Passengers on a number of stalled Via Rail trains say they have been on the vehicles for as long as 18 hours, with few updates on when they will get moving.

Darcy Pyrell told CP24 that he boarded Via Rail train 55 from Ottawa to Toronto on Friday at around 3:30 p.m. The train stopped on the tracks near Coburg at around 10:30 p.m. last night, he said.

“We were told then that it would be an hour before we might be able to start moving again,” Pyrell said.

It was still stationary as of 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

“We were told it was because of a downed tree and we were told that one of the two trains stuck behind us was going to merge with our train to pull us along,” Pyrell said. “But we haven't seen that train come around. We haven't moved and a lot of people are thinking that they're being lied to by Via Rail. And we're really not sure what to do with ourselves right now.”

Tree on train

In a statement to CP24, Via Rail said that “due to extreme weather conditions” several trains in the Québec City-Windsor corridor have been immobilized or cancelled.

“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,” the company said. “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.”

Canada's Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra has since taken to Twitter to call the situation with Via Rail unacceptable,'' as many passengers report massive delays and cancelled trips due to a major winter storm.

Alghabra says the unprecedented weather has caused delays in Canada's transportation system and the safety of passengers and crew is top priority.

Some passengers on Via Rail trains immobilized overnight en route to Toronto say they are being forced off trains in Oshawa ahead of their final destinations. The lengthy delays come amid a winter storm that gripped much of Canada, bringing snow, strong winds and bitterly cold temperatures.

Pyrell, a student at university of Ottawa, said he was planning to be home in Guelph by now to spend the holidays with his family, but he's not sure when he'll get there.

“The plan was to be home for a week to see my parents and see my family for the first time in a while. Of course that's going to be cut a little short, unfortunately,” he said. “But what can you do I guess.”

He said he packed himself a thermos of macaroni and cheese which he ate for dinner last night, but he hasn't eaten since.

“People are also handing out water right now. I think that's all we've got left on the train.”

Fallen tree

He said the attendants he’s seen coming up and down the aisles appear “stressed beyond belief” and his fellow passengers are frustrated and angry that they haven't received any updates about the situation.

“One other passenger did call the police and an ambulance and they said that they can pick up anyone with immediate medical needs, like just anxiety issues or anything else,” Pyrell said. 

Via Rail said that it has been in touch with the infrastructure owner and is “focused on keeping our customers as comfortable as possible in the current circumstances.”

The company was not able to provide an estimate for when the trains will get moving, but said customers will be compensated.

“We, however, deeply apologize for this situation and the impact for our passengers and 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.  Passengers who are travelling on these trains will be provided a full refund,” the company told CP24.

With files from The Canadian Press.