Mandatory mask wearing by passengers and staff on VIA Rail trains will be a condition of travel as of June 23, 2020, to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. VIA Rail said there will be a few exceptions to the new rule. (Photo: Shannon Lough/The Northern View)

New mask policy on VIA Rail trains

Masks will be mandatory as of June 23 to reduce the spread of COVID-19

The wearing of facial masks by passengers will be mandatory as of June 23 on all VIA Rail trains, when appropriate physical distancing can not be maintained, the company said. The policy, implemented by Transport Canada in new guidelines, is to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

With the resumption of passenger train services to Prince Rupert on a weekly basis starting July 6, the new mask policy may affect riders.

“This is necessary as the economy is gradually reopening and VIA Rail sees an increase in ridership and as the safety and well-being of both our employees and our passengers remains our top priority,” a VIA Rail statement said.

Masks will also be required for VIA Rail customer-facing employees, as part of Transport Canada’s directions regarding masks or face coverings for planes, trains, ships, and public transit.

READ MORE: Train route opens to Prince Rupert

The new mask policy also brings with it additional rules for passengers in stations and at boarding. They will be required to wear a mask when proper social distancing cannot be maintained, as well masks shall be worn at all times during the journey, except for when eating or drinking.

“Passengers are strongly encouraged to bring their own masks. However, if they do not have one at boarding, VIA Rail will have a limited number of disposable masks available to provide them with one,” VIA Rail said.

VIA Rail clarified that passengers with medical conditions resulting in trouble breathing unrelated to COVID-19, infants under two years old and small children, or anyone unable to remove a mask without assistance will not be required to wear one.

“Wearing a mask over the nose and mouth is one more way we can protect one another and will help us safeguard the travel experience of our customers and employees,” VIA Rail said. “As we start to ramp up service levels in response to the growth in demand, all enhanced health safety measures introduced during the pandemic will be maintained, including enhanced cleaning, pre-boarding screening of travellers, modified onboard services, and reduced capacity in each car to allow for greater physical distancing and minimize the risks.”

Passengers will be denied boarding onto trains if they are experiencing symptoms similar to a cold or flu (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) or if they have been denied boarding for travel in the last 14 days due to medical reasons related to COVID-19, VIA Rail said.

READ MORE: Via Rail calling back employees as service resumes to normal schedule

K-J Millar | Journalist
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