Cham­ber backs high-fre­quency rail op­tion

The Observer (Sarnia) - - NEWS - LOUIS PIN

The Sar­nia Lambton Cham­ber of Com­merce thinks a high-fre­quency rail sys­tem — not a light­ning-fast rail cor­ri­dor — would bet­ter ad­dress On­tario’s trans­porta­tion needs.

The cham­ber backed a so­lu­tion linked to Via Rail — an ap­proach mem­bers say would de­crease con­ges­tion and pro­vide short-term re­lief to res­i­dents across On­tario. This ap­proach in­volves run­ning tra­di­tional trains that can reach speeds of 160 km/h more fre­quently, which the cham­ber says would bet­ter serve smaller com­mu­ni­ties in south­west­ern On­tario.

The sug­ges­tion to run a high­fre­quency rail sys­tem through Via Rail con­flicts some­what with the pre­vi­ous On­tario gov­ern­ment’s plans for a $20-bil­lion rail cor­ri­dor from Toronto to Wind­sor, one that would travel up to 250 km/h and cut com­muter time be­tween the two lo­ca­tions in half. The es­ti­mated end date for that project was 2031.

That pro­posed high-speed rail cor­ri­dor would not di­rectly help Sar­nia-Lambton, as the clos­est stop would be Lon­don. The re­gion would more likely ben­e­fit from the higher-fre­quency rail sys­tem, one en­dorsed by Mayor Mike Bradley as well as the Sar­nia Lambton Cham­ber of Com­merce this week.

“Lim­ited tran­sit con­nec­tiv­ity, ag­ing as­sets, unique re­gional needs, and a his­toric un­der­in­vest­ment in in­fras­truc­ture have led to a sig­nif­i­cant gap be­tween the ac­tual and needed in­fras­truc­ture in On­tario,” Shirley de Silva, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Sar­nia cham­ber, wrote in a state­ment.

A $15-mil­lion en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment for the high-speed rail project was green-lit by the pre­vi­ous On­tario gov­ern­ment, but the sum­mer elec­tion left its sta­tus up in the air. Fears the as­sess­ment would be can­celled were ex­ac­er­bated when the new gov­ern­ment axed an ad­vi­sory board for the project.

Now the On­tario gov­ern­ment is re­port­edly con­sid­er­ing other op­tions to han­dle On­tario’s con­ges­tion prob­lem, es­pe­cially along the busy High­way 401. The de­ci­sion to look for other op­tions was ap­plauded by ru­ral res­i­dents, many who felt left be­hind by the pre­vi­ous high-speed rail plan.

Cur­rently, one train runs from Sar­nia to Lon­don each day, leav­ing the bor­der city around 6 a.m. One train re­turns each day, ar­riv­ing back in Sar­nia around 10 p.m.

There is no Grey­hound route be­tween Sar­nia and Lon­don. [email protected]­media.com

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