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VIA Rail's total ridership dropped in 2012 despite 4Q gains

Total passenger volume for VIA Rail Canada Inc. in 2012 decreased 5 percent to 3.9 million riders on a year-over-year basis, but average revenue per rider rose 2.2 percent to $65.52 compared with 2011, VIA officials announced yesterday.

In the fourth quarter, the railroad posted ridership gains on its most popular routes: Quebec City and Montreal, up 10.7 percent, and Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto, up 10.4 percent. On an annualized basis, ridership on the routes increased 2.4 percent and fell 0.8 percent, respectively, compared with 2011, VIA Rail officials said in a prepared statement.

On long-distance routes, a frequency adjustment in scheduling that took effect in the fourth quarter improved passenger counts for the Ocean and the Canadian. The average number of riders per train improved on both trains: from 121 in 2011 to 126 in 2012 for the Ocean between Montreal and Halifax, and from 148 to 168 on the Canadian between Toronto and Vancouver.

VIA Rail's intermodal strategy helped drive a 119 percent increase in the number of connections between the railroad and its various partners in 2012 compared with the previous year, VIA Rail officials said.

As a result of operational improvements, railroad officials believe VIA Rail will reach its budget goals for 2012 and continue to improve its financial performance for a third consecutive year by reducing government funding before pension fund contributions.

"Even though there is still a lot to do, the increase in average revenue per passenger and that of the occupancy rates for the Ocean and the Canadian are proof that our strategy to adjust scheduling frequency according to market demand was the right one," said VIA Rail President and Chief Executive Officer Marc Laliberté. "All our efforts are ultimately aimed at making VIA Rail's services financially and commercially viable."

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