Category Archives for "Intercity Rail and Bus"

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.

Jul 02

Federal Study of Southwestern Ontario Passenger Rail Enhancement – second update

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Southwestern Ontario

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.

Jun 26

Reinstating VIA Trains 82/83 – Demonstration in Brantford, ON

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Southwestern Ontario

Transport Action Ontario (TAO) participated in a well-attended demonstration in Brantford on June 24, 2023 concerning reinstatement of VIA Trains 82/83, key commuter-oriented trains connecting to/from Toronto.  We spoke to several elected officials and municipal staff.

Conservative MP Larry Brock was frustrated that former VIA CEO, Martin Landry had stated there was no equipment and no crew to reinstate Train 82 after Covid. Larry considered this unacceptable and will continue to pursue the matter with the new VIA CEO, Mario Peloquin. He said that all inquiries to VIA’s customer relations department about Train 82 were usually met with “call your MP”. They did, so he saw the magnitude of the issue.

Brantford Mayor Kevin Davis was similarly frustrated as he had requested GO Transit to replace its bus with an early morning train because of congestion on Highway 403 and the Lincoln Alexander Memorial Expressway that often-made driving to Aldershot a 60-90 minute crawl. He stated it gets worse by the week because of the accelerating urban sprawl in Paris/Brantford and along the top of the Hamilton Mountain.

Both elected officials showed interest in working with TAO.  We also engaged with the Clerk of Brantford who indicated the city needed additional resources to drive the Train 82 issue. There were questions on High Frequency Rail but we advised it will be another 2 years before the project is confirmed and about 10-15 years before there are any services west of Toronto – in the event it proceeds.

There was excellent media coverage of the event.  We hope that other elected officials in southwestern Ontario  follow the example of Brantford with demonstrations, alliances and political advocacy, as this appears to be the action necessary to obtain improvements in these vital train connections.

Jun 05

MTO Southwestern Ontario Transportation Plan – Input to Technical Advisory Committee

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Southwestern Ontario

As readers know, Transport Action Ontario (TAO) was very active in commenting, participating in meetings and making recommendations during 2020-2021 as Ontario consulted on its draft plan “Connecting the Southwest: a draft transportation plan for southwestern Ontario”. The final report was completed in late 2021 and submitted to the Minister of Transportation, but has never been released publicly.

In early, 2023, we were advised that a new MTO study lead by Arcadis/IBI was in the works covering a long-term (to 2051) transportation planning study for southwestern Ontario. We were subsequently invited to join an expanded Technical Advisory Committee, which held its first meeting in London on June 1, 2023.

TAO participated actively in the meeting, emphasizing our previous recommendations and adding some new ones on rail capacity in London, improvements to intercommunity bus services, connecting to national and provincial parks, highways and road safety and road pricing.

Our comments can be viewed in the attachments below.

May 22

Bus services to Detroit reinstated by Flixbus and Trailways

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus

Passengers in Ontario once again have options to travel by bus to Michigan and the US Midwest, with both Flixbus and Trailways offering routes between Toronto and Detroit.

The Trailways service, launched on April 5, 2023, operates twice daily and makes intermediate stops in London, Chatham and Windsor. It operates in partnership with Megabus, so fares within Canada can be booked through Megabus, but cross-border travel must be booked through Trailways or a fare retailer like Busbud.

The Flixbus service, which started operating to Detroit in March, originates in Scarborough, making stops at Toronto Union Station Bus Terminal, McMaster University, London, Western University, Highway 401/Bloomfield Road interchange in Chatham-Kent, and in Windsor. Connections are available to the Greyhound network in the United States, with is now owned by by Flixbus parent company Flix AG. Flixbus also operates an additional round trip daily between Toronto and Windsor.

Photograph: Trailways stops adjacent to the downtown bus terminal in Chatham, allowing connections to urban and intercommunity bus services.