Premier Kathleen Wynne says a high speed rail line is on track to carry passengers between London and Toronto by 2025 with the help of an $11 billion investment from the province.
It’s the single biggest investment in the Liberal government’s 2018 Budget, Wynne emphasized during a stop at London’s Info-Tech Research Group Friday morning, alongside London North Centre MPP Deb Matthews and David Collennette, the lead of the high speed rail planning advisory board.
“London and the southwest have a really exciting future, and can have an even more exciting future if we can work together to put in place the building blocks,” said Wynne.
The funding commitment is for phase one of the project, which aims to connect London and Toronto with a 73-minute commute, and stops in Kitchener and Guelph. Phase two will eventually extend south to Windsor, with a stop in Chatham.
The project’s environmental assessment and related planning and design work are well underway, and are expected to take three years, said the Premier.
High speed rail is being hailed as a convenient travel option that will reduce carbon emissions, and create new opportunities for workers, businesses and anyone travelling in southwestern Ontario. It’s been implemented in several other countries around the world, but would be the first of its kind in Canada.
“Not everyone agrees with this approach,” said Wynne.
“There are those people that would say instead of investing in 21st century travel options that’ll open up so much opportunity, they say make cuts, take services out of the community by cutting across community.”
But Wynne said that won’t address the needs of families, who are asking for more support.
“If government doesn’t stand up for families in Ontario, and stand up for their future, then there will be a real gap in people’s lives, and that gap will grow.”
When asked how the province would navigate negotiations with property owners and communities along the line, Wynne said they’d work with people as part of the process.
“Overall, most people understand the economic importance of building this line.”
She also addressed concerns about the high speed line undermining local VIA rail service.
“People have said quite clearly to both provincial and federal governments that they want more options in terms of rail service, they want to see more train service, and I think we can see complementary progress here.”
Vince Londini, a senior director in account management at Info-Tech, is looking forward to the day high speed rail is available.
“I work often enough in Toronto, and I fly often enough out of Toronto, that having a rapid option to get to Toronto will be a game changer,” he said.
“I think as citizens, we’re always concerned about cost and budget, we’re concerned about our taxes, we’re concerned about wise investment and wastefulness that we perceive bureaucracy to have, so I think all those concerns are still present. But high speed rail isn’t going to happen on its own.”