July 22, 2009 / 4:49 PM / in 8 years

Via Rail cancels some trains as strike looms

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Via Rail Canada, the country’s national passenger service, has started to cancel some long-distance trains ahead of a possible strike by 340 locomotive engineers on Friday.

<p>A Via Rail train waits to leave the station at Union Station in Toronto July 16, 2009. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>

Via said it is in talks with the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference union, which represents the engineers. The union told the company on Tuesday that it plans to strike on Friday at noon EST if there is no deal.

A mediator has been appointed to assist in the talks.

Via said on Tuesday it has begun canceling trains so passengers would not be stranded if there is a strike.

If engineers walk off the job, it will cancel all trains, with the exception of two routes run by a third party.

A company spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Last week, Canada said it will spend C$300 million ($270 million) to improve performance on a high-traffic stretch of railway between Toronto and Montreal.

About 4.6 million passengers rode Via’s trains last year and the government-owned corporation recently said it expected that number to rise by 40 percent over the next five years due to track and train improvements.

($1=$1.10 Canadian)

Reporting by Susan Taylor; editing by Janet Guttsman

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