Category Archives for "Intercity Rail and Bus"

Motorcoach without operator branding
Aug 02

Motorcoach operators compete for SW Ontario passengers

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

Following the deregulation of Ontario’s highway motorcoach services in June 2021, three motorcoach operators have launched services between Windsor, London and Toronto, with stops at other cities across southwestern Ontario.

Note: The schedules and routes described below are subject to change, please check with the motorcoach operators for current routes, schedules are fares.

Rider Express

Rider Express, launched their service between Toronto, London and Windsor on July 12, adding a stop at Toronto Pearson International Airport on July 27.

The route starts in Windsor just outside the bus terminal on Chatham Street, stops in Chatham outside the bus depot, in London next to the Petro Canada at the intersection of Exeter and Wellington roads, in Kitchener outside the Tim Hortons at 4285 King St E., at Toronto Pearson International Airport’s Viscount Station, and arrives at Union Station Bus Terminal in Toronto where onward connections can be made to Rider Express services to Ottawa or to trains and other bus lines.

Fares are $60 from Windsor to Toronto and $30 from London to Toronto, including the first two items of luggage. A through ticket from Windsor to Ottawa costs $110.

WindsorChathamLondon (Exeter)KitchenerPearsonToronto
TorontoPearsonKitchenerLondon (Exeter)ChathamWindsor

Although the choice of the Windsor Transit and Chatham-Kent Transit terminals offers the potential for good transit connections in the morning, regular transit services in both cities end early in the evening. Chatham offers an on-demand service until midnight.

On August 16, 2021 Rider Express will be adding a London commuter bus service, running Monday to Friday from downtown London to Toronto, via Mississauga (Dixie Outlet Mall). Although a stop in Hamilton was mentioned in the first announcement, the service will launch without that location.

London (Downtown)HamiltonMississaugaToronto
TorontoMississaugaHamiltonLondon (Downtown)


Megabus, which operated several other routes in Ontario prior to deregulation and also recently added a Toronto-Ottawa service, has partnered with Badder Bus, a regional operator that has provided southwestern Ontario with charter and school bus services since 1950, to launch a service between London and Toronto on July 15, 2021, with the intention to extend the route to Windsor at a future date.

Initially, the buses will depart from the London Flying J truck stop on Highbury Avenue south of Highway 401, a location with is not served by London Transit, although Badder Bus have indicated this may be a temporary measure until a better location can be arranged. The buses run non-stop to and from Toronto Union Station Bus Terminal, initially twice daily with fares starting from $25. Megabus offers the option to reserve a seat toward the front of the bus for an extra $5. Connecting journeys to Ottawa, Montreal or other destinations served by Megabus currently require the purchase of separate tickets.

London (Flying J)Toronto USBT

Toronto USBTLondon (Flying J)

Onex Bus

Onex Bus started its services between London and Toronto on July 28, 2021, with six weekend trips eastbound and five westbound. Two of the eastbound trips run direct from downtown London, outside the old Greyhound station, to downtown Toronto, stopping outside the former Toronto Coach Terminal on Bay Street; and two make a single intermediate stop in Woodstock, at the parking lot just off Highway 401 near the Tesla Supercharger. The other two services run via the Woodstock Transit Terminal, Kitchener Sportsworld, and Mississauga Square One.

Westbound, three trips run via Mississauga, Kitchener and the Woodstock Transit Terminal; and two are express, calling only at the Woodstock Supercharger location. The first three eastbound trips and the day and all westbound trips make additional stops in London at Victoria Hospital, White Oaks Mall, and south of highway 401.  

The services which stop at the Woodstock Transit Terminal could be used to connect with T:GO intercommunity transit services to Tillsonburg and Middlesex County Connect services to Ingersoll and Thorndale; the Kitchener stop provides connections with Grand River Transit including the iXpress bus to Cambridge and the Fairway LRT station; and there are connections with London Transit at White Oaks and downtown. The intercommunity bus service to Sarnia stops a short distance away from the downtown London terminal, and Onex Bus have also indicated via social media that Windsor and Sarnia should “stay tuned” for future service extensions.

Fares from London are $30, including two items of luggage.


Services to Niagara Falls

Both Onex Bus and Rider Express have announced intentions to operate services between Niagara Falls and Toronto, with Rider Express initially setting a start date of August 16, 2021. However, both operators had yet to commence service at the end of September. Megabus already serves this route, with stops in St. Catharines and Grimsby, three times daily.


These schedules are all subject to change as each operator adjusts to find their niche in the market, and may need to be retimed if traffic congestion on the region’s highways returns to pre-pandemic levels of misery. Notable omissions include none of the new carriers offering an early morning service west from Kitchener, nor any late evening departures from Toronto to serve the sports and theatre markets, which are both also glaring gaps in the VIA Rail schedule.

Transport Action believes that it is important for motorcoach operators to enter into interline ticketing and package service agreements, increasing the range of destinations passengers can reliably reach; to select stops that provide safe places for passengers to wait for their bus; and to provide wheelchair accessible vehicles on all routes.

While it is encouraging to see former Greyhound routes being restored by new operators, we would prefer to see new motorcoach routes that complement passenger rail, bringing passengers to and from hubs and offering integrated ticketing, rather than directly competing for the same traffic. For example, connecting St. Thomas or Goderich to London, services which were lost in 2013 following the collapse of AboutTown Transportation and demise of its NorthLink routes, would be very useful contributions to rebuilding an effective travel network for the region.

London is now exploring the opportunity to create a downtown rail and bus hub, and it will also be important to establish more connections with intercommunity bus services throughout the region. See for current information on intercommunity bus services, or Sean Marshall’s GIS map of SW Ontario transit connections.

Updated: Oct 4, 2021 to reflect RiderExpress relocating their Toronto stop from Front Street to Union Station Bus terminal, and Niagara Falls services by OnexBus and RiderExpress not yet having started.

Onex Bus (Ontario Express Bus) is a Mississauga-based consortium of family-owned limousine and charter bus companies, and they have also announced their intention to add services between Toronto and Peterborough and between Toronto and Sudbury in the near future.

Megabus is a brand operated by Coach Canada, a subsidiary of Coach USA. Coach USA was formerly owned by Stagecoach Group PLC and was sold to US private equity firm Variant Equity Advisors in 2019.

Rider Express, is a Canadian privately-owned company based in Saskatoon, which was launched in 2017 initially to serve routes in Saskatchewan lost after the abrupt abolition of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company, has since grown to provide motorcoach services across western Canada, extending services to Vancouver and Winnipeg. Rider Express and Ontario Northland are working to establish an interline agreement to allow passengers to travel between Rider Express services in Western Canada and its new southern Ontario destinations.

Photograph: Prevost H3-45 Motorcoach – Jason Lawrence

Jul 17

Unlocking Rail Tourism to Benefit the Canadian Economy

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

Canada’s international tourism sector has been in a serious decline. A 2018 report produced for the federal government by McKinsey offers a menu of reasons for the decline while quantifying the upside, which is large. Considerable emphasis was given to national transportation infrastructure deficiencies.

Transport Action Ontario has written to four federal ministers, including the Minister of Economic Development, pointing out the convergence of tourism and national mobility. Federal action to enable VIA Rail benefits both Canadian travellers and our tourism industry. Rail travel is particularly attractive to the 55-80 year old cohort, which has the financial means for a spectrum of services.

Our letter urged the federal government to work with its provincial counterparts to identify and quantify where rail can satisfy the needs of international visitors and regular passengers.

The letter can be viewed below.

Jun 30

Engagement with Southwestern Ontario Transportation Task Force

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

In January, 2020, Ontario released its Draft Transportation Plan for Southwestern Ontario, entitled Connecting the Southwest. It recommended several encouraging new actions supportive of improved passenger rail and regional bus services. However, progress on these actions has been largely stalled.

In March, 2021, the province established a Transportation Task Force consisting of mayors, chiefs and other stakeholders, chaired by Mayor Ed Holder of London. The Task Force is charged with providing recommendations to the government by March, 2022, presumably building and improving on the 2020 draft plans.

The Task Force convened a rail workshop on June 29. Transport Action Ontario circulated a presentation prior to the event and actively participated in the workshop with 3 delegates. The workshop went well, with good dialogue on the major issues/steps needed to boost freight and passenger rail in the region. We expect further opportunities for input as the Task Force moves towards a final report.

Our circulated presentation can be viewed below.

Jun 18

Transport Action urges Investment to Accelerate VIA Rail Project Delivery

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

Transport Action Ontario engages in frequent correspondence and dialogue with VIA Rail on many topics, usually related to delivery of various improvement and expansion projects. We have become increasingly frustrated with VIA’s incapability, likely as a result of federal actions and neglect, to participate in discussions on Canada’s sustainable mobility future and achieve the required transformational change.

We have written to the three federal Ministers of Infrastructure, Environment and Transport expressing our concerns and look forward to a meaningful reply from them.

Our letter can be viewed below.

May 27

Ontario Releases Initial Business Case for “Northeastern Passenger Rail” – Statement

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

Transport Action welcomes the long-awaited Initial Business Case published by MTO and Ontario Northland. We are encouraged that the Government of Ontario plans to move forward with the restoration of passenger rail service between Toronto, the Muskoka region, and Northeastern Ontario based on the clear social equity need for this service and whole-economy spin-off benefits for the north.  However. we note that “a potential in-service date in the mid 2020s” is well behind the election promises made by the government. We urge the Province to move ahead promptly on the many key steps still needed for implementation. 

In order to move swiftly to implementation, MTO must robustly support the negotiation of a train service agreement with CN for operations between North Bay and Toronto. We had hoped to see such an agreement concluded by this stage, with known costs for necessary additional passing tracks or upgrades. As noted in the IBC, an agreement that protects on-time performance and ensures punctual train meets should reduce the need for costly additional infrastructure, as well as being vital to the passenger experience.

The proposed service integration with Ontario Northland’s bus network will ensure that the train improves the level of service for communities across the northeast and will serve as a best-practice example to other Canadian regions.

Tourism revenues that would be attracted by a high-quality service are not analysed in the report, but would represent millions of dollars in whole-economy benefits and a significant boon to northern Ontario businesses. Domestic tourism within Canada is likely to be strengthened in the next couple of years as families seek alternatives to long-haul travel, and once international travel resumes the global market slow-travel opportunities involving rail travel, cultural heritage, and outdoor pursuits is likely to rebound strongly, attracting a high-spending early-retired demographic.

The report does not address the selection of rolling stock in any detail, although it mentions the possibility of a cab car for bidirectional operation, which may have limited additional utility on a long-distance service of this nature, unless the train reverses at Timmins to continue to Cochrane.

Rolling stock procurement is a critical step in service delivery, and with order books full at most north American car builders, a more proactive approach by the government to securing new equipment would have paid significant dividends. It may be possible to accelerate the timeline for service restoration by leasing equipment in the interim until brand new cars can be ordered and delivered.

Selection of suitable new rolling stock will be critical to the long-term success of this service. In addition to providing affordable seats and accessible accommodation, the rolling stock should also offer a service level suited to the tourism market, which means good all-round visibility, sleeping accommodation and decent catering. The suggestion of a “no amenities” service level in the initial business case is concerning, morning coffee being the least Canadians are going to expect on an overnight train. After making the investment to get the train running, going cheap on amenities would seriously inhibit the success of the service.

The equipment must also ride well across the range of track conditions in northern Ontario. A common complaint about the rebuilt single-level commuter cars used prior to 2012 was that ride quality was highly variable, which caused mobility impaired passengers difficulties moving about the train for refreshments or to the washrooms.

With both Amtrak and VIA Rail in need of new long-distance equipment in the current decade, and Amtrak being likely to select single-level design due to accessibility requirements, there is an opportunity to develop a new generation of single-level overnight and long-distance equipment. Leadership on this file by the governments of Ontario and Canada would increase the chances of a share of that work being conducted in Thunder Bay.

Northeastern Passenger Rail Service Initial Business Case

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