VIA train cancellations amid anti-pipeline protests leave passengers stranded

Passengers gather at Kitchener's VIA Rail Station following the cancellation of passenger services across Canada. (Terry Kelly/CTV Kitchener) (Feb. 13, 2019)

The abrupt cancellation of passenger train service across Canada amid ongoing anti-pipeline rail blockades has left many scrambling for alternative transportation.

Passengers at Kitchener’s VIA Rail Station were a few among thousands of others left looking for another way to get where they were going.

“I’m trying to get to Sarnia, it’s basically at the end of the line, it’s a three hour trip,” said passenger Brianna Fischer. “I can’t get over there to see my boyfriend, and tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day, so yeah.”

Justin Skinner says he just started taking the train to commute between Stratford and Kitchener.

“I’ll probably find a hotel in the area and camp out here for the night,” he adds. “I’ll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.”

“I had a ticket to go back home to Windsor, but I got a ticket around 4:50 p.m. saying that wasn’t happening,” said passenger Kyle Eartsch. “I’ve been waiting here since then and have someone coming to get me from Windsor.”

VIA says they had no choice when they made the decision in the late afternoon of Thursday.

In a statement, VIA says: “we understand the impact this unfortunate situation has on our passengers and regret the significant inconvenience this is causing to their travel plans.”

The company adds that they’ll be providing instant refunds to customers for their cancelled trips.

CN, which owns the railroad tracks and infrastructure, says they could no longer fulfill their obligations along the railroads and completely halted its freight trains in Eastern Canada as well.

Anti-pipeline protesters continue railroad blockades across the country in solidarity with the Wet’Suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs in British Columbia.

In Guelph, a group of demonstrator showed solidarity with the Wet’Suwet’en Chiefs at a climate change town hall.

Liberal MP Lloyd Longfield was at the event to see the protestors and says the complicated issue is a priority for the government.

“It’s not as cut and dry as an entire group of people coming forward,” he said. “We have to hear the concerns and work with the province of BC as well as the federal government to get a consensus solution with indigenous people.”

Similar protests have taken place in Waterloo and Guelph this past week.