By Doug Hallett
The Liberal government announced more details about its plan for boosting Ontario’s transportation network this week, but local MPP Liz Sandals says news of a “high-speed” rail service in this area isn’t quite what it might appear.
“It isn’t what Europeans would recognize as high-speed rail,” Sandals said Tuesday. “It’s what we call express rail, so it runs on the regular tracks.”
Sandals was asked for clarification after Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray said his government plans to deliver high-speed rail service connecting Toronto and Pearson airport with Kitchener and London within 10 years.
Premier Kathleen Wynne announced in March that by the end of 2016, the number of GO trains going from Kitchener and Guelph to Toronto will be doubled – from two each way to four each way on weekdays. Wynne also spoke about later adding two-way, all-day GO train service to this area, as well as express trains.
Sandals said Tuesday that she couldn’t comment on Murray’s statement that London would be served as well as Kitchener and Guelph. “I honestly don’t know, because I’ve been worrying about Guelph,” she said in an interview.
As for travelling to Toronto’s international airport on a GO train from this part of Ontario, Sandals said this would involve a transfer at the Weston station.
The transfer would be to a new airport express train that’s to go into operation in time for the 2015 Pan American Games in the Toronto area. The airport express is to run between downtown Toronto and the airport, partly on a newly built spur line, she said.
Any express trains serving this area would go into operation sometime after the doubling of the current GO train service, which will require the building of a new train layover in Baden, Sandals said.
Express trains would be quicker for two reasons, she said. After picking up passengers in Kitchener and Guelph these GO trains wouldn’t stop at the many stations on the way to Toronto. And this, she said, would allow the express trains to be smaller than the “great big 12-car trains” that are currently in use here.
“Obviously, you can run the train faster if it’s a bit lighter.”
GO trains are currently third on the pecking order on the CN North Mainline, Sandals said. The freight trains of the Goderich-Exeter Railway, a U.S. subsidiary, are at the top. VIA Rail trains have second priority. This will have to change before two-way, all-day GO trains can serve this area, said Sandals.
Sandals said full-day, two-way service will require either double tracking from Georgetown to Kitchener or “a lot of layovers where trains can pass.” The CN North Mainline is currently double-tracked as far as Georgetown, but it has single tracks west of there.
Wynne announced plans Monday for dedicated and substantial funding for public transit and the province’s transportation infrastructure. More details will be part of the budget the government is to bring down next month.
Wynne said the province would create two dedicated funds, including one for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area with up to $15 billion available for investment in transit. The other, for the rest of the province, would have nearly $14 billion available for investment in roads, bridges, transit and other critical infrastructure.
Funding sources for these funds are to include “new revenues measures, repurposed revenues and a responsible level of debt financing, when needed,” a government news release said.
By Doug Hallett