High Speed Rail in South-Western Ontario

Updated 4 June 2018, including some corrections from InterCityRail technical experts — Thank you!

One of the first events I attended as the Green Party of Ontario candidate for Kitchener–Conestoga was the InterCityRail Town Hall meeting on High Speed Rail, held Wednesday, 18 April 2018.

Map showing High Speed Rail corridor from Windsor, through Chatham, London, Kitchener, Guelph, Malton, and Union Station in Toronto

Proposed Future Southwestern Ontario Passenger Rail Network

Kitchener–Conestoga rural residents are worried about the High Speed right-of-way cutting their farms in two, and since HSR cannot have at-grade crossings (because HSR is 200+ 177+ km/h speeds), farmers are concerned that they’ll have to detour tens of kilometres out of their way to access their farmlands — InterCityRail says only four grade-separated crossings are planned required to be kept open between Kitchener and London. It is not known how many will eventually be kept open.

There would be only seven stops: Starting in Windsor, through Chatham, London, Kitchener, Guelph, Malton, and ending at Union Station in Toronto. None of the smaller communities such as St. Mary’s or Stratford would have service. Not even the large community of Brampton is slated for a High Speed Rail station. If the experience of expanding GO Train service around 2012 is anything to go by, VIA Rail will cut its service to those communities once High Speed Rail is established. Phase One would connect Toronto with Kitchener-Waterloo and London with operations starting 2025, while Phase Two would extend the route to Windsor Ref1. Phase Two is not of immediate concern.

An alternative, High Performance Rail (HPR) has been proposed that would allow slightly slower trains (150-180 175 km/h) to run on the existing right-of-way and still have grade-level crossings, but the Minister of Transporation, Kathryn McGarry (Lib), has flat-out said the government will not consider anything in their EPA study except a new High Speed Rail corridor. And the Ontario Federation of Agriculture that represents the farmers directly affected by this have not been consulted, and do not have a voice in the decision making.

Other jurisdictions are jumping on the High Speed Rail bandwagon too. 570AM news reports that Waterloo is pushing for High Speed Rail with the intention of turning South-Western Ontario into one continuous city of 6 million people…

I was a fan of High Speed Rail until attending the Town Hall meeting, which was educational in informing me about High Performance Rail and the issues farmers face with HSR. The Green Party’s Vision Planet document says: “Prioritize low-cost high-performance rail in the short-term as the province plans long-term for higher-cost, high-speed rail projects.” But as the representative for Kitchener–Conestoga I will advocate that High Performance Rail should be the ultimate goal, the better to keep farms together, preserve farmland, protect wildlife, and provide better rail service to smaller communities.

Actually, it’s more than Kitchener–Conestoga residents who are concerned, also Oxford and Perth–Wellington residents are affected, and more. Hopefully we’ll have Green Party Members in those ridings soon!

The image is from the Ontario government report: High Speed Rail in Ontario: Special Advisor’s Final Report

Reference 1: High Speed Rail in Ontario — Special Advisor for High Speed Rail: Final Report pg. iv
http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/publications/high-speed-rail-in-ontario-final-report/pdfs/high-speed-rail-in-ontario-final-report.pdf (2.3 MBytes)

About Bob Jonkman, Green Party Candidate for Kitchener-Conestoga

Bob Jonkman is the Green Party candidate for Kitchener-Conestoga
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2 Responses to High Speed Rail in South-Western Ontario

  1. Andrew Clarke says:

    Thanks for posting this Bob. I just came online to find out about my local Green Party candidate and this is the first thing I read.

    As a rural resident in the Kitchener-Conestoga riding, I’m pro-rail. HOWEVER, a project like this needs to be undertaken with respect to ALL residents affected, not only those in cities. It’s not OK at this point in our history to undertake public works projects which destroy communities all along the corridor like the current project does. It’s not OK to sell out rural residents for those in the cities. It’s not OK to build a project that benefits one group (city dwellers) and puts the vast majority of the social cost on those who cannot even use the rail system.

    Once the cost of keeping ALL roads open is factored in, and once the cost of handling how farmers are going to access their own fields is factored in, let’s revisit the total cost of this project and see if it’s still feasible. Otherwise we’re looking at a fake cost, as the real cost is borne out by all of us who can no longer get to the grocery store, or to the other side of our field, without a time-consuming and costly fossil-fueled permanent detour.

    • Thank you, Andrew. You’ve identified some important costs, often lumped together under “externalities” — ignoring those costs doesn’t affect the people building or profiting from the project, but those costs are paid for by the community (and sometimes the government). We see this often in environmental assessments where oil spill cleanups or the costs of flooding from dams aren’t calculated up front.

      And yes, consultation is an important part of the process. I took part in the Liberals’ consultations on Federal Climate Action Plan and the Provincial Basic Income Pilot. In both cases the consultation held in Kitchener was the largest in the country (for Climate Change) and the largest in the province (for Basic Income). And in both cases not a single recommendation from the consultation was implemented. The Green Party will do better than that.

      –Bob.

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