High-Speed Rail Coming To London

Photo by Matthew Black via Flickr

The metaphorical train is leaving the station.

The Ontario government says it is moving ahead with plans for a high-speed rail line between London and Toronto, with stops in Kitchener-Waterloo and at the Pearson International Airport. The Liberals say they hope to move forward with an environmental assessment this fall.

Transportation Minister Glen Murray made the announcement at the Western Fair District on Wednesday, where he gave a noon-hour speech to the London Chamber of Commerce. He told the crowd the plan is to build the “21st Century national dream,” calling on the success of rail in Canada in the past to dictate the possibilities high-speed rail could present for Ontario.

Murray says the environmental assessment could take three to four years and construction of the rail line would take another three to four.

When it is finished, passengers could take a 320km/hr train from London to downtown Toronto that would arrive at its destination in 71 minutes. The trains would offer 28 daily trips in each direction. Murray estimates the trains would take approximately 20,000 vehicles off Hwy. 401 every day. He also says preliminary numbers show the fare from London to Toronto would be about $40 one way, but he says there would be opportunity for cheaper tickets in advance.

The big question of course is how the Liberal government plans to fund the pricey plan. Murray says he’s already in talks with teachers’ pension plan officials to gauge interest in equity partnerships to help pay for the rail line. The minister says the pensioners are already investing in high speed rail in London, England.

The announcement is not being well received by Ontario’s opposition MPPs. Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP and Progressive Conservative Jeff Yurek says the announcement is coming just a day before the 2014 budget is tabled –a budget the Conservatives have promised to vote against. He says it’s more about an election campaign than future infrastructure investment.

The New Democrats are questioning whether the Liberals can actually follow through with the planned rail link. London-West MPP Peggy Sattler says the Liberals are very good at throwing out big promising and not delivering.

Both opposition parties say they haven’t seen a business case and don’t have enough information to know where the Liberals plan to get the money to pay for a high-speed rail project.

**With files from Scott Kitching