Via Rail announced Thursday it will be cancelling all passenger trains across Canada in response to rail blockades in solidarity with some Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in B.C.
No trains have been able to go through the Toronto-Montreal network since last Thursday, but with no possible resolution in sight, Via said in a statement it has no other option than to cease service to the entire country.
“Following an advisory from the infrastructure owner that they are unable to support our operations across their network, Via Rail has no other option but to cancel most of its services until further notice,” the statement read.
The news has left thousands of travellers in Toronto and the surrounding GTA stranded.
How to cancel and/or get a refund on your VIA Rail ticket
Via Rail wrote on its website that it will be providing full refunds for all cancelled trips automatically, if not immediately.
“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 a minimum of 15 days to receive,” the company said in a statement.
The company said customers with upcoming trips can cancel their tickets themselves online.
Via Rail’s president and CEO Cynthia Garneau said in a statement Friday the situation is out of the transportation company’s hands.
“We hope for an end to this situation soon, however, it is not in our control,” Garneau said in a statement posted to Twitter on Friday evening.
Refunds are being processed as quickly as possible, she said.
Alternative travel options
Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said Thursday that Go Transit and the Up Express are running “business as usual” for all seven lines.
“We are monitoring the situation very closely with our rail partners and will keep you updated,” she said.
A good Samaritan, Tony Saleh, posted an offer on Kijiji saying he could take two people from Toronto to Queen’s University on Friday. The post said he can pick up two people for $25 each.
“I noticed that there was some people who are taking advantage of others online charging three, four times the rate just to charge gas … of course, no one is taking them because it’s ridiculous. It just goes to show the greed in our economy,” Saleh told Global News on Friday.
“I think we should be compassionate,” he said, adding he’s picking up two students in Kingston, one of which is visually impaired.
In total, Saleh, who has done a ride share type thing numerous times in the past, said he got about 36 responses.
“I think if you’re going that way, it’s good to show support and help other people. but I think the best thing we can do is show some support to the Indigenous people.”
Others in need can check posting sites like Kijiji and Craigslist to see if similar offers are up for grabs.
Stuart Kendrick, senior vice president for Greyhound told Global News on Friday that the company is experiencing a massive increase in demand following the Via cancellations. He said there has been increasing demand since the protests started.
Kendrick said the company already had about 100 extra coaches planned for the Family Day long weekend, as well as the post-secondary school break, but with the news of the cancellations, he said they added another 85 to 90.
Greyhound will keep adding extra coaches for “as long as necessary.”
Megabus told Global News on Friday that it was “experiencing an influx of passengers” on their trips to Toronto, Kingston and Montreal.
“We are constantly monitoring our passenger demand and adding additional services as necessary,” spokesperson Sean Hughes said.
Porter Airlines spokesperson Brad Cicero said they are seeing an increase in passengers on the Toronto-Ottawa and Toronto-Montreal routes. He said those are the routes with the most frequent trips and they are capable of taking on short-notice bookings.
However, Cicero said Porter will not be adding any flights at this time.
— With files by Maryam Shah