14 Mar VIA Rail suspends routes because of COVID-19
VIA Rail is halting its Canadian and Ocean routes as Canadian public health authorities continue to grapple with containing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The two eastern and western long-distance routes will be suspended until Friday, March 27 as a preventative measure, president and CEO Cynthia Garneau said in statement.
“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,” Garneau said. “I apologize for any inconvenience this difficult decision has caused our customers and employees and thank them for their understanding and patience.”
VIA Rail will continue to offer regional services to remote communities until further notice with updated schedules and conditions.
As for other services, Garneau says they are evaluating all options as the situation continues to unfold.
The decision results in the cancellation of 22 trains, which will affect over 1,800 passengers.
The Ocean route operated between Montreal to Halifax and the Canadian between Toronto and Vancouver.
The Prince Rupert to Prince George and Jasper routes have also been cancelled as a result, with its cancellation extending to March 31.
VIA Rail says it is also enforcing special health and safety measures that include vigorous cleaning of its train cars, stations, washrooms and vestibules.
“All employees, whether in train stations, on board, in maintenance or call centres, are trained and informed on what they have to do for safety and prevention,” Garneau said in a separate statement. “The situation requires us to remain vigilant and to ensure we minimize the risk of contamination to the best of our ability.”
The transportation service will continue to enforce its strict cleanliness and hygiene protocols which involve the cleaning of all hard surfaces with the use of cleaning products approved by Health Canada.
For train stations, VIA Rail says it has increased its daily cleaning and disinfection with special attention being paid to door handles, handrails, elevators, washrooms and switches. Staff will also regularly clean tray tables, armrests, doors, walls, windows and counters on cars.
Masks are also being given out to all major stations but are prioritized for passengers showing symptoms. Anti-viral products like hand sanitizer are also being distributed on board trains and in stations.
Via Rail assures that any passengers who choose to change their travel plan will be accommodated and can cancel or change their ride at any time before departure during the months of March and April. Passengers can receive full refunds and will not incur any services charges.