CN, VIA Rail announce shutdown of services

Demonstrators at the Wyman Road rail crossing on Day 1 of the rail blockade in Tyendinaga. Photo by Cris Vilela.

Both CN and VIA Rail have announced shutdowns of services on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020 citing the blockades – particularly in Ontario – as reason for the decision.

CN said it has “been forced to initiate a disciplined and progressive shutdown of its operations in Eastern Canada,” which will include stopping and safely securing all trans-continetal trains across its Canadian network. This “may imminently lead to temporary layoffs within the company’s Eastern Canadian operational staff,” the company said.

“CN sought and obtained court orders and requested the assistance of enforcement agencies for the illegal blockades in Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia. While the illegal blockades have come to an end in Manitoba and may be ending imminently in British Columbia, the orders of the court in Ontario have yet to be enforced and continue to be ignored,” CN said in a press release.

CN noted that it has tried to adjust operations to continue serving its customers, but said it is “left with the only remaining responsible option: progressively shutting down its Eastern Canadian operations until the illegal blockades end.”

“With over 400 trains cancelled during the last week and new protests that emerged at strategic locations on our mainline, we have decided that a progressive shutdown of our Eastern Canadian operations is the responsible approach to take for the safety of our employees and the protestors,” said JJ Ruest, president and chief executive officer at CN. “This situation is regrettable for its impact on the economy and on our railroaders as these protests are unrelated to CN’s activities, and beyond our control. Our shutdown will be progressive and methodical to ensure that we are well set up for recovery, which will come when the illegal blockades end completely.”

At the same time, VIA Rail announced the complete cancellation of rail service following notice from CN that they are “no longer in a position to fulfill their obligations under the Train Service Agreement” between the two companies.

“VIA Rail has no other option but to cancel all of its services on the network, effective immediately and until further notice,” the company said in a press release. “Passengers are being informed that, as of 4 p.m. EST, there will be no more train departures.”

At that time, VIA said that all of its trains currently en route will be brought to the closest major train station.

“We understand the impact this unfortunate situation has on our passengers and regret the significant inconvenience this is causing to their travel plans.”

Demonstrators set up camp at the Wyman Road rail crossing on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020 in the afternoon in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en territory, as the RCMP moved in on the pipeline opposition camp in BC. On Tuesday, Feb. 11, CN announced it was forced to shut down parts of its rail network, and that it had obtained injunctions, though those at the demonstration site appeared to be unmoved by the injunction served at the camp on Wyman Road. Yesterday, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, a second demonstration site was set up near the Highway 49 overpass tracks in Tyendinaga Township.


Kingstonist will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates as information becomes available.

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