Post-pandemic economic recoveryThe company had seen significant growth between 2013 and 2019, with its total revenue increasing from 270 million Canadian dollars to 411.1 million Canadian dollars in 2019. After a drop of around 77.6 percent between 2019 and 2020, revenues stood at around 92 million Canadian dollars, impacted by the global pandemic as well as factors specific to Canada.
From the 7th of February 2020, pipeline and railway protests impacted passenger traffic on Via Rail’s services. The blockades, which took place throughout the month, were followed by government-mandated national lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic. These lockdowns led to a slump in demand from regular commuters, tourists and long-haul passengers alike. Via Rail’s Toronto-Niagara inter-city route was particularly affected, ridership dipping to just over 4,000 passengers that year. The company’s revenue returned to nearly 82 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2022 but has not yet fully recovered. This development was to some extent driven by the return of many services during 2022. Services, which had been cut during the pandemic, were largely reinstated in the summer of 2022, with seat capacity for the whole year rising to close to 70 percent of 2019 figures.
A high operating ratioRevenue streams were not sufficient to cover the company’s operating expenses, which totaled 689.4 million Canadian dollars in 2022. While the 2022 revenues remained around 20 percent below those recorded in 2019, operating expenses returned to similar levels as pre-pandemic. Via Rail’s expenses have consistently been greater than the company’s revenues for years, generating high operating ratios. The shortfall has been funded by the Canadian government, which also provided additional funding for capital expenditure.
Prior to the establishment of Via Rail, national passenger in Canada rail was serviced by two companies – the Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway. From around the 1960’s both companies wanted to cease passenger services to instead focus on freight. Since the government considered passenger rail an essential service, it established Via Rail Canada as Canada’s first national passenger rail company in early 1977, after which they took over operation of the passenger services, cars and locomotives of the earlier two companies.
As of 2020, Via Rail held total assets of over 2.6 billion Canadian dollars. This represented a 19 percent year-on-year assets growth for the company.