Following years of benign neglect by senior governments, southwestern Ontario is finally in the passenger rail spotlight! In mid-July, Federal Minister of Transport Alghabra toured the region announcing that the federal government is committed to working towards enhancing and modernizing intercity passenger rail in the region.
Transport Canada will work with key partners including VIA Rail and the Canada Infrastructure Bank though the High Frequency Rail Joint Project Office to ensure that any enhancements can be effectively integrated with the core route for High Frequency Rail. It will be reaching out to the Province of Ontario to identify areas of collaboration and avoid any duplication with provincial travel plans, including new services to be offered by GO Transit.
The announcement was welcomed by London Mayor Ed Holder, who also chairs the provincial government’s Southwestern Ontario Transportation Task Force.
The event in London was attended by Jim Houston from Rail Advocacy in Lambton, Ken Westcar from Transport Action Ontario and Terence Johnson, president of Transport Action Canada, all regional residents who have been campaigning to see and end to cuts and for service levels to be enhanced for many, many years.
Transport Action has submitted a list of rail infrastructure investments for the region to Transport Canada, VIA Rail, and the SWO Task Force. We believe that the most critical bottlenecks can and should be addressed swiftly, to alleviate passenger train delays and freight network congestion, rather than waiting for another long-term study process.
At the provincial level, GO Transit conducted a series of test train operations in early August west of Kitchener to Stratford and London. Rumours abound that this may be a harbinger of near-term implementation of GO train service to London along the North Main Line.
The announcement by Transport Canada can be read here: https://www.canada.ca/en/transport-canada/news/2021/07/government-of-canada-to-explore-opportunities-to-enhance-passenger-rail-services-in-southwestern-ontario.html
Photograph: Ed Holder, Mayor of London; Omar Alghabra MP, Minister of Transport; Peter Fragiskatos MP, London North Centre; Kate Young MP, London West.