a better travel experience for our passengers.”

New Fleet

In October 2023, VIA Rail officially launched the commercial service of its new Corridor fleet on the Ottawa–Toronto route. As a result, the four major cities in the Corridor (Québec City, Montréal, Ottawa, and Toronto) and all communities in between are now connected by these new trains. As of December 31, 2023, 12 of the 32 new train sets had been received, and VIA Rail says it “eagerly anticipates connecting more Canadians in the Corridor with its new fleet in 2024.”

New Reservation System

In November, VIA Rail launched its new reservation system offering “a simplified, more convenient, accessible, and autonomous experience” for its customers. More than an update of the reservation process, this modernization project “fully overhauled all related infrastructure and systems (such as the loyalty program and point-of-sale system),” according to the agency.

This new reservation system, VIA Rail says, allows customers to enjoy new features, such as autonomous seat selection, as well as a simplified process to book online for a wider variety of needs.

‘Passengers First’

Last year, VIA Rail’s efforts were recognized in Léger’s 2023 Reputation Study, where the agency earned the title of “most reputable company” in the transportation sector. The agency increased its point total in the survey by four points from the year prior and bypassed all other transportation companies for the first time since the launch of the study, which also recognized the efforts made by VIA Rail “to foster a positive and inclusive company culture,” by ranking the agency as Canada’s first employer of choice among transportation companies.

The Future of VIA Rail’s Services

Across Canada, VIA Rail operates on long-distance, regional, and remote (LDRR) routes, such as the Canadian or the Ocean. While parts of these services, the agency says, “are geared toward offering a unique tourist experience to Canadians and visitors from around the world,” these routes also serve as “a lifeline for isolated communities across the country, who rely on them to access essential services and goods.”

“We are thrilled that the recent federal budget has allocated funding for VIA Rail to proceed with its transformative project to replace the trains operating on our long-distance, regional, and remote routes,” the agency said. “This significant investment marks a milestone in our journey to redefine passenger rail in every region of the country over the coming years. We’d like to thank the Government of Canada for their continued support and confidence in our vision. This demonstrates a shared commitment to enhancing sustainable transportation across the nation.”

VIA Rail’s annual report is available here.

Tags: ,