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Via Rail’s first-quarter profit triples after service cuts

A Via Rail employee climbs aboard an F40 locomotive at the train station in Ottawa on Monday, December 3, 2012


Via Rail's net income nearly tripled to $11.5-million in the first quarter despite a dip in revenues after the passenger railway cut long-haul service.

The arms-length Crown corporation said its profits for the period ended March 31 increased from $3.9-million a year earlier.

Via benefited from reduced operating expenses, lower capital spending and higher government subsidies.

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Total revenues fell to $59-million as a 2.7 per cent increase in passenger revenues in the key Ontario-Quebec corridor was offset by steep reductions in southwestern Ontario and the Ocean line between Montreal and Halifax.

Revenues in the Eastern corridor, which account for 82 per cent of overall revenues, increased to $37.8 million on increased frequencies.

Ocean revenues were down 46.7 per cent to $1.6 million while Southwestern Ontario revenues fell 12 per cent to $9.5-million. Revenues on the Canadian route between Toronto and Vancouver were unchanged at $3.7 million.

The railway operator announced last June that it expected to cut 200 unionized jobs, or about nine per cent of its workforce, as it reduces trips on several lines.

Trip frequencies on the Ocean route were cut to three from six round trips a week.

The Canadian route was reduced to two from three round trips a week in the off-season (October to April). Service during peak season will remain at three trips weekly.

The Conservative government cut the subsidy to Via Rail by $41-million over three years in the 2012 budget.

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Via's total comprehensive income surged in the quarter to $144.8-million following a $133.3-million actuarial gain on its defined benefit pension plan.

CEO Marc Laliberte said overall ridership remained steady despite the changes that added train frequencies where demand was greatest.

"We are confident that by staying focused on providing a travel experience that meets passengers' expectations of comfort, reliability, affordability and the benefit of productive and connected travel time, our ridership will continue to grow on key markets," he said in a news release.

The number of passengers in the Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto corridor increased 9.2 per cent, while overall ridership grew slightly to 936,000.

The number of miles travelled by all passengers increased 4.9 per cent to 184 million miles, while available seat miles fell to 352 million for a load factor of 52 per cent.

Via operates intercity, regional and transcontinental trains across a 12,500-kilometre route network.

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