February 3, 2023

OTTAWA — Via Rail executives will address a federal committee today about the delays that have plagued travelers over the holidays. Earlier this month, the Crown Corporation apologized for the widespread delays experienced by passengers between March 12 and April 20.

OTTAWA — Via Rail executives will address a federal committee today about the delays that have plagued travelers over the holidays.

Earlier this month, Crown Corporation apologized for the widespread delays passengers saw between December 23 and 26, when a winter storm swept through Ontario and Quebec.

The railroad said the derailment of a CN Rail freight train caused further delays to trains on its east-west corridor between Quebec City and Windsor, Ontario.

Some passengers were stuck on trains for more than 20 hours.

Via Rail apologized for not being more open about the situation with its customers and for not informing about delays in a timely manner.

Its leaders appear before the committee as opposition MPs argue it is time to expand the country’s passenger protection rules when traveling by train.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra appeared before the committee earlier this month and vowed to tighten existing rules, which critics say lack the teeth to hold companies accountable for compensating air passengers.

However, in a statement to The Canadian Press, the Alghabra office did not comment on whether the minister supports calls for the existing passenger protection regime to be extended to rail passengers.

“The situation with Via Rail during the holiday season was unacceptable. Passengers deserve to be communicated with, especially during the unprecedented weather conditions Canadians were experiencing,” spokeswoman Nadine Ramadan said in an email.

“The safety of crew and passengers always has the highest priority. All options are on the table to further strengthen passenger safety.”

Via Rail’s appearance follows earlier statements from executives at Air Canada, WestJet and Sunwing who had questions about the hundreds of flights they canceled or delayed over the holiday period.

Sunwing Airlines has come under particular scrutiny after hundreds of passengers were stranded in Mexico and said they could not get a response from the company regarding returning to Canada. They have all since returned to Canada and the airline has issued an apology.

Sunwing was criticized not long after for canceling all flights out of Saskatchewan until early February. It has also reduced winter flights from Moncton, NB, Fredericton and Halifax.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 26, 2023.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press


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