Via Rail suspends passenger service across Canada

BlackburnNews.com file photo of the Via Rail train station in Windsor. (Photo by Jason Viau)

Blockades set up by anti-pipeline protesters have forced Via Rail to shut down all of its passenger train services across Canada.

CN Rail announced this week that the blockades have forced the closure of its train network in Eastern Canada. Via Rail announced on Thursday that it would have no choice but to shut down services, which mostly utilize CN track, as well.

“I am fully aware and deeply concerned by the impact of the decision CN was forced to take and its consequent effect on Via Rail,” said Marc Garneau, Canada’s Minister of Transport, in a statement. “A safe and efficient passenger and freight rail service is critical to the well-being of our country. I am in constant communication with CN and CP.”

Several blockades have been set up on railway lines in Eastern Canada in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en chiefs who object to the Coastal GasLink pipeline that runs from the Dawson Creek area to Kitimat on the northwestern B.C. coast.

“All parties must engage in open and respectful dialogue to ensure this situation is resolved peacefully,” said Garneau. “We strongly urge these parties to do so.”

Via Rail said the suspension of services will take effect immediately and remain in place until further notice.

“VIA Rail is providing full refunds for all cancelled trips, which are being processed automatically. You do not need to contact VIA Rail to confirm the refund, but note that due to the volume of transactions it may take up to 15 days to receive,” Via Rail said in a statement. “We understand the impact this unfortunate situation has on our passengers and regret the significant inconvenience this is causing to their travel.”

A statement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Office indicated that both Trudeau and British Columbia Premier John Horgan share a commitment to meet with Gitxsan Simgyget, Wet’suwet’en Dini Ze’ and Ts’ake ze First Nations to engage in an ongoing dialogue.

Anyone who requires customer assistance from Via Rail is asked to do so only in cases of immediate urgency at this time. VIA’s Customer Center can be reached at 1-888-VIA-RAIL (1-888 842-7245), TTY 800-268-9503 (deaf or hard of hearing).