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GO Transit reveals plans for London-Toronto service

GO Transit reveals plans for London-Toronto service

The provincial government is launching a new London-Toronto rail link that could revolutionize the way Southwestern Ontario residents get to work – as long as they don’t mind spending eight hours a day on their commute.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Transport announced plans for a pilot project on weekdays London-Toronto GO Transit service, consisting of two daily trips that take approximately four hours each way.

Schedules have yet to be completed, but trains are expected to leave London just after noon and arrives at Toronto Union Station after 9:00 am, and returns home departing Union around 4:15 pm and arriving around 8:15 pm

The service is scheduled to launch Oct. 18 and will see GO venture on its traditional mandate to operate commuter rail in the Greater Toronto region to provide urban transportation between two of Ontario’s largest municipalities.

The province estimates the pilot will cost around $ 2.6 million annually, although it is not clear how long it will run. Ticket prices had not been announced Thursday afternoon.

In a press release, Associated Transport Minister Stan Cho predicted that the London service would provide “another opportunity that will benefit individuals, families and workers” in southwestern Ontario, saying the Ontario PC government “keeps our promise to support communities” and reduce congestion through a better connected transit network. ”

But some transportation experts were left with itching in their heads about who would drive such infrequent, slow service.

“I’m not quite sure what the point is,” said Eric Miller, a professor of civil engineering and director of the University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute.

“If you’re just looking at trying to connect London to Toronto, a train a day every way, four hours, makes no sense, I’m sorry.”

He noted that VIA Rail already operates faster and more frequent traffic between London and Toronto. The national railway provider offers six trains on weekdays between the two cities, and most trips take less than two and a half hours. One-way tickets cost as low as $ 37.

While the provincial government says the pilot will serve riders in smaller communities between London and Toronto, Miller said it is not clear that there is enough demand in these places to justify the high cost of running more rail services. He said adding bus trips to smaller cities could provide more frequent and better service at much lower costs.

“I do not know what kind of analysis has gone into this. Probably not much, ”Miller said. He added that he can not be sure what motivates the government, but “transportation is always political” and it is possible that the plan “sounds good to voters in southwestern Ontario.”

The London service would be an extension of existing trips on the Kitchener GO line, and no additional trains would be added, according to Metrolinx, which oversees GO. Between London and Union there would be new stops at St. Marys and Stratford, as well as at stations on the Kitchener line already served by GO.

To expand its service to London, GO is collaborating with VIA and CN to use their tracks and stations. The ministry said the trips will take longer than most VIA services because the GO service will follow a less direct northern route and the CN track along that corridor has speed limits.

Although the expansion is based on a draft transportation plan for southwestern Ontario, the province released in January 2020, the Department of Transportation confirmed that it has not yet presented a business case showing that the service is eligible. But the government maintains that there is a need for it.

“The people of southwestern Ontario deserve better access to a safe and reliable transportation network. Our government knows that southwestern Ontario is a vibrant destination with the potential to grow further, ”said ministry spokesman Nicholas Rodrigues in an email.

He said the service is expected to serve 25,000 riders a year at the three new GO stops in London, Stratford and St. Marys, a projection that takes into account lower transit usage due to COVID-19. By comparison, TTC’s busiest tram line, King St., before the pandemic had 84,000 boardings each day.

Rodrigues said that in addition to improving connections between London, Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph and points in between, the new service will be used by post-secondary students at Fanshawe College, Wilfred Laurier University, University of Waterloo and other schools, and provide “more opportunities to travel to and from Toronto for things like occasional business meetings, appointments or fun.”

Murtaza Haider, professor of computer science and property administration at Ryerson University, agreed with Miller that there may not be an immediate benefit to the London GO service. But he argued that in the long run it would be a good idea to offer more transport links between smaller communities and the Toronto area, especially given that it has become so expensive to live in Canada’s largest city.

“There is a need to build better connections to these satellite cities in the hope that one day … people may have a chance to move to these affordable neighborhoods and affordable cities,” while still working in Toronto, he said.

Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based journalist covering transportation. Reach him via email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr

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