Via Rail says most of its routes will be up and running again by early next week, including some key Eastern Canada services that were stalled by ongoing rail blockades.
The company announced Friday that partial service will resume on the popular Toronto-Montreal and Toronto-Ottawa routes Tuesday — closing the last major gaps in the regional network that was brought to a halt by protests in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline project.
In addition, Via Rail’s cross-country route between Vancouver and Toronto will allow two departures next week: one leaving Toronto on Wednesday, and the other departing Vancouver next Friday. Further departures will be confirmed “in the coming days,” the company said in a statement.
Service between Winnipeg and The Pas, Man., will resume this coming Sunday, while the Senneterre-Jonquière route in Quebec will be restored starting Wednesday.
A final affected route between Prince Rupert, B.C., Prince George, B.C., and Jasper, Alta., remains cancelled, although the company says that’s set to last until the end of next Friday at the earliest.
Weeks of blockades set up on rail tracks owned by CN Rail and used by Via brought trains for both companies to a halt earlier this month.
The longest-standing barricade in the country, which was set up by members of the Mohawk First Nation on its territory in Tyendinaga, Ont., was finally taken down on Monday, resulting in the arrest of 10 people.
While smaller blockades have been erected across the country in the days since, injunctions brought by CN and CP Rail have brought them down quickly.
Via Rail temporarily laid off roughly 1,000 workers at the height of the stoppage, with the company restoring service in piecemeal fashion as one blockade after another came down.
As of Friday, Via Rail says 940 trains have been cancelled because of the blockades, affecting more than 164,000 passengers.
“We continue to work with the infrastructure owner, CN Rail, on making sure that normal service can resume on all routes and that passengers can be welcomed back on board our trains as quickly as possible,” the company said in a statement.
The company says the transition to partial and eventually full service will take time and may have impacts on reservations, and is advising passengers to check the Via Rail website for information about reservations and refunds.
Protesters voiced solidarity with the 28 people arrested by RCMP in Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C. after RCMP moved in to enforce an injunction on behalf of Coastal GasLink. The blockades were not set to come down until RCMP fully left the territory and work on the pipeline was halted there.
The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs said those same conditions would have to be met before sitting down with provincial and federal government ministers.
Those meetings ultimately went forward Thursday and Friday after RCMP and Coastal GasLink relented and pulled their resources.