It might not mean all-day GO train service for Guelph just yet, but Tuesday’s announcement in Kitchener was a step in the right direction.
Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a number of improvements to GO service along the Kitchener to Toronto corridor Tuesday, including four new GO train runs for Guelph: two in the morning and two in the evening.
She also announced an agreement has been reached with CN Rail to build a new line that would take the freight traffic off the current line, helping clear the way for possible all-day commuter service along the Kitchener to Toronto corridor.
The new GO train runs in Guelph will bring the total to four morning and four evening trains. They start in September.
“This is great news for Guelph. It’s all about connectivity,” said Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie.
“It’s not just for people. This will make for a lot better access for the university and businesses as well.”
Guthrie joined mayors from municipalities all along the corridor in welcoming Tuesday’s announcement in Kitchener. All-day commuter service remains the ultimate goal.
“To make all-day, two-way commuter trains work we need to have a corridor specifically for GO service,” Guthrie said, adding that this removes one of the hurdles to that goal.
The exact times of the new Guelph runs won’t be announced until later this summer.
“I think it's a great leap forward,” said Guelph’s Steve Petric, who commutes to Toronto daily for work.
“The two additional trains in the short term will give commuters more flexibility and options to when they start and stop work or travel to the GTA as the current schedules can make it a tad difficult,” said Petric, who hopes the increased service will cut down on the 90 minute commute from Guelph.
“Many of us ‘Day 1’ Guelph GO riders have been waiting a long time for these additional two trains.”
Guelph MPP Liz Sandals said in 2014 the government said within 10 years there would be “two-way, all-day regional express rail.”
“The problem has always been that with the existing pecking order on the track, it’s freight, then VIA, then GO,” she said. “You can not have two-way, all-day service if your primary customer on the track is great big, long, slow freight trains. Regional express rail and great big, long, slow freight trains don’t go together.”
Sandals said there is a stretch of the track that is controlled by CN, and there is a lot of freight traffic over that particular stretch.
“So what we have agreed on in principle with CN – and it’s just a matter of working out the details, but the details are substantial – is we’re going to build a new line from Brampton to Milton which will allow the freight to bypass that Brampton to Georgetown section of track. And the freight will be able to avoid our section. And that means since most of the freight will be off this section of track, that means we can now go ahead with regional express rail.”
It means two-way, all-day will be possible, she said. And it also means the entire section from Union Station to Kitchener can be electrified. (It was previously announced that Union Station to Bramalea would be electrified because it was owned by the province).
“Now that we’re going to get most freight off Bramalea west, that means we will be able to complete electrification all the way to Kitchener,” she said. “Bottom-line, we can do what we said we would do, which is all-day, two-way regional express rail, and it will ultimately be electric, which means not only will we have better commuter service and get people off the roads, so we cut down on pollution that way, but because we will be able to electrify the strip, we will also get the diesel trains off the strip, so we will cut down on pollution that way.”
She said it’s a great commuter story, and a great climate change story.