On May 20th, we launched an employee listening tour with the goal to meet and listen to ideas from as many VIA Rail employees as possible. As of this week, we’ve reached a nice milestone with almost 1,350 employees reached, out of a total 2,500. The 50% mark has been surpassed; what an accomplishment for everyone at VIA Rail!
This tour has also provided an opportunity to chat with passengers on the train while travelling across the country to meet with employees. To date I have had onboard conversations with over 60 passengers on the Corridor and Ocean service trains.
The ideas that have been put forth by both employees and passengers have been impressive and well-thought out. And at the root of the suggestions is Canadians’ love for their national passenger train service.
Here are some tour details:
Dates: Meetings and travel took place from May 20 through July 11 (so far).
Where: Cities visited include Halifax, Moncton, Montréal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver.
When: Meetings were held at all times of the day, including on weekends; as early as 6AM and as late as 11:15PM, in accordance with employees’ schedules.
At each location, a VIA Rail employee was actively jotting down every comment and idea put forth, for reference following the tour. As a new President, the time taken by each employee to meet, give feedback and engage in conversations was both appreciated and helpful.
Topics included everything from our baggage policy and staffing levels on trains and in stations to providing better communication with passengers about train status. At the center of those discussions was a keen sense of what would improve our services and a focus on the customer.
We would like to thank everyone who participated in the listening tour. We have already begun working on and implementing some of the ideas brought forth during these meetings and we will continue to do so after the tour is done.
On July 3rd, VIA Rail’s Ocean train service celebrated its 110th anniversary. The historic train is not only a part of VIA Rail’s history, is it a part of Canadian heritage. The Ocean route helped to build Canada by transporting new citizens from Halifax west across the country (Pier 21 is located just behind the current station in Halifax), to new and developing communities.
Earlier this year, the service made headlines following the possible abandonment (by railway owners) of a portion of the railway that the Ocean travels on. However, in early May, Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt announced that a $10.2 million investment in the infrastructure will allow the Ocean to continue its service in Eastern Canada Everyone here at VIA Rail was nothing less than thrilled by this announcement.
In fact, to mark its anniversary, I boarded the celebrated Ocean train, along with representatives from the communities it serves, both to celebrate the anniversary of the train and to begin a collaborative partnership with these communities. The goal of the trip and the meetings that followed was to brainstorm ideas to increase ridership and improve the service in line with the clients’ needs.
The trip also afforded me an opportunity to stop and appreciate the scenery. My schedule is pretty tight, and relaxation is not at the top of my list of priorities. Having a working day on the train was just what the doctor ordered. In the stress-free atmosphere of the Ocean you can’t help but enjoy the view, not to mention having the time to engage in meaningful conversations with great people and be pampered with gourmet food. The best part is that in the midst of all of this, lots of important work was done to conserve and promote this train route.
So, happy 110th, Ocean train! It is an honour to share this birthday with you… here’s to the next 110 years of great service.
Growing up as a first generation Canadian with immigrant parents, there was nothing better than discovering all that Canada had to offer. My parents loved the country, and encouraged me to visit as much of it as I could. One of my first travelling adventures was as a high school student, taking the train to London, Ontario, where I participated in an exchange program. As a parent, I also encouraged my two daughters to visit and learn about their homeland. They both ended up going to Queen’s University in Kingston, and travelled home by train whenever they could (which was never often enough!).
There’s something magical about train travel, especially in one’s youth. The formative years full of discovery, adventure, reflections, chance meetings… it’s all a part of becoming well-informed about who we are, who we can be and how we’ll participate in Canadian life as productive, well-rounded, well-grounded adults. It’s also part of becoming Canadian.
For many young people, the quintessential dream of “backpacking across Europe” has become the ideal summer vacation. And it’s usually done using a rail pass. So, why not do the same thing here at home? In my opinion, having done both as a young man, I believe Canada’s artistic, culinary, musical and linguistic ranges, in addition to its varied geography and industrial diversity allows it to compete quite favorably with the cultural mosaic youth can expect from travelling overseas. But, it’s in looneys!
It’s with this dream of summers past that one of the first things we did after my appointment as President and CEO was to create an unlimited youth summer pass. The Summer Pass means students can hop-on and hop-off, with no limitations to the number of trips over the summer months, and discover the country at their own pace. They can travel through the Corridor or across our whole network. They choose the Pass that meets their adventurous ambitions. Hopefully, many will take us up on our offer to discover Canada.
In the fall, still with youth in mind, we plan to focus on the many students studying in the communities across our network, so they can return home more often, as my daughters did, for a great meal, help with the laundry and a big hug!
Stay tuned for more youth and student oriented promotions this fall. In the meantime, let the backpacking across Canada begin!
Since my last post, my Canada-wide listening tour, to meet with as many employees and train passengers as possible, to hear their thoughts about VIA Rail, continues. To date, I have met with almost 1,000 VIA Rail employees and over 50 train passengers. These meetings have provided the venue for some memorable conversations with individuals who are passionate about providing great passenger rail service. In the spirit of open communication and looking forward, the comments, suggestions, and ideas brought forth in these discussions are encouraged and welcomed. Employees know the passengers best, and their input is priceless – input which, as a team, we use to continuously improve VIA Rail’s service. I look forward to hearing more voices, and engaging in more dialogues about how we can grow passenger rail in Canada.
This week, I’d like to draw attention to a group of employees whose creativity has inspired me: the Jasper equipment maintenance crew. Seeking a way to quickly and safely navigate on the platform to perform essential train maintenance, the team turned to bikes! For two years the Jasper Maintenance Center has been using bicycles to move small tools, carry equipment parts, and throw switches without disturbing travelling passengers. On top of being an environmentally conscious choice, their out-of-the-box solution embodies the type of innovation and teamwork that I so strongly believe in.
Stories such as these highlight the thoughtful ways in which employees make VIA Rail the more human way to travel. A dedication to efficiency and a consideration for passengers and their travel experience are amongst the defining characteristics of a trip with VIA Rail. The Jasper equipment maintenance crew exemplifies VIA Rail’s “put the passengers first” mentality – and they have fun while doing so.
We love to hear the ways in which VIA Rail employees have improved your travel experiences, so send us your “VIA Rail experience” stories through Facebook, or tweet them using #VIAExperience. To stay up to date on my initiatives and events, follow me @VIARailPrez.