InterCityRailImproving rail transportation is a good idea. Let’s look at all the options.
InterCityRail is an advocacy organization formed in late 2017, in response to the announcement from the previous Ontario government that it would impose high-speed rail (HSR) in Southwestern Ontario without public consultation. It is our contention that any genuine, effective and long-term solution to the region’s transportation problems must be built on the following foundations:
- input from all stakeholders;
- minimal disruption to urban, rural, Indigenous and marginalized communities;
- equitable distribution of transportation investments and costs;
- the inclusion of all modes of transportation, integrated into a seamless network that connects trains, buses and cars;
- proven reductions of fossil fuels and carbon emissions, in line with provincial, national and global commitments to mitigate climate change and its impacts.
Although we were critical of the Liberal government’s announcement of HSR, we are not philosophically opposed to HSR, and we support its application in optimal circumstances.
Rail, as well as buses, bus rapid transit, light rail transit, high-occupancy vehicle lanes and dedicated cycling lanes, are all important components in improving transportation and need to be integrated into a comprehensive transportation plan.
However, there needs to be an evidence-based justification for any new transportation system. It needs to offer a practical and affordable alternative to emissions-intensive short-haul flights and long-distance use of personal automobiles.
Since the Progressive Conservatives came to power in Ontario in June 2018, the government has implemented several improvements in transportation:
- Cancelled the environmental assessment for HSR.
- Created the Ontario Community Transportation Grant Program, worth $30 million over five years. About 40 communities have received funding. The service was to start in spring 2020 but has been temporarily suspended due to COVID-19.
- Improved GO Train service between Kitchener and Toronto, with all-day, two-way service to start in 2025. As part of the expanded Toronto–Kitchener GO Train service, a Transit Project Approval Process to electrify the Kitchener corridor between Georgetown and Kitchener has begun.
- Released the transportation plan: “Connecting Southwestern Ontario”. The plan reflects the hard work done by Oxford County, supported by mayors and wardens throughout the region, in compiling a common-sense approach to public transportation. Making better use of existing rail and highway infrastructure is a key part of the provincial plan.
InterCityRail is generally in agreement with the Connecting Southwestern Ontario plan. We are pleased to note in particular:
“We know our vision for southwestern Ontario will not be complete without the valuable input of local municipalities, businesses, Indigenous communities and the general public. That is why we are inviting everyone to participate in this process by sharing their feedback with us. We are also establishing a task force with southwestern Ontario mayors and Indigenous chiefs to work together on ways to better connect bus, rail, transit services and ferries across the region.”
“Establish a task force with representation from southwestern Ontario mayors and Indigenous chiefs as a venue to discuss transportation service needs and opportunities to better integrate transportation services in the region. The task force will help make it easier for people to travel between communities and access services such as healthcare.
The task force will focus on improving connections between rail, bus, and local transit services across southwestern Ontario and ensure that our plan is informed by local needs and considerations.”
The Southwestern Ontario Transportation Task Force has now been established and we look forward to contributing to the dialogue and process.