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All aboard! Via Rail service returns to London

The first trains in nearly a week departed from the London Via Rail station on Thursday.
The first trains in nearly a week departed from the London Via Rail station on Thursday. Andrew Graham / Global News

Via Rail passengers in London breathed a sigh of relief as the first trains in nearly a week departed from the city’s downtown station Thursday.

The station, along with many others in the country, has been quiet in recent days due to nationwide cancellations caused by ongoing rail line blockades.

The blockades were set up in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who are opposed to the construction of a massive natural gas pipeline in northwestern B.C.

READ MORE: Via Rail to temporarily lay off 1,000 workers amid rail blockades

Among these passengers was Amal Matan, who was more than prepared for any potential cancellations.

“I also was considering if I’m taking Via Rail or supporting rail, am I not necessarily… being the best ally possible to the protesters?” Matan said.

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“I feel that our inconvenience isn’t as much of an inconvenience that they are facing right now.”

READ MORE: Via Rail cancels plans to resume Montreal-Quebec City service as new blockade pops up

Tyler Cooper was kept more on edge with the looming threat of a cancellation on Thursday. With a job interview scheduled in Toronto, he had his train booked weeks in advance.

“I was starting to look at Greyhound and other options, even possibly begging a friend to drive me up if he would.”

With a job interviewed scheduled in Toronto, Tyler Cooper was happy to see Thursday’s train show up.
With a job interviewed scheduled in Toronto, Tyler Cooper was happy to see Thursday’s train show up. Andrew Graham / Global News

Londoner Joan Conlon uses Via Rail twice a week to visit her 100-year-old mother in Stratford.

Recent cancellations forced her to miss her usual Wednesday and Saturday train rides.

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“It was expected in that I had heard about the barricades and so on. Initially, I saw that people were very supportive, but it does wear on you.”

A frequent traveller, Joan Conlon uses Via Rail twice a week to visit her 100-year-old mother in Stratford.
A frequent traveller, Joan Conlon uses Via Rail twice a week to visit her 100-year-old mother in Stratford. Andrew Graham / Global News

Tom Schramm endured a stressful week. In November, the Ingersoll resident booked a train to see the Toronto Auto Show this weekend, but his plans were nearly dashed by potential cancellations.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t mad,” Schramm said.

“I called Via Rail yesterday, they’ve been nothing but great, changed my ticket for no extra fee [and] they even busted me up to business class, so we’re laughing.”
Tom Schramm’s hopes of seeing the Toronto Auto Show were nearly dashed by potential cancellations.
Tom Schramm’s hopes of seeing the Toronto Auto Show were nearly dashed by potential cancellations. Andrew Graham / Global News

Londoner Ross Agathos had little stake in whether Thursday’s train would arrive, with his seat being booked the night before.

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“I was about ready to drive this morning, but decided it’d be better to take the train,” Agathos said.

“I like to do my work on my computer, which I can’t do, obviously, when I’m driving. [It] makes my life a lot easier… If it’s not available then I’m just back in my car and wasting two and a half hours driving to Toronto for meetings.”
Ross Agathos had previously planned to drive to Toronto on Thursday morning but picked up a last-minute ticket when seats became available.
Ross Agathos had previously planned to drive to Toronto on Thursday morning but picked up a last-minute ticket when seats became available. Andrew Graham / Global News

London was included in three southwestern Ontario rail corridors that saw a return to service on Thursday.

Along with Toronto-London-Windsor, Toronto-Sarnia and Toronto-Niagara Falls, partial service also returned to a route between Montreal and Ottawa.

A new blockade near Saint-Lambert forced Via Rail to backtrack on plans to resume service between Montreal and Quebec City.

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As of Wednesday, Via Rail says the blockades have led to 599 trains being cancelled, affecting more than 111,000 passengers.