VIA Rail’s ambitious new CEO

January 19, 2015

Railway Age reports that VIA Rail Canada’s “unfailingly courteous on-board crews and station staff” are suddenly enthused about VIA’s future under its new CEO, Yves Desjardins-Siciliano:

Ever since Canada’s state rescue of passenger trains in 1977, VIA Rail has depended on the government of the day to spackle the gaps between revenues and operating costs. Allocations for fleet renewal and infrastructure have been meted out only grudgingly.

The result, 37 years later, is a spinal cord of daily intercity services in the two central provinces of Quebec and Ontario, with thin microfilaments extending to each of Canada’s three ocean coasts—nearly all of it on track owned and dispatched by CN.

…The lawyer-turned-railroader dismisses questions about what’s next in the way of service cuts, and instead, looks ahead to building a brand new, intercity network in Central Canada—while restoring some long abandoned regional services in the East and West.

“There is more of an opportunity for growth than there is a risk of downsizing,” he told Railway Age during an interview in his downtown Montreal offices…

“Our first role is to run the railway—with the assets we have today,” Desjardins-Siciliano said in one of his first wide-ranging interviews since assuming his post in May 2014. “It’s not our role to make transportation policy.” After a tactical pause to allow the disappointment to set in, he proceeded to set out in delicious detail what sounds awfully like a thoughtful transportation policy for the future of rail passenger service in Canada…

Read the rest of the story in Railway Age, 16 January 2015

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