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Prov­ince com­mits $15 mil­lion to high-speed rail

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - AL­LI­SON JONES

A high-speed rail cor­ri­dor be­tween Toronto and Wind­sor is in the works — an idea floated in On­tario for decades, but the premier says this time it’s hap­pen­ing.

A gov­ern­ment-com­mis­sioned re­port look­ing at the fea­si­bil­ity of such a project pegs the cost around $20 bil­lion and sug­gests look­ing to the pri­vate sec­tor for op­por­tu­ni­ties to part­ner on fund­ing.

Pre­lim­i­nary de­sign work and a $15-mil­lion en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment are be­gin­ning, with an aim of full service in 2031. The gov­ern­ment hopes that by 2041 the rail line would see 10 mil­lion users an­nu­ally and take more than five mil­lion cars off south­west­ern On­tario high­ways.

The line would link Toronto’s Union Sta­tion, Pear­son in­ter­na­tional air­port, Guelph, Kitch­ener, Lon­don, Chatham and Wind­sor.

Trains would travel up to 250 km/h, which is ex­pected to cut travel times be­tween Toronto and Wind­sor from four hours to two.

Premier Kath­leen Wynne said not only will the high-speed rail link save peo­ple time, but it will serve as an eco­nomic driver along a cor­ri­dor that is home to more than seven mil­lion peo­ple and more than 60 per cent of On­tario’s eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity.

High-speed rail has been de­bated since the 1970s, with ex­cuses that the coun­try is too large, the pop­u­la­tion is too small, and it’s not worth it, but it needs to hap­pen now, Wynne said.

“We have lost op­por­tu­ni­ties as a prov­ince be­cause we haven’t had this line in place,” she said Fri­day in Lon­don, Ont., a mid­point for the rail route.

“I get that there’s go­ing to be a ro­bust con­ver­sa­tion about how much it will cost — how much the project will cost, how much peo­ple will pay — we ob­vi­ously are go­ing to work to keep the costs down in ev­ery way pos­si­ble, but we’ve got to move ahead. We’ve got to not let this be an­other lost mo­ment. We’ve got to do it this time, folks.”

On­tario’s Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive trans­porta­tion critic dis­missed the an­nounce­ment as a re-elec­tion ploy.

“South­west­ern On­tario has been wait­ing on high-speed rail for years,” Michael Harris said in a state­ment. “Now, a year out from the elec­tion, the Wynne Lib­er­als have shown up in Lon­don to re­an­nounce an­other tran­sit project they will never de­liver on.”

Pro­vin­cial New Democrats rep­re­sent­ing south­west­ern On­tario rid­ings is­sued a joint state­ment say­ing peo­ple in their com­mu­ni­ties “are won­der­ing to­day whether this is just an­other hol­low elec­tion prom­ise.”

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