- Passengers are scrambling for information and alternative travel options after VIA Rail cancelled service nationwide.
- A spokesperson for Air Passenger Rights Canada tells MTL Blog that current, elevated flight prices may be due to the train cancellations.
News broke Thursday night that VIA Rail would be stopping operations across Canada effective immediately as solidarity protests continued throughout the CN Rail network, on which VIA Rail runs. Passenger trains will be cancelled until further notice, impacting travellers across the country who must now look to alternative modes of travel by land or sky. Those passengers who have train trips booked with VIA Rail are also scrambling to confirm refunds, a process VIA Rail believes could take up to 15 days in some cases.
VIA Rail trains had previously been cancelled between Toronto and Montreal as well as between Toronto and Ottawa due to solidarity demonstrations set up in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory near Belleville, Ontario.
Deputy MP of Ville-Marie-Le-Sud-Ouest-Île-des-Soeurs (Teiontiakon) and Minister of Indigenous Services, Marc Miller, has agreed to meet with two Chiefs in Tyendinaga Saturday, February 15 to discuss the barricade of the train tracks.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Hogan also spoke on Thursday to discuss "how progress on both climate change and reconciliation must continue to be at the forefront of all government actions," as well as how to "work together closely toward a resolution as soon as possible."
As Trudeau plans to meet with Gitxsan Simgyget, Wet'suwet'en Dini Ze' and Ts'ake ze to "engage in an ongoing dialogue" and land protectors maintain their stand against injunctions, travellers across Canada are now scrambling to find alternative travel options.
Evidenced by the tweets above, VIA Rail staff are already making suggestions for land-based travel alternatives by way of various bus services.
However, many passengers feel that the rail service provider could have been doing more to keep passengers in the loop with the status of their trains.
Many passengers are also uncertain how and when they will be refunded for cancelled train trips.
In a statement, VIA Rail explained that they are "providing full refunds for all cancelled trips, which are being processed automatically."
The alert on its website continues, "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 has yet to make a statement about the impact of these cancellations on its workforce.
CN, however, has said that the cessation of operations in Eastern Canada has the possibility of leading to "temporary layoffs within the company’s Eastern Canadian operational staff."
For now, it seems the bus is the best bet for most travellers moving in and out of Montreal, with MegaBus and Greyhound operating several buses every day.
Flying has proven to be an expensive alternative as prices climb, likely due to increased demand for all airlines flying in and out of Montreal.
MTL Blog reached out to Air Passenger Rights Canada to inquire about the price hikes.
A spokesperson agreed "it is a reasonable conclusion that the increase may be related to the train cancellations: it has created a spike on the demand side, and it is, therefore, natural that prices will be higher given that the supply has not increased."
And while frustrations remain high for many who are worried about the impact on upcoming travel plans, many Canadians are standing in solidarity with the First Nations land protectors who have created the blockades and subsequent cancellations.