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Guelph on track for high speed rail service

Province says it will take 23 minutes to get to Pearson and 39 to get to downtown Toronto

A new high speed rail stop planned for Guelph will mean it would take 23 minutes to travel to Pearson International Airport and 39 minutes to get to downtown Toronto.

The provincial government announced plans Friday to build a high speed rail line between Toronto and Windsor with Guelph being one of the stops.

Premier Kathleen Wynne made the announcement on Friday, with press conferences in London and Kitchener.

Guelph MPP Liz Sandals said the province "absolutely" sees high speed rail as a commuter service complementing the upcoming improvements to GO Train service for Guelph.

"The majority of people that would use this service would be commuters," said Sandals. "That's who it's meant for."

She said high speed rail will strengthen employement opportunities as well as the agritech and biotech industries.

"This is huge," added Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie. "This is going to unlock a lot of opportunities for the city."

The first phase of the project would see high speed rail, which would reach speeds of 250 km/h, installed between Toronto's Union Station and London, with stops at Pearson, Guelph and Kitchener. The second phase would travel to Windsor, stopping in Chatham.

Cost of the entire project is currently estimated at around $21 billion, the province said Friday.

The first phase of the project is a $15 million environmental assessment of the corridor to be used. That would take up to four years to complete.

The project would use the existing corridor to London, stopping in Downtown Guelph.

Sandals also pointed out that these plans do not affect currently plans to implement all-day GO Train service to Guelph. In fact, she said, some of the infrastructure needed for all-day GO Train service would be needed for the high speed trains.

Sandals said it is hard to put an exact dollar figure on the price of the project at this point because much isn't known until the environmental assessment, which will include some planning, is complete.

"The numbers will change," she said. "Will the dollars evolve? I'm sure they will."

The provincial report recommending Guelph as a stop says that the downtown terminal would need upgrades, including a two-level boarding station and a third track.

Guthrie said originally Guelph "was not even being considered for this" as recently as 2014, but that he and Sandals lobbied hard to get it and the province listened.

"When Guelph came knocking, they answered. It's a big win for all of us combined," Guthrie said.

The business community, technology community, the development community and the University of Guelph will all benefit, he said.

This announcement will also have a ripple effect on how Guelph plans for its future, Guthrie said, with parking downtown becoming even more of an issue.

Planning, parking and city transit will all need to be considered as the high-speed rail becomes reality, Guthrie said.

"We are going to have to look at what infrastructure are we going to have to pull our socks up on," Guthrie said. "We need to buckle down."

The province's final report on high speed rail recommending Guelph as a stop can be read here.