As described in our first post (September 30, 2022), a federal study on passenger rail enhancements in southwestern Ontario is underway. In November, it was announced that CPCS Transcom, in association with WSP, will act as external advisors, with a report due by end 2023.
Following months of little public activity, three important events occurred in the last week of June, 2023:
(a) Minister Alghabra held the long-promised ministerial roundtable with stakeholders. Although attendance was limited to mayors and wardens, Transport Action Ontario prepared a briefing package that was circulated to these attendees ahead of time, giving our take on benefits of rail, concern areas and what municipalities need to ask for. The package is attached below.
(b) Following the roundtable, Minister Alghabra and new VIA President Mario Peloquin announced the return of Trains 82/83 in Fall, 2023, assuming track access agreements can be negotiated with CN and Metrolinx. We have previously learned that negotiations between CN and CIA on track access in general have not been going well. Therefore we welcome the Minister’s commitment that “we will support VIA in whatever they need to make sure that it happens”.
(c) Transport Action representatives also met with CPCS on June 29. We had earlier submitted a briefing note to CPCS covering our material previously sent to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. These included rail infrastructure recommendations and developing London as a hub for high frequency rail in southwestern Ontario. The briefing package is attached below. We learned that the scope of work for CPCS is consistent with previous plans, namely:
- Focus on Burlington to London, Windsor and Sarnia (ie Kitchener line not included)
- Study increased service on existing CN infrastructure, with existing station locations
- Develop 3 service scenarios, with the best being hourly London-Toronto. This is consistent with our recommendations.
Improved passenger rail is vital to southwestern Ontario. Transport Action will continue to be very involved with both this federal study and the Ontario study.