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As the COVID-19 crisis continues to disrupt its passenger services from coast to coast, VIA Rail Canada (VIA Rail) announces the extension of the suspension of the Canadian and the Ocean services, its long-distance routes, and the suspension of the Sleeper class on the Winnipeg-Churchill route until November 1, 2020. While there is still a great deal of uncertainty as to when both domestic and international travel will resume, VIA Rail will continue to assess how it can support the recommendations of the public health authorities in their response to the pandemic and in preparation for the progressive service recovery.
VIA Rail is also accelerating a previously established comprehensive program for the inspection and repair work regarding its Heritage Modernization Program that started in 2018. At that time, the Corporation undertook initiatives to renovate VIA Rail's HEP equipment which have logged millions of kilometres since being put into service. In the course of recent weeks, some new structural issues have been discovered which will need to be addressed. "As a result, we will be in a position to progressively bring back our renowned long-distance services to full capacity for the upcoming 2021 peak season," said Cynthia Garneau, President and CEO.
"This was not an easy decision to make but, given the current circumstances, the health and safety of our passengers, crew members and local communities must come first. As the travel industry grapples with the effects of COVID-19, we will use this extended pause to assess and identify which measures to implement in order to get back on track as soon and as safely as possible," concluded Cynthia Garneau.
All passengers with reservations affected by this suspension of services will be contacted and reimbursed automatically. To facilitate cancellations and refunds, we've extended our cancellation policy to include all travel through November 1, 2020, to allow passengers to cancel their upcoming reservations autonomously online at any time prior to departure and receive a full refund in addition to not incurring any service charges, regardless of when the ticket was purchased.
Alternatively, customers may contact the VIA Customer Centre by email at email@example.com or by phone at 1-888-VIA-RAIL (1-888-842-7245), TTY 1-800-268-9503 (hearing impaired). Due to the current situation related to COVID-19, the VIA Customer Centre is open 9:00 to 17:00, Monday through Friday and it may take some time to speak with an agent due to a reduction in staff.
VIA Rail is adjusting its operations and deploying a strict protocol of sanitary measures on board its trains, in its stations, maintenance centres and call centres in response to the pandemic and in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19. We have limited the number of bookable seats aboard our trains in order to provide passengers social distancing space when travelling.
Furthermore, we constantly remind our passengers and employees of the importance of following the recommendations of the public health authorities, to stay at home, avoid non-essential travel, practice physical distancing as much as possible, and to strictly 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 their arm, avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth without first washing their hands). Although not mandatory and in a view to limit the risks of propagation of COVID-19, VIA Rail also recommends to all its passengers to wear a non-medical mask or face covering that covers the nose and the mouth when travelling on its trains and when it is impossible to respect a distance of separation of 2 metres with others.
We continue to monitor the developments of COVID-19 and we remain in close contact with public health agencies and the federal and provincial governments.
The most recent updates are available on our website.
This article first appeared on www.newswire.ca
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