Federal funding for Via Rail helps to soften the pain from plunge in passengers

Cancelled rail arrivals and departures are listed on the board at Central Station in Montreal, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL - Financial government support helped to cushion the blow for Via Rail created by an 81 per cent drop in passenger revenues in the first quarter.

The passenger rail service says it lost $2.2 million for the three months ended March 31, compared with a $23.6-million loss a year earlier. The operating loss was $121.1 million, down from $151.7 million.

Passenger revenues fell to $8.8 million from $46.1 million as the number of passengers dwindled amid COVID-19 lockdowns to 127,000 from 643,000 in the first quarter of 2020 before the pandemic took hold.

Via Rail cut operating expenses by 34.1 per cent to $133.6 million in part through temporary employee layoffs.

The federal government contributed $143.1 million, down 10.7 per cent from $160.3 million in the prior year's quarter.

This included $96.2 million in operating funds and $46.9 million in capital funding, compared with $104.8 million and $55.5 million, respectively, a year earlier.

"Transportation options have been severely impacted by the pandemic, but I would like to reiterate our commitment to resuming all routes across the country once conditions permit us to do so," stated CEO Cynthia Garneau.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2021.

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