Tories looking at alternatives to high-speed rail from Toronto to Windsor
Daryl Newcombe, CTV London
Published Wednesday, November 21, 2018 4:02PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 21, 2018 7:36PM EST
High-speed rail would cut travel times from London to Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto in half.
But Ontario Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek is now exploring additional options to improve regional mobility.
Yurek tells CTV News, “The previous government wasn't really interested in listening to the rural aspect of the decision.”
Many rural communities have opposed the plan, concerned that a high-speed rail system from Toronto to London and eventually Windsor would require valuable farmland, physically divide communities and act as a barrier to wildlife.
Now Yurek says the high-speed rail study will be expanded to also consider several alternatives, what he calls higher speed VIA service, expanded regional bussing and upgrades to highways.
But City Councillor Harold Usher says the key to high-speed rail is reduced travel time.
“I think that we need to keep the high-speed rail between Toronto and Windsor as one of the first priorities. I respect what the farmers are saying, we had the same concerns when they built the 401.”
Between 2015 and the spring of 2017 David Collenette acted as a special advisor on high-speed rail to the previous provincial government.
His report determined that there is a business case for high-speed rail connecting Toronto to Windsor.
Proponents believe shrinking the travel time to Kitchener-Waterloo and the GTA would be a boost for London’s economy and real estate market.
Yurek says high-speed rail is still being considered, but Ontarians need to be realistic and mindful of the multi-billion dollar price tag.
“I’m giving a realistic view for the people of this province in the area between Windsor and Toronto of a mode of transportation that is going to be cost effective, efficient, built on time and that we are moving people in an efficient manner.”
Kapil Lakotia with the London Economic Development Corporation says connectivity is key to London’s economic growth.
“I’d like to see something that has a long-term focus and is future focused. We don't want to have band aid fixes that provide short-term relief but not a fix to a longer-term problem.”
Yurek promises a thorough review and public consultation - and expects a more concrete decision on which mode of transportation the provincial government supports in the new year.
“Anything that we can do to improve the movement of the people and goods in this province in a faster fashion is going to benefit the economies, not only in London, but the entire region around.”