Moving towards a more sustainable future with artificial intelligence

The first train was built over 200 years ago, and yet, it remains today as relevant as ever, being one of the most efficient and sustainable ways to move people, especially in the context of climate change. With bold climate action being a priority for Canada, VIA Rail has a responsibility, as the country’s national passenger rail service, to help contribute to the transition towards a low-carbon economy. This is why we have set targets and are now implementing concrete actions to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) we generate as part of our operations.

With that objective in mind, we have created a pilot project that brings together our long-established mode of transportation with a new cutting-edge technology that is artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce our fuel consumption and GHGs, all without impacting travel time.

Back in 2021, we started working with a promising start-up company, RailVision Analytics, to test an AI-enabled software called EcoRail. Based on the analysis of several factors such as speed, slope of the tracks, equipment used, season, or schedule, EcoRail provides simple and applicable driving recommendations to our locomotive engineers to help them further enhance their fuel-effective train handling behaviors. The initial six months of tests completed in our state-of-the-art simulators on the Ottawa-Toronto route confirmed a potential reduction of up to 15% in fuel consumption and resulting GHGs.

With these promising and inspiring results, we continue moving forward on our sustainability journey and have decided to extend this AI pilot project in order to test the practical application of the AI-generated recommendations during live train operations.

This pilot project is a key endeavour that will contribute to one of VIA Rail’s goals of reducing its environmental footprint. To learn more about what we are doing to be part of the solution in helping Canada create a more sustainable future for all, have a look at our sustainability page here.