On September 18, 2021, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation announced that an extension of its Kitchener GO Train service to Stratford, St Marys and London will commence on October 18. The pilot service, costing $2.6M/yr, will have one eastbound train departing London in the early morning and one westbound train departing Union Station in late afternoon. Travel time London-Union Station is almost 4 hours, partially due to the low train speeds (30 mph) due to poor track conditions west of Kitchener.
This announcement and the short time frame was a surprise. There are many unresolved matters, including accessibility for the disabled, lack of Presto cards service, lack of train layover facilities in London therefore requiring extensive deadheading, cost per passenger and absence of a business case. Transport Action Ontario (TAO) is also concerned that this development pre-empts the Southwestern Ontario Task Force work on developing a regional transportation plan, including reconciling GO Train and VIA Rail services.
On balance, TAO welcomes this pilot as a positive first step and looks forward to improvements in train service, speeds and frequency. We believe that about $25M of track improvements are needed to improve train speeds west of Kitchener to an acceptable level.