'Unacceptable': Via Rail cancels all major Christmas Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal routes after storm strands passengers, derails trains

Hundreds of people have been trapped on Via Rail trains after a winter storm ripped through southern Ontario, Quebec

A travel alert on Via Rail's site now claims all trains between Toronto-Ottawa and Toronto-Montreal are cancelled for December 25.

Via Rail issues alert on website of Christmas cancellation
Via Rail issues alert on website of Christmas cancellation

Earlier in the day, Canada's transport minister Omar Alghabra expressed disappointment in the rail system, calling the delays 'unacceptable.' Hundreds of Via Rail passengers travelling between Ontario and Quebec shared stories were stranded on numerous trains between Friday evening into Saturday following the ferocious winter storm.

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Via Rail issued a statement saying nine trains running between Quebec City and Windsor, Ont. were trapped.

One of those locomotives, Train 55, was struck by a fallen tree which forced it to completely halt. After more than 17 hours, passengers had to be rescued by emergency responders who helped them onto another train.

Via Rail added that seven more trains were cancelled altogether on Saturday morning.

"From power outages to trees on the tracks and even a tree falling on a locomotive, conditions make it impossible to move some of our trains," Via Rail said in a statement. "Our first priority is the safety of our passengers and, although stopped, our trains are able to keep passengers warm and safe while on board."

Several passengers took to social media to express their outrage, with passengers on one train — Train 54 — noting they were been stuck on-board without food or water for 20 hours.

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"Throughout the night, our efforts have been focused on keeping our customers as comfortable as possible in the current circumstances and on bringing them to their final destinations as quickly and as safely as possible, while making every effort to find alternative solutions to reach the trains that are immobilized," Via Rail said.

"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."

While some passengers have been rescued from their trains, others remain on-board waiting to reach their destinations.

The situation comes after a fierce storm put a damper on holiday plans for many Canadians, as Environment Canada has issued weather warnings for most of the country.

Amid the storm, dozens of flights were cancelled at major airports in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. Hundreds of thousands of people were also left without power in eastern Canada. The Ontario Provincial Police also noted that hundreds of collisions occurred across the province following the storm.

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