Thursday, April, 17, 2014 - Guelph Tribune
Slow down on idea of high-speed rail service, advises Sandals
By Doug Hallett
The Liberal government announced more details about its plan for boosting Ontarioâ€™s transportation network this week, but local MPP Liz Sandals says news of a â€œhigh-speedâ€ rail service in this area isnâ€™t quite what it might appear.
â€œIt isnâ€™t what Europeans would recognize as high-speed rail,â€ Sandals said Tuesday. â€œItâ€™s what we call express rail, so it runs on the regular tracks.â€
Sandals was asked for clarification after Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray said his government plans to deliver high-speed rail service connecting Toronto and Pearson airport with Kitchener and London within 10 years.
Premier Kathleen Wynne announced in March that by the end of 2016, the number of GO trains going from Kitchener and Guelph to Toronto will be doubled â€“ from two each way to four each way on weekdays. Wynne also spoke about later adding two-way, all-day GO train service to this area, as well as express trains.
Sandals said Tuesday that she couldnâ€™t comment on Murrayâ€™s statement that London would be served as well as Kitchener and Guelph. â€œI honestly donâ€™t know, because Iâ€™ve been worrying about Guelph,â€ she said in an interview.
As for travelling to Torontoâ€™s international airport on a GO train from this part of Ontario, Sandals said this would involve a transfer at the Weston station.
The transfer would be to a new airport express train thatâ€™s to go into operation in time for the 2015 Pan American Games in the Toronto area. The airport express is to run between downtown Toronto and the airport, partly on a newly built spur line, she said.
Any express trains serving this area would go into operation sometime after the doubling of the current GO train service, which will require the building of a new train layover in Baden, Sandals said.
Express trains would be quicker for two reasons, she said. After picking up passengers in Kitchener and Guelph these GO trains wouldnâ€™t stop at the many stations on the way to Toronto. And this, she said, would allow the express trains to be smaller than the â€œgreat big 12-car trainsâ€ that are currently in use here.
â€œObviously, you can run the train faster if itâ€™s a bit lighter.â€
GO trains are currently third on the pecking order on the CN North Mainline, Sandals said. The freight trains of the Goderich-Exeter Railway, a U.S. subsidiary, are at the top. VIA Rail trains have second priority. This will have to change before two-way, all-day GO trains can serve this area, said Sandals.
Sandals said full-day, two-way service will require either double tracking from Georgetown to Kitchener or â€œa lot of layovers where trains can pass.â€ The CN North Mainline is currently double-tracked as far as Georgetown, but it has single tracks west of there.
Wynne announced plans Monday for dedicated and substantial funding for public transit and the provinceâ€™s transportation infrastructure. More details will be part of the budget the government is to bring down next month.
Wynne said the province would create two dedicated funds, including one for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area with up to $15 billion available for investment in transit. The other, for the rest of the province, would have nearly $14 billion available for investment in roads, bridges, transit and other critical infrastructure.
Funding sources for these funds are to include â€œnew revenues measures, repurposed revenues and a responsile level of debt financing, when needed,â€ a government news release said.
Murray has made enough clarifications on the HSR proposal for us to know that what Guelph MPP is referring to it is NOT the HSR.
She's referring to the conventional GO REX that will run in the area paralleling the HSR. (It sounds like we have now confirmed that electric, local GO REX will run to Kitchener as well providing for 2 tiers of TO-Kitchener rail service)
I wouldn't trust Sandals if she's out there making comments contradicting Murray. Especially on such points as the speed where he's expressly clarified the province is aiming for European style high speed rail of 300+ km/h. She's also Education Minister if I recall correctly so it seems a little weird that she's out there making pointed comments on transportation issues.
Until I see some official documents on paper confirming all this from Metrolinx/GO Transit/Government of Ontario all of this is just talk as usual. (and trying to get your votes )
Glen keeps saying wait until the budget - the many times I have heard him say that has made it a drinking game - and I'm now in need of a new liver!
Whether she's the education minister is irrelevant. First and foremost she is the MPP for her riding, and her immediate need is to get reelected by her constituents. To do so, she should shield herself against empty promises that probably can't be kept. Glen Murray might be able to tell people in Guelph with a straight face that they'll be riding in bullet trains in ten years, but he doesn't have to be elected by them so he can get away with this.
Frankly at this point I just wish we had a better, more concrete outline of the plan at hand. The details we've gotten about this whole project so far are sketchy enough that it leads us all to make our own assumptions.