VIA Rail has temporarily shut down its rail station in Prince George, according to an advisory posted on the company's website.
Passenger train service will continue to Prince George, but no services will be offered at the station - including the ticket office.
"Last-minute ticketing will be completed on board. There will be no services offered at this station," the VIA Rail advisory says. "Checked baggage will be handled at the baggage car door."
The station doors will be locked for train arrivals on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evenings -meaning passengers arriving won't be able to access washrooms or telephones at the station. For passengers departing on Thursday, Saturday and Monday, the station concourse will be open from 6:45 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.
VIA Rail offers passenger rail service west to Prince Rupert and east to Jasper and beyond from Prince George. A spokesperson for VIA Rail could not be reached for comment as of press time.
Tourism Prince George CEO Aidan Kelly said the closure doesn't make a good first impression on visitors.
"Obviously from a customer experience standpoint, it's not something we are excited about," Kelly said. "With Prince George being a major transportation hub in Northern B.C., we're hoping for a quick resolution."
Kelly said VIA Rail notified Tourism Prince George, which operates a visitor centre in the same building at 1300 First Ave., in advance about the closure, which was caused by difficulty staffing the station.
Staff at the visitor centre, which is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., will try to assist arriving and departing rail passengers with finding accommodations, access to a washroom and other issues, Kelly said.
However with trains departing at 8 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., and scheduled to arrive at 7:10 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., the tourism centre will not be open to help all arriving and departing travellers.
"It works out we'll be able to help out a little bit in the mornings," Kelly said. "I see the real challenge is the folks arriving in the evening time. If the trains are on time, it's okay. But they are regularly late, because there is a lot of cargo traffic on the line."
Staff at the train station were particularly helpful in dealing with those frequent late arrivals, local bed and breakfast owner Stuart Willmot said.
"The staff at the station are very helpful," Willmot said. "What most of the B&Bs do is contact the station. The staff, as much as they can, will let us know when the train will be coming in. It's a bit late to tell people to phone when their train gets in - and there is no phones available."
Willmot operates the Water's Edge Bed and Breakfast, which offers free pick up and drop off for guests at the rail station.
VIA Rail's service is popular with European and Australian tourists who take a circle route from Vancouver to Jasper to Prince George to Prince Rupert, and then back south by ferry, he said.
For him the station closure will mean having to get to the station at the scheduled arrival time and wait, often for lengthy periods of time, for the train to actually arrive.
"The fact [the staff] aren't there is bad new for us."