Category Archives for "Latest News"

Sep 28

Federal Study of Southwestern Ontario Passenger Rail Enhancement – update

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

On August 30, 2022 Federal Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra announced a one-year study by a 3rd party advisor on enhancing passenger rail services in southwestern Ontario (SWO). The advisor will examine both near-term improvements and longer-term integration into High Frequency Rail. While this news was welcomed, our concern is that there have already been numerous studies on SWO passenger rail, and this latest study means that additional services are still years away. See our post on the Transport Action Canada website for more details.

One September 26, representatives from Transport Action Ontario (TAO) and Transport Action Canada (TAC) met with senior staff at Transport Canada to review the scope of the advisor’s work. The procurement document was posted on the website on September 9, and can be viewed by searching for “T8080-220058”.

We learned that

  • Advisor will examine previous studies and welcomes additional input
  • Advisor will consult with Metrolinx to understand their plans for SWO and any track access issues
  • Advisor will largely focus on the South Main Line (Toronto – Brantford – London – Windsor) and London-Sarnia, recognizing provincial interest in the North Main Line (Toronto – Kitchener – London)
  • Advisor will contract with CN for it to assess what infrastructure investments are needed for 2-3 service enhancement scenarios
  • Advisor will develop demand forecasts, as that is needed for Business Case development
  • Advisor will be made aware of Amtrak Chicago – Toronto interest

Transport Action will continue to engage with Transport Canada staff on this issue. We have sent them material from TAO’s submissions to the province’s SWO Transportation Task Force that lists lower cost infrastructure improvement ideas. We also anticipate participating in a stakeholder roundtable to be held in early 2023.

Sep 23

Transit Service Integration in Greater Toronto – a step forward

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

On September 8, 2022, Bill 2, which amended the City of Toronto Act (among other things), was given royal assent at Queens Park. It provides that “the TTC may enter into an agreement with a municipality or local board authorizing the municipality or local board to operate, maintain or both operate and maintain part of a local passenger transportation system within the City”.

This is an important step forward for transit service integration in Greater Toronto. In February, 2022, the TTC and adjacent transit agencies (Brampton, Durham, Mississauga, York) unveiled a Cross-Boundary Service Integration Plan. Phase 1 involved pilot integration on two corridors – Burnhamthorpe Rd. and Dufferin St. The final phase (Phase 3) would be full “open door” rollout on all 24 cross-boundary routes wherein the 905 agency would provide all bus service within the City. TTC would reallocate its service to other areas in Toronto. This results in better customer service and annual operating cost savings of over $3M/yr.

Removing the legislative barrier in the City of Toronto Act was identified as a key step in the Plan and has now been achieved. Other key steps remain, such as implementing a fare collection solution with Presto on 905 transit buses in Toronto.

Jul 20

Orangeville-Brampton Railway – Rail+Trail Option

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

In May, 2022, Peel Region Council endorsed a plan to purchase the Orangeville-Brampton Railway (OBRY) for use as a trail. We also understand there are plans to remove the tracks.

Transport Action Ontario (TAO) has written to the Chair, Peel Region, urging the Region to hold rail removal in abeyance and to consult on a rail+trail option. There is broad agreement that this line has good potential for commuter and freight rail. Rails and trails can coexist well and are a proven option on many corridors. Based on experience in other communities, TAO is concerned that, if the track is removed, it will be difficult to re-install at a future date. It is preferable to keep the rails in place until they are needed.

Our letter to Peel Region is pasted below.

Photo: South portal of the Cal Park Hill Tunnel, with SMART track construction underway
Jul 05

Boosting Intermodal Truck/Train Freight to Reduce GHG Emissions (update from Transport Canada)

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

In November, 2021, just after the conclusion of the COP26 conference, Transport Action Ontario wrote to key federal ministers discussing the GHG reduction alternative of truck/train intermodal freight movement versus continued highway expansion and the need for federal involvement (e.g. publicly funded incentives) in what is largely private enterprise.

In late June, we received a lengthy, all-be-it largely generic, reply from Transport Canada. It updated us on the government’s approach to climate action. The Strengthened Climate Plan commits the government to working with rail stakeholders to accelerate technology development and implement commercially-ready solutions. Hopefully “commercially-ready” would include intermodal freight movement.

The Transport Canada letter is pasted below in italics:


Dear Mr. Westcar,

Thank you for your email of November 12, 2021, in which you shared with the Minister the views of Transport Action Ontario on the environmental elements that can be taken into account when making decisions related to our transportation system. Particularly, you mentioned the need for an expansion of truck/train intermodal services in the Montréal – Windsor corridor in order to support our climate commitments. My sincere apologies for the delayed reply.

Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is a key priority for the Government of Canada. During the Leader’s Summit on Climate Change, hosted by the United States on Earth Day, Canada committed to reducing emissions by 40 to 45% below 2005 levels by 2030 on the road to net-zero in 2050. This is a significant increase in ambition in relation to the previous commitment under the Paris Agreement. Canada has also tabled the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act in the House of Commons, legislating Canada’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

To achieve these ambitious goals, the Government of Canada introduced in December 2020 its Strengthened Climate Plan (SCP), A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy. This plan builds on current efforts under the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (PCF) to reduce pollution and support a healthier economy and environment through a number of new measures and $15 billion in investments. Building on these investments, Budget 2021 proposed $17.6 billion towards a green recovery to create jobs, build a clean economy, and fight and protect against climate change.

Clean transportation is a crucial part of Canada’s SCP, as the transportation sector accounts for 25% of Canada’s GHG emissions. For that reason, the SCP brought forward the commitment to work with rail stakeholders to accelerate technology development and pilot deployments, as well as supporting the implementation of commercially-ready solutions, among several other initiatives to decarbonize other modes of transportation.

In April of this year, the Government of Canada released its Emission Reduction Plan for 2030, in which we have committed to working with other levels of government, and in collaboration with key federal partners on additional emission reductions from transportation. Your views will support us in considering our next steps in this regard.

In your letter, you mentioned the Highway 413 project and its implications on our transportation infrastructure and its environmental impacts. As a federal authority under the Impact Assessment Act, Transport Canada anticipates participating in the impact assessment process for this project including providing advice and expertise in relation to our mandate.

Thank you for sharing your concern for tackling climate change and providing your views on ways the Government of Canada can continue to work towards reducing GHG emissions from Canada’s transportation system and improving the efficient and effective movement of goods.    


Michelle Sanders

Acting Director General, Environmental Policy / Directrice générale par intérim, Politiques environnementales

Transport Canada / Transports Canada

Place de Ville, Tower C / Tour C

330 Sparks Street / 330 rue Sparks

Ottawa, ON K1A 0N5

VIA Rail COO Martin Landry and London Mayor Ed Holder
Jun 17

VIA Rail “Fireside Chat” with London Mayor Ed Holder

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

On June 15, the Canadian Club of London hosted a one-hour virtual fireside chat between VIA Rail’s acting CEO Martin Landry, and London Mayor Ed Holder.  Transport Action Ontario (TAO) listened in and also submitted questions to be answered later by VIA Rail.  Our colleagues at Rail Advocacy in Lambton also attended.

There were few surprises in Landry’s remarks.  London is VIA’s 4th busiest station and VIA has invested $11M in it since 2019.  London is in a sweet spot for population density and distances.  Other remarks included:

  • VIA recognizes that not all train service has been restored to pre-pandemic levels, including Trains 82/83 round trip through Brantford and Trains 85/88 through Stratford.
  • Most of VIA’s ridership resumption is leisure travelers.  They are hoping for more business travel increase in the Fall when more train frequencies are planned.
  • The new fleet enters into service in Fall 2022 and the new reservation system will launch early 2023.
  • VIA is working with Metrolinx and CN on service improvements in southwestern Ontario.  In contrast to Toronto-Quebec City corridor, there are no opportunities for a dedicated right-of-way, hence VIA must leverage current infrastructure with the track owners.  VIA needs competitive travel speeds versus automobiles and reliable on-time performance.
  • VIA wants to transform London into a regional hub, which would therefore provide more scheduling options for all of southwestern Ontario
  • VIA is also aware of US interest on a Toronto-Chicago route, and are collaborating with Amtrak
  • In response to a question about a late night departure from Toronto to accommodate sports/theatre attendees,  Landry indicated that new frequencies would have to be provided by the track owners.

Mayor Holder also made some interesting remarks:

  • As chair of the Southwestern Ontario Transportation Task Force, and working closely with other regional mayors such as Mayor Bradley(Sarnia), he is very aware that passenger rail is a huge issue in the region.
  • London is the fastest growing Canadian city east of British Columbia.

In summary, the chat was a reaffirmation of information already out there and promised.   TAO will continue to vigorously advocate for passenger rail improvements in southwestern Ontario.

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