Via Rail suspends some train service amid coronavirus outbreak

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Via Rail is suspending service on major long-distance train routes for two weeks as Canada grapples with the COVID-19 outbreak.

The cancellations affect the Montreal-Halifax route, known as the Ocean, and the Toronto-Vancouver route, known as the Canadian.

Via Rail said in a statement Friday that the suspensions would be in place until March 27.

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“This exceptional preventive measure was made to help minimize the risk of contamination to the best of our ability,” said Cynthia Garneau, president and CEO.

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“The government’s recommendations on social distancing and travel limitations is in line with our Illness Control Plan, which is focused on the health and safety of our passengers and employees.”

The cancellations will impact 22 trains and more than 1,800 passengers, Via Rail said.

Via’s busiest and most profitable routes in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor were not affected.

“We’re waiting to learn the impacts to the employees and the plan,” Unifor’s Laura Hazlitt, who represents some western-based Via Rail employees, said in an interview prior to the company’s public announcement.

“We did just recently go through a suspension and a resumption-to-work plan. So the union is waiting to work with the company on the next plan.”

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Via Rail says lengthy delays were international ’embarrassment’

The cancellation is just one of many announced late this week. The House of Commons has been suspended, many festivals and events have been called off and some employers have told their employees to work from home.

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More than 150 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, have been confirmed in Canada.

Prior to the news, Via had announced special measures on its trains, including making masks available to passengers who were showing signs of illness.

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