As more trains hit the rails, Via Rail lets passengers move at their own pace

The brand creates a new platform to talk about the safe options it has for passengers whenever they are ready to travel.

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Inter-city travel is beginning to pick up in Canada, and Via Rail is letting Canadians know that it is a safe option that is moving at the same pace as its customers.

Via Rail and long-time agency partner Cossette have developed a new creative platform specifically tailored towards the post-lockdown traveller called “We’re Moving With You.” In direct email channels, digital display ads, on social media and its own website, animated, mask-wearing passengers help communicate the steps Via has taken to ensure travelling is safe, as well as presenting options for a break from your neighbourhood. On Via’s website, a branded content approach that was paused is set to resume with blogs about activities and “day trip” destinations along routes that have increased their frequency.

The work launched as Via Rail has slowly begun to increase the frequency of its routes after heavy reductions during the pandemic. Beginning on Sept. 1, Via Rail increased the daily frequencies of its trains in the high-traffic Quebec City-Windsor corridor to 50% of their previous frequencies, due to the increase in demand for intercity travel. It also getting ahead of increased service for its Montreal to Halifax and Toronto to Vancouver long-distance routes, which are tentatively slated to resume in November, though subject to change based on developments in public health.

“We still see that our customers are concerned about traveling – so that aspect is certainly still there,” says David Klein, director of customer relationship management and loyalty at Via Rail. “But the intention to travel, and the incidence of travel, has been on a fairly steady increase.”

According to results from a survey conducted by Via Rail in August and provided to strategy, one third of Via Rail customers won’t travel within Quebec and Ontario right now because of COVID-19. That’s still high, but it is down from two thirds at the the beginning of the pandemic. Results also suggest that 50% of customers surveyed have already travelled within the corridor in the past three months, with six out of ten are currently planning to travel before the end of the year.

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With that in mind, Klein says Via Rail is currently taking a two-pronged approach to its communications. The first is simply clearing up confusion about how travel advisories have impacted Via Rail, letting Canadians know that it is still operating and informing them of increases to service frequency.

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The second is to position Via as a way to travel with piece of mind. Part of that means building on the already high levels of consumer trust Via Rail has with travellers, which Klein says allows it to come at this goal from a position of strength. But it is also about ensuring that passengers are resuming travel at their own pace, so as not to betray that trust with a hard sell.

“We don’t see our role as one to push Canadians to travel,” Klein says. “We want to make sure that when they do have to travel, that they feel safe in choosing Via as their option to get them from one place to the other.”