[WINNIPEG, MB] — Via Rail says it expects to cut 200 unionized jobs, or about nine per cent of its positions, as the government-owned passenger rail service reduces trips on lines across the country.
Although the moves come in the wake of federal budget cuts totalling more than $40 million over three years, the union says Via insists the trip reductions and job cuts are driven by weak off-season demand.
VIA says it will not cut any whole routes and adds it's working to expand track capacity between the busy Montreal-Toronto corridor. The service adjustments will be rolled out between July and the end of October.
Trip frequencies are being cut on some of the big routes, including the Montreal to Halifax route "The Ocean" which will be cut from six to three round trips per week.
In the West, "The Canadian" — a Toronto to Vancouver route — will be reduced from three to two round trips per week in the off-season (October to April). Service during peak season will remain at three trips per week.
There will also be a number reductions in southwestern Ontario, where GO Transit and other services are available to commuters. London, Aldershot, Kitchener, Niagara Falls and other cities will see reduced Via service.
"In growing markets, we are adding more frequencies to meet customer demand," said president and CEO Marc Laliberte. "In addition, mandatory services in regions where there are limited transportation alternatives will remain.
"We are not eliminating rail service on any routes where we operate today and we are maintaining the flexibility to adjust service levels in the future, as customer needs evolve."
Via notes that it has reduced it management workforce by 15 per cent since 2009.
The Harper government's recent budget reduced subsidies to the passenger rail service by $6.5 million this year, $15.1 million in 2013-14 and $19.6 million in 2014-15.
Via Rail has worked to reduce its operating deficit. Excluding pension costs, the shortfall was reduced to $9 million in 2010 and a larger reduction was realized in 2011, Laliberte recently said.