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VIA releases 2008 annual report

05/18/2009 AT 07:04

VIA's performance in 2008 reflects a clear trend for Canadian passenger rail over the past five years. Annual ridership has increased by almost 800,000 passengers since 2004, and annual revenues are up by more than $40 million over the same period.

VIA President and CEO Paul Côté attributed the growth to VIA's customer-focused business strategy. “Train travel is the most dependable, environmentally sustainable, all-weather mode of transportation available,” Mr. Côté said. “We offer good value, stress-free transportation with a high level of comfort, and we focus everything we do on delivering the kind of customer service that sets us apart in the marketplace.”

VIA's customer focus helped the corporation earn widespread recognition in 2008, including the Agents' Choice award from travel agents, two awards from the Railway Association of Canada, recognition from the Society of International Railway Travelers, and awards for innovation in product design and marketing. The annual report also notes a significant jump in VIA's standing in both national and regional corporate reputation surveys.

The report also details steps the corporation is taking to maintain and improve its equipment and infrastructure, to ensure that passenger rail continues to deliver reliable service in the future. Under the five-year, $516 million capital investment program announced by the Government of Canada in the fall of 2007, as well as the $407 million in stimulus funding announced by the government in its 2009 budget, VIA has undertaken major projects to rebuild its aging fleet of locomotives and passenger cars, modernize passenger stations and information technology, and upgrade VIA-owned track and infrastructure. Negotiations have also progressed with the freight railways to upgrade shared infrastructure and eliminate traffic bottlenecks, which will improve on-time performance and allow VIA to offer faster, more frequent service in the busy Quebec City-Windsor corridor.

Commenting on VIA's future outlook, Mr. Côté said that all transportation companies are facing serious challenges in the current marketplace. “While 2009 will not be a growth year like 2008 was, passenger rail is nonetheless in a strong position to meet these challenges,” he added. “It is the right service for the times, a competitive, attractive service offering good value to customers, with advantages that cannot be duplicated by other modes of transportation. We are confident that our focus on excellent customer service, along with products and pricing strategies geared to the market, will continue to attract new customers to the train.”

As Canada's national passenger rail service, VIA Rail Canada provides efficient, environmentally sustainable and cost effective transportation services to more than 450 communities, with a network of inter-city, transcontinental and regional remote trains operating across the country.

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