Posts Tagged ‘Cynthia Garneau’

VIA Looks Toward Murky Future

June 2, 2021

VIA Rail Canada released this image of a new Charger locomotive that it recently received.

VIA Rail Canada officials during gave an overview of where things stand with the passenger carrier last week during an online presentation that showed how damaging the COVID-19 pandemic has been.

CEO Cynthia Garneau said VIA also suffered setbacks in early 2020 when First Nation groups and their supporters blockaded tracks used by VIA.

More than 1,000 trains were canceled in February 2020 due to the blockades.

More cancellations followed in the spring as the pandemic took root. Combined this led to ridership falling 77.1 percent even as expenses declined by 21.2 percent.

Garneau said VIA received Ca$135 million (US$112 million) in additional funding to cover the revenue shortfall.

VIA officials said no date has been set for the return of the Ocean service to the Maritime provinces because non-essential travel between provinces continues to be banned.

When the train does return it is expected to have consists of heritage and Renaissance fleet equipment.

Economy class passengers will ride in former Canadian coaches, while Renaissance sleeping, dining and service cars might be augmented with some Chateau-class stainless steel sleepers.

Service to Gaspe, Quebec, remains in limbo but VIA said trains will resume operations once the track is able again to host passenger service.

The Toronto-Vancouver Canadian is now operating once a week and VIA management expects to “fully resume the Canadian when conditions allow it.”

However, the planned  “fleet modernization” of 71 heritage cars used on the Canadian won’t be completed until 2024.

VIA officials said they are studying fleet replacement for the Canadian and other regional trains, but gave no indication as to when that might occur.

In the meantime, VIA will be taking delivery of new equipment being built by Siemens, but that equipment will be used only in corridor service between Quebec City and Windsor via Montreal and Toronto.

The new equipment will be tested later this year and is expected to begin revenue service in 2022.

Although VIA continues to work toward establishing passenger-only routes between Quebec City and Montreal, and between Ottawa and Toronto, it has no timeline for when that project will be realized.

The plan calls for building tracks on abandoned Canadian Pacific right of way that is now a trail in some places. VIA trains could continue to use Canadian National track in Toronto and Montreal.

No funding has been secured for the project and its cost remains undetermined.

In an unrelated move, VIA said this week that ridership and revenue in the first quarter of 2021 were down 80.2 percent and 80.9 percent respectively when compared with the same period in 2020.

Operating expenses were down by 34.1 percent. In a statement, Garneau said VIA “continued to deliver our public service when circumstances allowed it, and to work on and adjust our resumption plan to ensure that we are ready to welcome all our passengers back once the situation improves.

She said VIA remains committed to resuming all routes across the country “once conditions permit us to do so.”

VIA to Furlough 30 Managers

August 1, 2020

VIA Rail Canada plans to furlough 30 managerial employees on Aug. 14 due to falling revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The layoffs are in addition to 50 vacant positions that the carrier has said it will not fill.

“We are making difficult decisions to lessen the financial impact and safeguard the funds we have been allocated,” said Cynthia Garneau, VIA president and CEO, in a statement.

“I realize that this is a very difficult situation for affected employees and their families, and we look forward to calling them back once the recovery is underway.”

Ontario Lawmakers Want VIA Service Increased

July 9, 2020

Several Ontario lawmakers are pushing VIA Rail Canada to increase frequency of service on its route between Sudbury and White River.

VIA currently service the remote region with weekly Rail Diesel Car service.

The legislators said the paltry level of service creates a hardship for residents of areas not accessible by road.

Service had been tri-weekly but was reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The six members of Ontario’s Provincial Parliament said in a letter to VIA CEO Cynthia Garneau that their constituents must spend a week in a hotel in Sudbury when they travel for groceries and other supplies, arriving on Sunday and not being able to return until Saturday.

In the other direction, those with guesthouses along the route cannot book guests on consecutive weeks, since guests must currently arrive on Saturday and leave on Sunday.

The lawmakers said adding two additional weekly roundtrips would “instantly improve our constituent’s quality of life.”

In an unrelated development, VIA said this week it will furlough 1,000 unionized employees due to the effects of the pandemic.

Garneau said in a statement that the furloughs, which she said would be temporary, are being undertaken due to a continuing financial crisis at VIA triggered by reduced business during the pandemic.

The statement said VIA will seek to recall the workers to their jobs as soon as customer demand allows.

VIA Extends Long-Distance Suspensions to Nov. 1

May 8, 2020

The suspension of the Canadian and Ocean of VIA Rail Canada has been extended through Nov. 1.

In a news release, VIA said sleeper class service on its Winnipeg-Churchill, Manitoba, trains has also been suspended through the same date.

“While there is still a great deal of uncertainty as to when both domestic and international travel will resume, VIA Rail will continue to assess how it can support the recommendations of the public health authorities in their response to the pandemic and in preparation for the progressive service recovery,” the company said in the news release.

VIA said that during the service suspension it will accelerate an inspection and modernization program for its heritage passenger equipment that began in 2018.

The carrier said it will contact passengers who held reservations for travel on the affected trains about reimbursing their fare.

Passengers holding tickets during the suspension period also are encouraged to contact VIA by email at service@viarail.ca

VIA can be reached by phone at 888-VIA-RAIL(888-842-7245).

VIA CEO Cynthia Garneau said the carrier will continue to assess and identify which measures to implement in order to get back on track as soon and as safely as possible.

Garneau said the equipment overhaul program will enable VIA to progressively bring back its long-distance trains to full capacity for the 2021 peak season.

VIA has reduced the number of seats available on trains that are still operating as a way to promote social distancing.

VIA Still Seeking Quebec-Windsor Increased Service

June 2, 2019

VIA Rail Canada is studying creating passenger-only route in the Quebec-Windsor, Ontario, but its new CEO has not committed to seeing the project through.

Cynthia Garneau said at the annual VIA public meeting that the carrier has created a committee to review the prospect of making parts of the corridor passenger only.

Garneau said VIA hopes to enter into what she termed “a new phase” before the end of the year.

One element of that “new phase” could be additional trains on existing Canadian National tracks now used by VIA in the corridor.

“This project is complex and ambitious and we continue to work with Transport Canada to capture its scope, to mitigate the risks,” she said. “The feedback we’ve been getting is encouraging. It will be using existing infrastructure, as you know, and existing rights-of-way all the way from Quebec City to Toronto.”

VIA’s former CEO, Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, has called for higher service frequency in the corridor.

During the meeting, VIA executives said that revenue was up 7.4 percent and ridership up 8 percent last year.

VIA expects to continue emphasizing its corridor service because it accounts for 95 percent of the carrier’s ridership.

Plans are underway to assign new single-level cars and locomotives to corridor service.

During a question and answer session, VIA management said it expects to resume tri-weekly service by the Canadian between Toronto and Vancouver, British Columbia, by next spring after CN finishes increasing the capacity of the route used by the train.

Currently, VIA is operating one Canadian roundtrip only between Vancouver and Edmonton, Alberta.

VIA also plans to eventually resume going all the way to the end of track on the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec, but officials gave no date for that.

They noted that the government of Quebec is rebuilding the tracks on the route.

No plans are in the works for VIA to institute service in Western Canada to cities left behind by discontinue of bus service by Greyhound. VIA officials said the carrier does not “have the resources allocated to entertain any more services.”

Likewise, VIA management said that additional service in Southwest Ontario “is solely dependent on working with the infrastructure providers and intermodal partners to evaluate access.

Although the region shows great potential, VIA doesn’t expect to add service in the short term.

VIA to Get New CEO

April 3, 2019

VIA Rail Canada has taken a page from Amtrak’s playbook and looked toward the skies to find a new CEO.

Cynthia Garneau

Cynthia Garneau, currently President of Bell Helicopter Textron Canada, will become VIA President and CEO for a five-year term beginning May 9.

The appointment was announced by Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau, himself a a former NASA astronaut. Cynthia Garneau is not related to Marc Garneau.

Amtrak’s CEO, Richard Anderson, joined the passenger railroad after serving as head of Delta Air lines.

Cynthia Garneau became the president of Bell in January 2016, a company she had worked for since 2004.

Before coming to Bell, she worked for Bombardier Aerospace.

Garneau earned Bachelor of Specialized Education and Bachelor of Law degrees from Sherbrooke University.

She has been a member of the Québec Bar since 1994. Garneau is also a board member of AIAC (Aerospace Industries Association of Canada) and Aero Montreal.

Three others were named to the VIA board of directors for four-year terms. They include Grant Christoff, Miranda Keating Erickson and Viola Ann Timmons.

Christoff is a lawyer who has served as counsel for the First Nations Health Authority and Saulteau First Nations since 2015.

Keating Erickson has been vice president of Alberta Electric System Operator since 2010.

Timmons has been president and vice chancellor of the University of Regina since 2008.

Marc Garneau lauded outgoing CEO Yves Desjardins-Sicioliano for his service to VIA in the past five years, which included ridership growth, renewing the carrier’s rolling stock and developing a proposal related to high frequency rail.