Via Rail offers apologies, compensation after holiday travel chaos

Via Rail offers apologies, compensation after holiday travel chaos

Via Rail's president and CEO has released a statement apologizing for cancellations, delays and stranded trains around Christmas in southern Ontario and Quebec, saying the service didn't meet its own standards or rider expectations.

Train service was severely disrupted in the Windsor, Ont., to Quebec City corridor from Dec. 23 to 26, and outright cancelled on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

A storm hit Dec. 23, then a CN train derailment on Dec. 24 near Grafton, Ont., shut down a stretch of track that left passengers trapped aboard trains for hours.

CBC News heard from passengers describing cramped conditions, out-of-service bathrooms, and a lack of food and water.

A statement released at noon ET Tuesday, and credited to president and CEO Martin R. Landry, contained multiple apologies.

"We appreciate that passengers were looking forward to holiday celebrations and family get-togethers, and we regret that for many, those plans were disrupted. We didn't meet your expectations and for that we apologize," the statement said.

Via Rail should have better shared information about delays, the statement added, and better supported passengers on those trains.

WATCH | Train travel problems over Christmas:

Full refunds and travel credit

Passengers whose trains were "immobilized" on Dec. 23 and 24 will get full refunds and travel credits, Via Rail said in an updated statement Tuesday.

It was already announced full refunds should be automatically given for passengers whose trains were cancelled between Dec. 24 and 26.

The company is also hiring outside experts to review planning and response for the storm, as well as customer care and communications.

"Beyond not having met the expectations of our customers, we have not lived up to our own standards," the statement said.

"Despite weather events and a freight train derailment beyond our control, it is clear that lessons will be learned, and changes will be made."

Members of the House of Commons transport committee said last week they want to hear from Landry about the holiday trouble, along with the CEO of Sunwing airlines.