Via Rail carries 4.4M passengers in 2017, largest growth in a decade

Via Rail

Via Rail had its best performance in a decade during Canada's sesquicentennial year, increasing its ridership by more than 10 per cent to 4.4 million passengers, the passenger railway said this week.

The Crown corporation said revenues grew 12.8 per cent in 2017 over the prior year to reach $365.7 million.

The results were driven by an 11 per cent increase to 4.1 million passengers transported on the core Quebec City to Windsor, Ont., corridor.

Capacity on the route was up 5.3 per cent to meet higher demand, resulting in a 14 per cent growth in revenues.

Demand increased with the addition of year-round service, new stops and additional departures to the Ocean train over the holiday season.

The Canadian, travelling between Toronto and Vancouver, carried almost 105,000 passengers – 12.6 per cent more than the prior year as revenues increased 16.8 per cent.

The Ocean, which links Montreal and Halifax, was up just 1.5 per cent to 78,763 passengers, while revenues grew 5.2 per cent.

Via Rail president and chief executive officer Yves Desjardins-Siciliano said 2017 was a record-breaking year.

"We expect no less of 2018 as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the creation of Via Rail as a Crown Corporation dedicated to passenger rail service," he said in a statement.

The railway spent $40 million on 60 capital projects last year at its maintenance centres.

It posted an operating loss of $265.3 million, down from $267.5 million in 2016.

Government funding was $353.7 million, including $265.3 million for operations and $88.4 million for capital.

Its net profit increased 55 per cent to $12.9 million, up from $8.3 million a year earlier, according to its annual report.

Via is in the process of buying 32 new trains that will run along the Quebec City to Windsor corridor starting in 2022.

Via Rail has declined to put an estimate on the required funding to replace its fleet but published reports have pegged the amount at up to $1.5 billion.