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A Via Rail train sits in the station yard in Halifax on June 13, 2013. A collision between a train and a car near Chatham, Ont., has killed two people.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Via Rail's ridership rose in 2015, helping Canada's national passenger train service cut its annual operating loss by 12 per cent to $280-million.

The Crown corporation said passenger-miles rose by 1.7 per cent last year and revenue climbed by 6 per cent, the first time in seven years both categories have increased.

Total government funding declined to $378-million while on-time performance fell to 71 per cent from 76 per cent, a deterioration Via Rail blamed on the freight railways that own the tracks.

Taxpayer subsidies for every Via Rail passenger were $73 in 2015, compared with $83 in 2014. The subsidies are lowest – $42 – in the Southern Ontario and Quebec corridor. Long-haul subsidies were almost $500 per passenger while regional services were subsidized at $607, Via Rail said in its annual report released on Friday.

Via Rail is a Crown corporation funded by the taxpayers. Coast to coast, it offers intercity, long-distance and regional passenger service on 12,500 kilometres of track, 98 per cent of which is owned by Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. and Canadian National Railway Co.

Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, Via Rail's chief executive officer, is spearheading an effort to buy and build dedicated passenger tracks in the busy Toronto-Montreal-Ottawa corridors. The $4-billion proposal, which will require $2-billion from private-sector pension funds, would allow Via Rail to improve on-time performance and boost revenue by running more trains.

"Our plan to build infrastructure dedicated to passengers will eliminate over five million car trips annually," Via Rail said in its report. "This means a reduction of 10.8 million tons of CO2 equivalent, over the life of the project. This represents 1.5 per cent of Canada's total GHG emissions or 13 per cent of all car emissions."

The federal government has said it will consider the proposal.