On Thursday, February 13th, VIA Rail, Canada’s national rail passenger service, announced the cancellation of all its services on its Canada-wide rail network except for the Sudbury-White River (CP Rail) and Churchill-The Pas (Hudson Bay Railway), until further notice.
The cancellation comes following a notice from the rail infrastructure’s owner, CN Rail, who shut down significant parts of its Canadian rail network due to blockages on the rail tracks.
Why are there blockades on Canada’s rail network?
On February 6th, 2020, Canadian police enforced a court order so that Coastal GasLink could start building a multi-billion dollar natural gas pipeline across northern British Columbia. The pipeline would run approximately 670 kilometers, starting in BC’s Dawson Creek and ending south-west in liquefaction plant near Kitimat, BC.
Blockages starting forming throughout Canada as a way to show solidarity to the Wet’suwet’en Nation, who oppose the project, and assert control over a 22,000-square-kilometre area that includes the pipeline route.
How do I get a refund on my VIA Rail train ticket?
VIA Rail has announced on its website that it will be providing full refunds for all train trips, up to February 23rd.
If you have received a cancellation notice from Via Rail via email, your refund will be automatically processed. Due to the high volume of transactions to be refunded, your refund can take a minimum of 15 days to be processed.
If you haven’t received a cancellation notice from Via Rail and your train journey is before February 23rd, you have the option of autonomously cancelling your ticket online for a full refund with no service charges, even if additional segments fall after February 23. You can cancel and refund your train journey directly from the VIA Rail website.
What are my alternative travel options?
Canada’s bus network, carpooling services, and car rental companies are all still operating normally, offering you many reliable travel options to get to your destination.
Travelling by bus
With reliable, comfortable, and affordable bus companies operating in Canada, the bus is a great alternative to the train. With the familiar blue and white buses of Greyhound still operating in Quebec and Ontario, you have thousands of routes and destinations to choose from. Greyhound has also added over 100 buses to deal with the increase of passengers on their network due to the VIA Rail cancellations.
There are also many regional bus companies serving Western Canada, the prairies, and the Maritimes. With their numerous destinations and daily departures, you will have no problem finding a bus departure that suits your travel needs and budget. The bus is also the greenest mode of motorized transportation, so every time you choose to take the bus instead of the car, you help make the planet a greener place.
You will also travel in style with reclining seats, toilets, USB ports in most buses, as well as free WiFi, so don’t worry about sacrificing the comfort that a train usually offers.
Travelling by bus in Quebec and the Maritime provinces
Top bus routes to replace the train in Quebec and the Maritimes:
- Bus Montreal Quebec starting at $59
- Quebec City to Rivière-du-Loup from $53
- Moncton to Halifax by bus starting at $46
- Bus Montreal Ottawa from $25
Travelling by bus in Ontario
In Ontario, you can travel with Ontario Northland and Greyhound Canada. With the bus, you can easily reach northern Ontario as well as the most popular places such as Toronto, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, and many more, without taking the train!
Bus routes you can take instead of the train:
- Bus from Ottawa to Toronto starting from $39
- Toronto Niagara Falls bus from $16
- Bus Toronto Windsor starting at $44
- Toronto to Sudbury from $41
Travelling by bus in the Prairies and Western Canada
Although Greyhound Canada left this part of the country in 2018, there are many Greyhound alternatives and bus options other than the train for your travels.
In Saskatchewan, you can count on Rider Express to get around places such as Regina, Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, and Swift Current.
In Alberta and British Columbia, you have plenty of options from carries such as Red Arrow, Ebus, Cold Shot, Banff Airporter, Squamish Connector, and many more. You can also travel cross-province between Calgary to Vancouver by bus with Rider Express.
Train alternatives by bus:
- Bus Edmonton to Jasper starting at $55
- Saskatoon to Edmonton bus from $15
- Bus from Vancouver to Kamloops starting at $58
Find and book your perfect bus ticket:
Carpooling and ride-sharing
Carpooling is another alternative to consider. With popular companies such as Poparide and Amigo Express, it is very easy to find and book trusted carpool rides online.
The advantage of carpooling is that you can leave from almost anywhere, without having to go to a train or bus station to catch a ride. Also, by opting for a carpool ride, you reduce the number of single-passenger cars, which is a good step for the environment!
Car rental is also an alternative to get to your destination. Renting a car can be a more expensive option than taking the bus or carpooling, but it gives you the flexibility to travel at your own pace and stop as you wish during your journey.