May 14, 2014

Increasing the frequency of the Ocean

The new President and CEO of VIA Rail, Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, about the government funding to maintain part of the Newcastle sub, said ‘he tied the funding to a new target of increasing ridership on the Montreal-Halifax service by 50 per cent. As a concerned user of the train, I thought I’d give him a few suggestions.

May 14, 2014

Mr Yves Desjardins-Siciliano,
President and Chief Executive Officer
VIA Rail Canada
3 Place Ville Marie,
Montreal, QC H3B 2C9

Dear Mr Desjardins-Siciliano,

First, let me congratulate you on your appointment, you have a difficult position as President and CEO of a crown corporation. Here are a few ideas on ways to increase ridership on the Ocean. First, is to increase the frequency. In 2011, the last full year of a 6 day a week operation, the Ocean carried 134 thousand passengers on government funding of $35 million according to the 2011 annual report. For the year 2013 with a 3 day a week operation, the Ocean carried just 76 thousand passengers but the government funding was at $34 million. So as you can see there is not much savings in reducing the frequency. Adding additional departures that would result in a big increase in ridership with small additional cost to taxpayers is an ideal situation that one would hope be self-evident.

Another way to increase ridership is to add cars when the train or the sleepers are sold out, especially 2 or 3 days before departure. You lose clients when they can’t book their trip on the date they want. The Ocean service should be marketed to Maritimers to increase ridership. Also, coordinate schedules and establish seamless through ticketing with Maritime Bus Company in order to extend VIA’s customer base. You should also reestablish a temporary bus service to New Carlisle and Gaspe, Que until that train can operate to those places in order to retain or rebuild your customer base there. A shortened schedule would increase ridership. One way to shave off 25 minutes from the schedule is to revert back to the Charny station stop instead of the time consuming return trip to Ste Foy.

The above suggestions and others should be taken seriously if you want to grow the business and ensure the long time survival of the Ocean train.

Yours sincerely,

Barry Brake
Montreal, QC

The Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport
Bruce Hyer, MP for Thunder Bay–Superior North
Yvon Godin, MP for Acadie-Bathurst
The Gaspé Spec