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Ice, Santa, Poetry… and even a video for the Holidays!

January 8th 2015 by Yves Desjardins-Siciliano

For many of us this has been the after-holiday return-to-work week: getting back into the swing of things at the dawn of a promising new year. For the majority of VIA Rail’s front-line and maintenance center employees, however, the past couple of weeks was not only business as usual; it was more business than usual!  With close to 1,100 trains running from December 17 through January 4th, and almost 250,000 passengers travelling across our network, our staff was hard at work. We are extremely thankful for their dedication during this peak travel period, and the extra time and effort they took to ensure that travelling Canadians enjoyed their time off, from the moment they got on board.

Despite the weather, including the recent icy conditions in Québec and Ontario, our trains ran every day, safely getting our passengers to their destinations. For those of you who left their cars at home and opted for a relaxing train ride instead, you made a great choice. Train travel continues to be one of the most reliable means of transport when the weather takes a turn for the worse.

This holiday season was an inspiring one for many, both on and off the trains, including VIA’s very own Yannick Mackels, a Service Manager based in Montreal, who spent two months creating this video depicting how VIA Rail staff feel about working for Canada’s national passenger rail company. Career opportunities are listed on our website, for those now interested…

Watch the video!

Meanwhile, in the West, CP and VIA Rail helped celebrate the 19th year of the West Coast Express Santa Train toy donation campaign. Over the two days of the Santa Train event, more than 4,200 toys were donated. Congratulations to all involved in this worthwhile cause.

On our social media accounts, people celebrated by sending us messages of merriment and pictures of loved ones enjoying their train rides. One woman even regaled her followers with a poem on Twitter, sent out one line at a time on Christmas Eve, right from her train seat.

Finally, we were excited to get into the spirit ourselves through our many contests and give-aways. People won some amazing prizes, like an unlimited semester pass for students and train travel credits ranging from $250 – $1,500.

Thanks for sharing in the festivities with us and Happy New Year from everyone at VIA!

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, VIA All the Way!

December 19th 2014 by Jennifer Bauer

Many of you have probably already seen our commercials, extolling the benefits of leaving your snow-covered car at home, avoiding the weather-burdened holiday traffic and making sure you arrive safely and comfortably to your destination by train. This is a particular favorite of ours here at VIA Rail. We know all about how warm and comforting it is to chug along the track, getting in those last few minutes of relaxation before the craziness of the holidays descends upon us.

If you do decide to hop onboard and be pampered by our staff this season, there are a few little surprises coming your way, starting with our favorite: meals on the train.  As announced previously, our Economy class meals have been completely revamped. If you were taking the train from Montreal or Toronto recently, you might even have participated in our “road show”, where we offered samples of the new sandwiches to passengers in stations. The results were clear: people love our new menu. On top of the new selections, for the month of December you can satisfy your sweet tooth with a red velvet cupcake offered on the trains within the Québec city – Windsor corridor. And for our long distance train travellers, well, have a look:

That’s our Chocolate Caramel Christmas Tree cake, and yes, it’s as delicious as it looks.

In terms of fares, there are many great options this season as we intend to get as many people on the train and safely to their destinations as possible. Have a look on our website to find the class and fare that suits your needs. Or, if you’re feeling lucky, enter our Sound the Horn Holiday contest and win travel credits to use anywhere across our network!

Of course, once on the train, don’t forget to put your feet up and check out the On Train Entertainment, for those of you in the Corridor. If you’re riding on the long distance trains, the artists on board program will bring out the holiday cheer and keep your toes tapping. Over the season we have lots of entertainment planned, from Quebec artist Anique Granger to Sarah Smith (performing with Ken Ross).  The talent we are lucky enough to host is impressive.

So keep warm and enjoy the season, wherever and with whomever you are sharing it. From everyone here at VIA Rail, Happy Holidays!

VIDEO: What to Expect from Marketing at VIA Rail

December 11th 2014 by Yves Desjardins-Siciliano

Watch the video on YouTube!

As a member of the Canadian Marketing Association, VIA Rail was asked to participate in a video series that focused on the value of marketing to Canadian businesses.  And as a firm believer in the power of marketing, we did not hesitate to respond positively to this request.

Aside from the being able to share our vision of marketing at VIA Rail, it is a privilege to have our interview stand along with those of the other interviewees, who include: Steve Levy, COO, Ipsos Reid, Kathey Haley, President, Union Pearson Express (a company with whom VIA Rail recently signed an intermodal agreement) and Bryan Pearson, President and CEO, LoyaltyOne.

The whole video series can be watched at www.CMAcsuite.ca and we’d love to hear your feedback about it. Please send a message through Twitter to @VIARailPrez including the hashtag  #CMAcsuite.

“President Approved” Means There are No Details Too Small

December 4th 2014 by Yves Desjardins-Siciliano

At VIA Rail, You’re the Boss!”, this motto from one of our newest marketing campaigns are words we now live by at VIA Rail.  Our focus has changed to be more client-centric and in line with passengers’ needs. We want to get more people on our trains for all the right reasons: because the price is right, because it’s environmentally responsible, and first and foremost because people like taking the train.

President Approved!

With that in mind, we’ve been all ears at our employee listening tours, when meeting passengers onboard, on social media and through surveys requesting client feedback. Across all these platforms we’ve been collecting information and changing our services to better match clients’ needs and desires. From our train schedules to the smallest details, we’ve been taking a good hard look at our service offering.

For example, employee and passenger feedback told us that our menu in Economy class lacked a certain “je ne sais quoi”. Simply put, passengers wanted better quality food to choose from. We felt we could do better too, so do better we did.

Starting this week, you’ll find a new Economy class menu we are proud to offer in on our eastern routes including trains in the Québec City – Windsor corridor, the Ocean, our Niagara train and the remote train to Senneterre.

Before releasing our new menu onto the trains, however, I felt it was my duty to make sure every new item was “President approved”. We don’t just put things forth without first testing and re-testing them… not at VIA Rail. The new offer includes hand-made sandwiches, with fresh ingredients. We have increased the selection of items in each category and now carry a hot and cold breakfast option and at least two gluten-free choices. Fresh juices are now available, and the wines (now served in personal-sized bottles) are Canadian. Everything was hand selected with the client in mind and to make it a true Canadian experience.

Of course, just to make sure everything was up to snuff, I took it upon myself to do a little taste-test. Following a long, hard day of sampling, I am happy to report that the new menu (and all the hard work that went into creating it) gets my seal of approval, I hope it gets yours too.

We’d love to hear what you think. Send us your feedback through our Facebook page, or on Twitter using the hashtag #MMMM!

Bon appetit!

VIA Rail: Canada’s Biggest Fan

November 21st 2014 by Yves Desjardins-Siciliano

On Saturday, I will be participating in and speaking at a national conference about the teaching and communication of the history of Canada, on behalf of VIA Rail. Hosted by the Association for Canadian Studies, the 2-day session is called “(Re) Making Confederation: (Re) Imagining Canada”, a topic near and dear to my heart.

One of the slides from our presentation at the Charlottetown Conference: VIA Rail as promoter of Canada

Since I began at VIA Rail over 5 years ago, and especially since assuming the role as President and CEO, I have believed that VIA Rail is much more than the sum of its parts.  Yes, we offer train travel and superior service as Canada’s national passenger railway but we also offer much more. We are distinctly Canadian; not only by virtue of our history, but also because of how we run our business. For example, we offer Canadian products onboard our trains. Our menu is based on locally-sourced ingredients, and the food products come from Canadian companies. Our On Train Entertainment system is comprised of all-Canadian programming, provided by Canadian Crown corporations the CBC and the National Film Board, but also by Historica Canada and the Canadian Heritable Information Network, who create fantastic vignettes that tell historically accurate and important stories about Canadian history.

While riding our trains, passengers are given the opportunity to learn more about the land on which they are travelling. In the future, this offering will be further developed so that every passenger will be able to leave more informed and knowledgeable about Canada then when they embarked. For years we have already been providing scheduled talks about Canadian history, culture and tourism on both our Canadian and Ocean trains.  Canadian musicians also perform on board these long distance trains. And over the past year, we’ve welcomed the Salon actors from the Sir John A Macdonald Bicentennial Commission to perform, educate and delight passengers about Sir John A Macdonald himself, one of the fathers of Confederation and one of history’s biggest train enthusiasts, without whom the Canadian railway system would not be what it is today.

The conference itself will be marking 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference, and will be looking at the relevance of history in our daily lives. At VIA Rail, does history play a part in our daily lives? Absolutely! Sharing that history and knowledge through the medium of the train is a gift VIA Rail gives its passengers every day, and one we will continue to evolve, for the benefit of our passengers and for Canada.