VIA Annual Report Shows Ridership, Revenue Declines for 2020

The 2020 annual report of VIA Rail Canada shows how much the COVID-19 pandemic drove down ridership and revenue.

In 2020 VIA ridership was 1.15 million passenger trips, a 77 percent drop from more than 5 million trips in 2019.

Passenger revenue fell 80 percent to C$76 million from C$388 in 2019. Total revenues were C$92 million, down 77 percent from $411.1 million in 2019.

Service reductions in response to the pandemic triggered a 21.2 percent decline in operating expenses.

The carrier said it laid off 1,000 employees last summer and reduced working hours and salaries of some employees.

The report said most employees have or will eventually return to work while some workers have taken pay cuts. VIA said it plans to bring staff back as it gradually returns to full service.

In looking ahead, VIA said it is planning for a new equipment fleet for the Quebec City-Toronto corridor, a new reservation system, and the renovation of 72 Heritage cars.

Production of new trainsets began last year, VIA selected an onboard Wi-Fi provider and it made progress on the implementation of a computerized maintenance management information system.

Eight economy coach and four business Heritage cars were overhauled last year and partial overhauls were completed on 14 out of 15 P42 locomotives.

VIA said it established a working relationship with the Joint Project Office created by the Canada Infrastructure Bank.

It said this has led the carrier to the “precipice of positive news” for a project to build dedicated passenger rail tracks between Québec City and Toronto.

During 2020, VIA said it launched a Universal Accessibility Policy and completed 18 projects under its three-year plan to adhere to the Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations, which took effect in June 2020.

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