All Posts by Transport Action Ontario

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GO Train with locomotive 620 leading. Photograph by Chris Huggins.
Nov 15

Brantford Report on GO Rail Extension

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus

Interest continues to be high among southwestern Ontario municipalities for improved intercity passenger rail service. In November, Brantford completed a report entitled Brantford on Track: Paving the way for GO Rail Extension. It identifies the need and benefits for GO Rail service and urges the Province to proceed on this:

“Without an alternative to personal vehicles, Brantford residents will continue to rely heavily on their cars, increasing congestion on the 403 between Brantford and Hamilton, contributing to emissions, urban sprawl, and inefficiencies in the transportation infrastructure.”

Transport Action Ontario has written to Brantford supporting its need, but urging caution on relying solely on GO. We also cited concerns about rail capacity and the impact of GO train reversals in Brantford on passenger rail service expansion further west. A better approach is to work with other regional municipalities and build upon the soon-to-be-released rail capacity study, commissioned by Transport Canada that envisages up to 12 trains per day to London, and additional services to Windsor and Sarnia.

We will be meeting with Brantford staff later this month to discuss further, our letter can be viewed below.

Photo credit: Chris Huggins


Nov 11

Improvements and Challenges for GTHA Public Transit

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

Transport Action Ontario recently presented a summary update of GTHA public transit improvements and challenges to a Toronto-based seniors group. It presents a useful snapshot of the current status of this vital public service, including:

  • Massive anticipated population increase drives need for more transit
  • Over $100 Billion of rapid transit capital investment since 2010, but more needed
  • Smaller projects underway to improve transit, including priority bus features, fare integration and on-request transit
  • Long-awaited improvements to VIA Rail coming
  • Challenges include operational funding, reliability and escalating cost of construction
  • Summary of pending public advocacy areas

The update can be viewed below.

Nov 07

New Report on using Highway 407 for Trucking

By Transport Action Ontario | Highways and Bridges , Latest News

A new report has been released entitled The Freight Escape: How to Get Trucks Off the 401 Without Blowing a Hole in the Greenbelt

This report was commissioned by Environmental Defence with input from Transport Action Ontario and you can access this report here.

The report finds that subsidizing the toll on the 407 ETR is cheaper, easier, and better for the trucking industry than building the proposed Highway 413. It also shows that moving trucks from Highway 401 to the 407 will alleviate congestion for all road users and reduce journey times for truck drivers. This would also make building the proposed Highway 413 unnecessary, save taxpayers at least $6 billion (based on 2018 estimates), and conserve valuable natural spaces including 2000 acres of farmland and 400 acres of Greenbelt.

The Freight Escape report finds that moving trucks to the 407 will: 

  • Move 12,000 to 21,000 trucks a day off Highway 401, reducing daily traffic for passenger vehicles 
  • Cost $6 billion less than constructing the proposed Highway 413. Subsidizing the 407 trucking toll is estimated to cost $4 billion, which would be paid over a 30 year period. The Ontario government has not revealed a cost estimate for building Highway 413, but estimates cited in the media are as high as $10 billion 
  • Reduce cost and journey time for truck drivers: using Highway 407 will improve journey times for truckers by approximately 80 minutes, which would be less than half the length of time than the equivalent trip on Highway 401 
  • Conserve local natural spaces and local food production – including 2000 acres of farmland and 400 acres of Greenbelt land that would be paved by Highway 413.
Oct 23

Briefing Note on North Main Line (NML) Passenger Rail

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus

Transport Action Ontario has issued a briefing note for municipal stakeholders on the opportunity, status and suggested next steps on passenger rail service on the North Main Line (London – Stratford – Kitchener). This file has a lot of moving parts, including the recent shutdown of GO Rail service on the NML, as well as studies underway by the federal and provincial governments.

The briefing note can be viewed below.

Second main track for GO trains under construction near Breslau, Ontario, showing earthwork and grading completed alongside the existing track.
Sep 25

Kitchener GO construction progress – Fall 2023

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus

Metrolinx is making progress addressing the bottleneck on the Kitchener Line between Georgetown and Kitchener. There are currently no opportunities for trains to pass each other west of Georgetown, vastly constraining capacity on the line, so the addition of passing tracks is crucial to providing the promised all-day two-way service to Kitchener.

Earthworks are now largely complete to install 2.6 miles of second track near Breslau (pictured above), ready for track installation, and the first switches for the were installed in mid September. Rather than acting as a siding where one train must stop, trains will be able to pass here at line speed.

The second platform at Guelph is progressing well, with canopy work expected the be complete this year, and the signals controlling the second track have been partially activated, thus providing a bit more flexibility for dispatchers even before the new platform is ready to fully open.

To complete this infrastructure work, the line has to be closed over several weekends, with VIA Rail trains between Toronto and Sarnia being replaced by motorcoaches. Further closures will be required on October 21-22 and November 4-5, 2023.

Metrolinx have also added a storage track for maintenance equipment west of Guelph and have plans for a third siding in the Acton area to round out the capacity enhancement.

Earlier this summer, Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife challenged the apparent absence of a clear timeline for the project, and Metrolinx would not commit to a 2025 start date for increased services, citing ongoing negotiations with CN.

On the Toronto end of the corridor, the new double track tunnel under 401/409 which was completed in 2020 sits unused pending the completion of other work to bring additional tracks to it. The new GO/UPX station at Mount Dennis for interchange with Eglinton Crosstown LRT is nearing completion, even though the Crosstown opening date remains uncertain.

Railway tunnel under highways 401 and 409.

Metrolinx also announced in August that it would be constructing a pedestrian tunnel to connect its Bloor GO/UPX station with Dundas West and the TTC’s Bloor-Danforth subways line, providing a shorter and weatherproofed transfer that should attract more passengers to use the connection.

At Brampton, the existing two-track station will be expanded with a third track, south of the existing south platform, thus closing a gap between triple-track sections of the corridor east and west of the station. Metrolinx awarded a contract for design work on the necessary modifications to the station and retaining wall in August.

West of Kitchener, however, the news is not good. The slow track speed between Kitchener and London, which Premier Doug Ford promised to address during the last provincial election, together with increased GO service to London, now appears set to be neglected because Metrolinx has reversed course and will end service to London on October 13, 2023.

Similarly, we await news regarding capacity enhancements on the Bramalea-Georgetown section, which also serves as the CN main line. The 2021 Preliminary Design Business Case cited the need for passing tracks and either a rail-rail flyover at Silver Junction or a double crossover to allow east and westbound passenger trains to meet at Georgetown, but neither project has been announced yet.