Via Rail tells MPs passengers stuck on train for 18 hours were in 'unique' situation

VIA Rail issues statement, apology for holiday travel chaos

MONTREAL — VIA Rail has issued a statement regarding the Dec. 23 – 26 travel delays and train cancellations.

VIA Rail cancelled trains running between Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto over the Christmas weekend after it said a CN trail derailed on a set of tracks. Passengers travelling on a train between Ottawa and Toronto were stuck for upwards of 20 hours.

Earlier this week a parliamentary committee voted to launch a study into the causes behind Canada’s chaotic holiday travel season, and to hear not only from industry giants, but also from some of the passengers who saw their plans upended.

“A severe winter storm along with the derailment of a freight train disrupted VIA Rail’s operations from December 23 to 26. Unfortunately, a number of trains, particularly along the Québec City–Windsor corridor and elsewhere in Eastern Canada, were cancelled or delayed for extended periods. We appreciate that passengers were looking forward to holiday celebrations and family get-togethers, and we regret that for many, those plans were disrupted. We didn’t meet your expectations and for that we apologize,” reads VIA Rail’s statement, signed by Martin R. Landry, President and CEO at VIA Rail Canada.

“The daily mission of our 3,200 employees is to put passengers first, and we are committed to providing Canadians with a train service that meets their expectations. While we take pride in the fact that the safety and wellbeing of our passengers and our staff was always our priority and front and centre in our decision-making, we also believe that we should have done better in dealing with the situation.

“We are truly sorry for letting our passengers down. We know we should have been more forthcoming in sharing information about trains that were delayed and in communicating updates. We also know we should have adopted a different approach in supporting passengers on trains that were delayed for lengthy periods.

“Therefore, in addition to offering a full refund to passengers, along with travel credits for those whose trains were completely immobilized, we will be reviewing our performance over the four-day period with the help of outside experts. We will be looking at a wide range of issues including our planning for the storm, our operational response, protocol around customer care and our overall communications as well as how we can better accommodate our passengers in order to get them to their destination.

“Beyond not having met the expectations of our customers, we have not lived up to our own standards. Despite weather events and a freight train derailment beyond our control, it is clear that lessons will be learned, and changes will be made. We truly hope the passengers who were affected by these disruptions will travel with us again soon so we can show them what VIA Rail is all about: Offering a safe, accessible, comfortable, and sustainable travel experience and a remarkable service for which we are known and loved.”