In perhaps the most dramatic passenger rail service suspension yet during the coronavirus pandemic, VIA Rail Canada announced late Wednesday that it was canceling its two premier long-distance trains until November.
VIA had previously suspended service on the Canadian between Toronto and Vancouver and the Ocean between Montreal and Halifax in March but had hoped to resume operations by summer. But President and CEO Cynthia Garneau said that is simply not possible with the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak. All passengers with reservations on either train will receive automatic refunds.
“This was not an easy decision to make but, given the current circumstances, the health and safety of our passengers, crew members and local communities must come first,” Garneau said. “As the travel industry grapples with the effects of COVID-19, we will use this extended pause to assess and identify which measures to implement in order to get back on track as soon and as safely as possible.”
VIA has drastically reduced service across its network in recent weeks, including on its busy Windsor, Ont, to Quebec City, Que. corridor and its remote services across the country. VIA also announced Wednesday that it was suspending sleeping car service on its route to Churchill, Man.
With much of its passenger car fleet now parked, VIA has decided to accelerate repair work on much of its long-distance equipment, an effort it began back in 2018. “As a result, we will be in a position to progressively bring back our renowned long-distance services to full capacity for the upcoming 2021 peak season,” Garneau said.