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Via Rail reducing services in response to Omicron variant

A Via train travelling through Napanee. Photo by Cris Vilela.

VIA Rail is reducing passenger service on the Ottawa-Toronto and Ottawa-Montreal corridors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically citing the spread of the easily-transmissible Omicron variant. “Given the impact on travel demand of tighter COVID-19 restrictions due to the rapid spreading of the Omicron Variant, VIA Rail Canada (VIA Rail) will temporarily reduce frequencies in the Québec City-Windsor corridor starting Wednesday, January 19, 2022,” the passenger train service said in an advisory. This service reduction will impact the Kingston corridor.

“These decisions, while difficult, are consistent with the balanced approach we have maintained throughout the pandemic in order to fulfill our important public service mandate while proactively managing the financial impacts on our operations,” said Cynthia Garneau, President and CEO of VIA Rail. “Every change we have made to our services has been, and continues to be, closely linked to the evolving health crisis and following market demand.”

The corridor schedule, effective Jan. 19, 2022, will be as follows:

ROUTESSERVICES
Montréal-Ottawa51 (633) and 38
Québec City-Montréal-Ottawa24/28 and 35/37
Toronto-Kingston-Montréal62/64/68 and 63/67/69
Toronto-Kingston-Ottawa51*(643)/53/59 and 52/42/54
Toronto-London-Windsor72/76 and 73/75
Toronto-London-Sarnia1 departure per day maintained in both directions (trains 87-84)

“This temporary service reduction in the Corridor has been carefully planned in order to continue to provide essential intercity service on all routes. As we continue to closely monitor the evolution of the pandemic, VIA Rail is ensuring that we can offer our customers options for essential travel in all regions of the country,” Via Rail continued. “There will be no reduction in frequencies for the moment on any other routes, but some on-board services have been modified.”

VIA Rail says that its Business class service will also be temporarily suspended, and Business lounges are closed until further notice.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have implemented various measures throughout the passenger journey, so that our customers can travel safely and with confidence. VIA Rail remains focused on implementing the final phase of our gradual service resumption plan for the spring of this year, and we are hopeful that the situation will have improved in time for us to deploy it as planned,” the company said.

Via Rail said that, since the beginning of the pandemic, the company has implemented various measures so that “customers can travel safely and with confidence. These include, amongst others, a mask policy, enhanced cleaning, and a mandatory vaccination policy.”

According to the company, since October 30, 2021, passengers over 12 years and 4 months have been required to be fully vaccinated to travel on VIA Rail trains, as well as to access VIA Rail Business lounges.

“Wearing a mask is required at all times in VIA Rail’s stations and on-board VIA Rail trains. For the health and safety of all passengers and employees, passengers who do not wear a mask during their trip will be required to disembark the train or will be refused entry upon boarding,” the company asserted.

“Furthermore, VIA Rail asks that passengers stay informed of public health guidelines and respect those that apply to them and their travel plans. The Corporation also constantly reminds its passengers and employees of the importance of following recommendations from public health authorities and to rigorously follow good hygiene practices (wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of the arm, avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth without first washing their hands). Passengers will be denied boarding if they are experiencing symptoms similar to a cold or flu (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) or if they have been denied boarding for travel in the last 14 days due to medical reasons related to COVID-19.”

Ted Hsu for MPP
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