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Improving Train Service in Southwestern Ontario

June 19th 2015 by Yves Desjardins-Siciliano

VIA Rail passengers living in Southwestern Ontario (SWO) have witnessed many changes to the train service in their area over the past couple of years. Due to many factors beginning with low ridership trains schedules in SWO have undergone several changes and several service cuts. We understand that this situation has not been ideal for everyone, especially because at VIA, we pride ourselves on working in the interest of our passengers.

This is why, over the past month we have been touring through SWO, speaking at the Chambers of commerce in the cities of London, Windsor, Stratford and Sarnia. In each city, the intention was not only to talk about VIA Rail’s strategy and objectives, but specifically to listen to the needs of each community and to see how we can work together to improve train service in SWO.

The following are a few slides from the presentations given, and include our future goals as well as a proposal for possible service in the area.

First of all, we need to ask why our clients choose to travel with VIA Rail? There are three important factors:


Unfortunately, due to the increase of freight train traffic, we have watched our On Time Performance (and therefore our reliability) deteriorate over the past few years. Through freight traffic is good for the economy, it is detrimental to the success of passenger train service. The solution to this issue would be to have dedicated tracks for passenger trains. Instead of going into too much detail here, have a look at our short video outlining the 5 things you need to know about dedicated tracks. Dedicated tracks would help improve services across the Quebec-city – Winsdor corrirdor (including SWO) by beginning with reliable, frequent service between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

In the meantime, we hope to improve service in SWO. Here are a few ways we envision doing so:



Slide27The full plan is intended to be complete by the end of 2015, with potential implementation in 2016. Of course, this is dependent on the support we receive from the communities we are serving. We are happy to report that so far, so good. Our trips to the area have been positive and supportive.

We look forward to better serving the area by continuing the dialogue with community representatives and passengers. Here’s to our bright future together.

VIA Rail’s Annual Public Meeting in numbers

June 4th 2015 by Yves Desjardins-Siciliano

On May 26th we broadcasted our Annual Public Meeting (APM) by webcast for the 3rd year running. Every year, we increase the number of APM participants. We take this as a positive sign that more people are interested in their national rail system.

Though an APM may not seem like the type of event most people line up to watch, it is a very useful tool for a corporation such as VIA Rail to stay closely connected with the communities we serve and to disseminate information in an open and transparent way. The information relayed during the meeting is useful and important for all Canadians; after all, they are its shareholders.

Here are some facts from this year’s APM:

4 Executive presenters

425 webcast participants

115 questions sent – 9 were answered during the APM

386 views on YouTube in 8 days

47 tweets during the event

All the questions we received prior to and during the webcast are being compiled and answered, and will be published by the end of June on our website.

To watch the Annual Public Meeting webcast on VIA Rail’s YouTube channel, please visit:

A Day for Discovery

May 21st 2015 by Yves Desjardins-Siciliano

“Connecting people and places from coast to coast, it is only natural that VIA Rail would be committed to providing a productive and welcoming workplace that reflects our Canadian society”.  This statement, taken from the Diversity and Inclusion section of VIA Rail’s Careers webpage is a good summary of how we feel and act at VIA Rail.

From a passenger perspective, our aim is to be at the service of all Canadians. Internally, we are supportive of and encourage diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This year, our employees will be celebrating by sharing culinary dishes that highlight the flavours of their cultural backgrounds. Employees are invited to gather, taste and discuss on the afternoon of May 21, the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

We are fortunate to experience the varied foods, arts and music (among many other things) that come from living in Canada, a melting pot of different cultures and backgrounds. From coast to coast, each province and territory has their own distinctive traditions and history. Add to that the various ethnicities of many Canadians, including those of the new citizens we welcome every year, and we are never at a loss for new things to do and see.  From the Mushtari Begum Festival of Indian Classical Music and Dance in New Westminster, BC to the Glengarry Highland Games in Maxville, Ontario, Canada has got it all (and the best way to get there? the train, of course).

The many benefits of diversity in our country (and in others) have been studied and conveyed for years, and these advantages are easy to see. These gains can also be seen in business. Fostering and supporting diversity in the workplace improves effectiveness from productivity to problem-solving.  It also fosters innovation and helps client-based organizations such as VIA Rail provide better customer service. And, bringing it right down to the individual level, fostering diversity within your own life is also very rewarding.

Today is a great day to “Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion”.  Grab a couple of tickets to a new festival, learn more about a culture you’ve always wondered about, or try a new food – something we are looking forward to doing during our afternoon celebration today.

Great Canadian PoeTrain Participants: Poetic, Prolific and Robotic

May 7th 2015 by Yves Desjardins-Siciliano

Is there anything more inspiring than travel, more specifically travelling by train, when it comes to creativity? The passing landscapes seen through the windows of our transcontinental Canadian train are relaxing and gorgeous – two elements that we imagine would help any writer create beautiful prose.

No surprise then that Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour, comprised of 19 poets and one travel writer boarded our Canadian train in honour of National Poetry Month, in April. Actually, scratch that, make it 19 poets, one travel writer and kulturBOT boarded the train to write poetry and celebrate in cities across Canada, from Ottawa to Vancouver.

The Great Canadian PoeTrain group: David Brydges,standing third from the right, is seen holding kulturBOT

KulturBot 3.0, sibling to hitchBOT (the robot who hitchhiked across Canada), was kind of like the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour’s metallic mascot. Working within the “found” poetry genre, this self-publishing robot periodically printed small poems it created based on the contents of geographer and fur-trader David Thompson’s explorer diaries.

Meanwhile the PoeTrain group were quite prolific themselves. The 19 poets, originally from four different provinces and the Yukon, are compiling the work created during their trip in an anthology to be published later this month.

While on the train, the group benefitted from the use of a dedicated Skyline dome car for performances, workshops and music concerts, courtesy VIA Rail. They invited several poets and writer passengers to participate in their workshops and read their work (one of the participants was a member of VIA Rail’s on train staff!)

In anticipation of their future book release, we’d like to share a poem, written by Canadian poet David Brydges, one of the main organizers of the Great Canadian PoeTrain who was also asked to be the steward kulturBOT during the trip.


Prairie Spring Train

-David Brydges

The chug, chug, chug stops.
Silence and sibling reflection
move to morning peace place.

Underground golden wheat’s
roots slowly dream of rising.

Dawns reddish orange circle
encircles prairie pond
in wide luminous cape colours.

Flocks of Canada geese pilgrimage home.
Playfully forget scattered vagabond formation.
As if spring exuberance lifts their spirits.

Grassy hill white rabbit carcass
will someday be the earth.
Raven tries out flying metal machine.
Carving steel civilization sliver
that trespasses elk territory,
in one more subjugation.

The “Canadian” transcontinental engine
rumbles, sways its horizontal body track ward.
We rock, lurch into the forward clickety clack car.
Train astronauts on altered space journey.
And I awake to a breakfast of well-cooked rhythms.

Thanks to the PoeTrain poets for bringing their adventures onboard and for sharing their expertise and experience with other VIA Rail passengers.

Operation Lifesaver Tells It Like It Is

April 23rd 2015 by Yves Desjardins-Siciliano

VIA Rail had a vision of the role we could play in terms of enhancing and increasing safety awareness along the railway. The fact is that people are still unaware or simply ignore the dangers of trespassing on or getting too close to railways. This situation is simply not acceptable, and part of our safety mandate is to continuously improve awareness so that we keep people and cars off the railroad tracks.

For the past 34 years, VIA Rail has employed one of the most knowledgeable people in the safety business. She has helped to create and shape VIA’s Safety Management System, which goes above and beyond rail safety regulations and is very highly regarded in the industry. We realised that her knowledge needed to be shared widely, so that more people could benefit from her wisdom and experience.

Therefore, in 2014, we sent our Senior Director of Safety and Corporate Security, Jean Tierney, to work in a leadership position at Operation Lifesaver (OL). OL was once a program under the Railroad Association of Canada, but has since developed into a separate not-for-profit organization with its own Board of Directors. The activities planned and executed by OL are designed to increase safety around rail property and trains. To this end, the videos, blogs and awareness campaigns they create don’t beat around the bush. With first-hand accounts of incidents and personal stories about these avoidable events, OL is working hard to bring home the message that there is no grey zone when it comes to safety.

Check out one of their latest campaign posters:

It’s got humour, but the message is strong; there are some things you just don’t take chances with.

With Jean’s help, OL’s Rail Safety week, which takes place from April 27 – May 3, is more far-reaching and expansive than ever before. This year, they have enlisted the help of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, who will be promoting rail safety week to over 3,000 Canadian communities to help get the message out. For a list of activities in your area, visit

Along with her work at OL, Jean remains a key member of the VIA Rail team and continues to work in the interest of VIA Rail and its safety goals. The strong culture of safety established at VIA Rail continues to prevail and is part of every decision we make. In fact, part of Jean’s mandate is to coach and teach other companies and organization about safety – by using VIA Rail as the model.

We hope to see you at some of OL’s Rail Safety Week events. VIA Rail will be an active partner, as always.