MONTREAL - Via Rail Canada got an unexpected Christmas present over the holidays when record snowfalls in Ontario and Quebec created a significant spike in its ridership.

In a statement released Thursday morning, Via says 21,000 more passengers took the train in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor compared to the same time last year - a 10.2 per cent increase.

Routes between Toronto and Ottawa and between Montreal and Ottawa saw the sharpest increases at 17 per cent.

The statement says the snowfalls had a similar impact on national ridership, which rose by 9.4 per cent between Dec. 19, 2007 and Jan. 6, 2008.

The release of the figures comes as Ontario and Quebec are to launch a joint feasibility study into development of a high speed rail corridor between Windsor and Quebec City.

Premiers Dalton McGuinty and Jean Charest will announce the study after meeting together this afternoon in Ottawa.

Via Rail attributes its success to reliable service in the popular central-Canada corridor, adding that no trains were cancelled despite a series of snow storms.

Via currently serves more than 450 communities with a network of inter-city, transcontinental and regional trains. It recently announced a $100 million project to rebuild its fleet of locomotives.