Niagara eager for daily GO trains
Region wants to have trains reach Niagara Falls for 2021 Canada Summer Games
THOROLD — Top officials with the provincial agency that oversees GO Transit expansion say it would take a Herculean effort to fast-track plans for daily commuter trains to Niagara.
That said, they told regional council recently everything humanly possible is being done to have trains rumbling into St. Catharines and Niagara Falls sooner than the forecasted six-year time frame.
Last summer, the province announced GO commuter train expansion into Niagara but plans don’t call for the first trains to reach Grimsby until 2021. St. Catharines and Niagara Falls are scheduled for two years after that.
The region is pushing hard to have trains reach the Niagara Falls station in time for the 2021 Canada Summer Games, for which Niagara had the winning bid.
Gerry Chaput and Erin Moroz with Metrolinx — the provincial agency overseeing transportation investments including GO expansion — told regional council the expansion involves far more than just scheduling more trains.
“We have a massive build ahead of us,” said Chaput, chief capital officer.
That includes new train track, crossovers, bridge work, grading, re-signalling, a train layover facility in Niagara Falls, refurbishing of the existing train stations in Niagara Falls and St. Catharines, a new train station in Grimsby, four level-crossing upgrades, property acquisition and studies.
Niagara Falls Coun. Selina Volpatti stressed the importance of the upcoming Canada Summer Games, which will draw thousands of athletes, coaches and visitors from across Canada.
“It’s within the realm of possibility that if everything goes right, we may have it (GO to Niagara Falls) by 2021?” she asked.
“These would look pretty rosy if I said that,” Chaput said, taking off his glasses.
“We’re working as hard as we can to try and meet the time frames that you’re looking at,” he said. “(But) it’s a monumental task to try to reduce that by two years.”
Moroz, director of communications and community relations, said later Metrolinx will need to buy new trains to expand the service to Niagara because its fleet is already fully deployed at rush hour in other parts of Ontario.
The agency is aware Niagara wants GO trains reaching Niagara Falls by 2021, but it’s simply too early to tell if that will be possible, she said.
St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik suggested Metrolinx immediately expand its current weekend summer train service to Niagara to include the fall and winter months because more people are travelling to Niagara nowadays in what used to be considered the off-tourism season.
Sendzik also asked for reassurances the GO train commuter service expansion will definitely go ahead, noting some Niagara residents were skeptical after last summer’s announcement due to the time it will take to happen.
“The government has committed to it from our point of view,” said Moroz. “It’s a fully funded program.”
The region has committed $40 million toward the expansion of GO commuter trains to Niagara and plans to establish a new GO implementation office with staff, including a project director and project coordinator.
Asked if there is a need for such an office, Moroz told politicians “there is definitely going to be a sufficient amount of work that is going to be coming your way.”
The Metrolinx officials said the agency will shortly be working with regional staff on consultations on GO station hubs.