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'Unacceptable': Transport minister critiques Via Rail situation as Christmas Day trains cancelled


Canada's transport minister took aim at Via Rail on Saturday after some passengers were left stranded overnight on stalled trains following the recent winter storm.

Riders have reported being stuck for as long as 18 hours on Via Rail trains. The Crown corporation says several trains on the Quebec City-Windsor corridor have been immobilized or cancelled "due to extreme weather conditions."

A travel alert posted on Via Rail's website Saturday says as many as 24 trains have been cancelled.

In another update Saturday evening, Via Rail said due to a CN train derailment earlier in the day, all trains between Toronto and Ottawa and between Toronto and Montreal that were scheduled to run on Christmas Day have been cancelled.

"The current situation with @VIA_Rail is unacceptable and we are in contact with them to resolve all issues safely and efficiently," federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in a statement on Twitter Saturday. "The unprecedented weather has caused delays in our transportation system and the safety of passengers and crew is our top priority."

Alghabra's statement did not say exactly how the federal government is working to resolve the issue.

The issues involving Via Rail come after a winter storm swept across Canada on Friday and continued into Saturday, bringing with it snow, heavy winds and extreme cold.

Via Rail train 55 from Ottawa to Toronto in particular appeared to be impacted, stalling near Cobourg, Ont., due to a fallen tree, which blocked rail lines.

The Crown corporation told CP24 that while it couldn't say when the trains would start moving, customers will be compensated.

"We, however, deeply apologize for this situation and the impact for our passengers and we are continuing to work with our teams and the infrastructure owner to either get those trains moving as quickly as possible or bring them to their final destination with new equipment. Passengers who are travelling on these trains will be provided a full refund," the company said.

With files from CP24 web writer Joshua Freeman and writer Natasha O'Neill




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