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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 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.

Stories from the Train

November 13th 2014 by Yves Desjardins-Siciliano

Since joining the VIA Rail team, I have been on countless train rides. I am fortunate because I get to quietly watch the rolling landscape from my train window every month, if not every week! For many, being on a VIA Rail train is an experience of a lifetime, and one they will cherish for many years.

Through our social media accounts as well and through theirs, many people have shared their images, videos and stories with us. We always love to hear them.  Below are a few samples of the great images, videos and tales from the rails…

For those of you wanting to learn how to document your travels, here is a fantastic little video to help you perfect your pics, “Tips for Taking Photos in a Train”:

This is a great little blog-duo husband and wife team who recently rode on the Canadian together.

His story:

Her story:

A train-riding story from Parisian travel blogger Sarah who travelled on our Ocean train en route to the Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX) conference last year:

Let the “Savvy Stews” tell you all about their trip to Jasper, Alberta and, of course, the time they spent on the train:

Finally, an oldie but a goodie: Jools Stone’s “Trains on the Brain” blog, though a few years old, is still relevant and well-read:


Happy reading, and we hope to see you on board soon.

VIA Rail Honours the Canadian Military

November 7th 2014 by Yves Desjardins-Siciliano

This year, the days leading up to Remembrance Day are taking on a different meaning for all Canadians. In the past, they gave a current and local meaning to a day associated with past events that took place abroad. Last month, however, we witnessed tragic events here, in both St. Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa that remind us of the courage and commitment of those who serve our country in defence of our rights and freedoms.

All of us at VIA Rail honour the service and memories of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo. While our first thoughts go out to their families and friends, now more than ever, our commitment to Canadian soldiers, veterans and their families remains unwavering.

VIA Rail has always had a close relationship with the Canadian Military. We have worked with the military on a host of different and innovative projects over the years and are always happy to introduce new initiatives that support their families and facilitate their return to civilian life.

Last month, VIA Rail sponsored the event celebrating the Royal Montreal Regiment‘s centennial. On May 9, we sponsored and attended Soldier On Afghanistan events in Ottawa, recognizing those who fought in Afghanistan, remembering those who fell, and saluting all who contributed to the ten-year mission. VIA Rail also sponsored and participated in Vimy Ridge Day, the Canadian Armed Forces photography contest and events organized by the True Patriot Love Foundation.

This past September, we were delighted to welcome onboard the 100,000th Canadian military passenger taking part in our special military program. The discount program, launched in 2010, is offered to Canadian soldiers, veterans and their families.

Finally, this year, VIA Rail Canada is proud to join the Royal Canadian Legion in commemorating Remembrance Day.   On behalf of all our passengers and employees, VIA Rail made a donation to the Legion’s Poppy Campaign. Thus, we will be distributing poppies onboard our trains until November 11th, with our compliments, as a tribute to the service of the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces, past and present, here and abroad. It is a small gesture by VIA Rail to thank those who risk so much in their invaluable service to Canadians.