Halted train travel along 2 of Via Rail's busiest routes 'a bit of a disaster' for disrupted passengers
‘I’m in solidarity with the protests that are going on but it’s obviously complicated to get home,’ man says
With train travel along two of Via Rail's busiest routes halted by protesters for a second straight day on Sunday, passengers say they have found themselves in a quandary as they try to leave Toronto to head back home for work and school.
Via Rail says 18 of its trains were cancelled Sunday, affecting service between Toronto and Montreal, as well as Toronto and Ottawa in both directions.
"It's been a bit of a disaster," would-be passenger Kyle Kirkup told CBC News.
"I'm in solidarity with the protests that are going on, but it's obviously complicated to get home."
Kirkup is headed to Ottawa in time for work Monday after a weekend in Toronto.
He said the problems started on Thursday while he was travelling to Toronto.
"We got to Kingston on Thursday, we were then told by Via that there's a blockade that was happening and that the train was going to go back, and if we wanted to get off in Kingston we could find our own way to Toronto," he explained.
"We then got an email last night saying that our train back to Ottawa had also been cancelled and that no alternatives were going to be provided by Via Rail.
"It's definitely been complicated, a bit stressful trying to do bookings on the fly, and I wish that there would have been perhaps a bit better communication from Via about alternative options that might have been available," he added.
Via Rail denied CBC's request for an interview but issued a statement saying while its trains are prepared to leave on schedule should it achieve line clearance, "until the issue is resolved, departures from Ottawa/Montreal to Toronto and Toronto to Ottawa/Montreal can't operate due to these circumstances beyond our control."
"Services continue to operate between Ottawa and Montreal, between Montreal and Quebec City, and west of Toronto in southwestern Ontario," the statement reads.
Blockade in solidarity with demonstrators in northwest B.C.
Protesters have been demonstrating at Belleville, Ont., against the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline project in British Columbia.
Canadian National Railway traffic was also blocked along the corridor east of Toronto.
The blockade took over the tracks Thursday night in solidarity with demonstrators in northwest B.C. where Indigenous people and supporters are protesting the construction of a pipeline that crosses Wet'suwet'en territory.
RCMP officers in B.C. have been arresting people for breaching a court injunction that attempted to clear the way for construction of the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline.
CN says it has been granted an injunction order to remove protesters from the site near Belleville, Ont.
Kirkup said while he has been inconvenienced by the demonstrations, he supports those staging them.
"I think it's important to recognize why the protest is going on. I think it's super important and even though I've experienced delays, I'm still happy to support the work that's being done for a better nation-to-nation relationship in Canada," he said.
Kirkup said it was quite the challenge trying to book a bus ticket back to Ottawa, but he was finally able to find a seat on the 2:30 p.m. Greyhound bus.
Another passenger, Kimia Fardfini, missed her train from Ottawa to Toronto on Thursday and was also forced to make other arrangements to leave Sunday from Toronto to Ottawa.
Fardfini, who is originally from Toronto, goes to school in Ottawa.
"I booked my Via Rail well in advance like I always do, and when I got to the train station in Ottawa it was delayed indefinitely and they cancelled it. So, I had to take the Greyhound and currently I'm in Toronto trying to figure out how to get back to do my school work tomorrow," she told CBC News on Sunday.
"Since yesterday, well since all weekend, I've been looking at the train status for my train tonight and I can't find anything for my specific train. It says it's tentatively scheduled, but I don't know if I really trust Via right now.
"The Greyhounds are booked already. So, it was either that or my family tried to take time off to drive me or rent a car, which is just as expensive as flying because I'm under 25 and that's not really possible. So, I had to book on Porter last night and it was $422," Fardfini added.
Plan ahead, Metrolinx spokesperson says
As people prepare for the start of the new work week, Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins is urging people to plan ahead, in the event any of its services are disrupted because of the ongoing protests.
"We always suggest to our customers, before you leave the house, check the website for any service updates, check your phones, sign up for on-the-go alerts, that kind of thing," Aikins told CBC News.
"Our customers come a long distance. It's a little different than often with the TTC customers [who] just jump on the closest subway or streetcar. Our customers will sometimes travel an hour and a half, two hours away to get to their destinations, so, we always tell them to plan ahead."
Metrolinx is a government transportation agency that manages and integrates road and public transport in Ontario, including GO Transit.
Aikins said while she does not expect a disruption at all seven corridors, she's hoping for the best on Monday.
"We transport 200,000 people a day from all over the region, so if they can't get to their jobs and their medical appointments it disrupts a lot of lives, potentially."
With files Farrah Merali, Angelina King, Sarah-Émilie Bouchard and The Canadian Press