A pilot project starting Oct. 18 will see GO Train service extend to London, Ont., as well as Stratford and St. Marys.
The project will see Metrolinx provide weekday trips between London and Toronto, with one early morning trip to Union Station and one return trip in the late evening.
“It’s basically phase one. We look forward to building on the launch of this pilot project,” Ontario transportation minister Caroline Mulroney told Global News.
“It will be two weekday trips, one that leaves London early in the morning and goes to St. Marys and Stratford along the way along the Kitchener corridor to Union Station, and then an afternoon trip leaving Union Station, going back to London.”
A trip from London to Toronto will take roughly four hours, while it will take roughly two hours to go from London to Kitchener.
When asked about what future phases could bring, Mulroney says the Doug Ford government is looking to gather feedback from riders and from its Southwestern Ontario Transportation Task Force, which is chaired by London mayor Ed Holder.
“In the past, transportation policy has been set at Queen’s Park and we want to do it differently.”
The pilot project provides another way to Toronto, after Greyhound Canada ceased its operations in May. Since then, Megabus has begun offering daily trips between London and downtown Toronto.
London Mayor Ed Holder extended his thanks to the province for “making headway in our vision for more connections to transportation” in the region.
“Londoners need and deserve access to increased transportation options, and by extending GO rail service into southwestern Ontario, we are keeping our promise to enhance economic productivity and business opportunities, while also supporting healthier, more connected communities.”
Ticket pricing has not yet been finalized, though Mulroney says there will be three different fares depending on if a traveller is headed to St. Marys, Stratford, or Toronto.
“We’ll have more information on that prior to the launch of the service on Oct. 18.”
Unlike on VIA Rail, passengers on the GO Train will not be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“We’ve implemented health and safety protocols, so all Ontarians who want to use GO can feel safe when they’re on it,” Mulroney said.
“Of course, I would encourage everyone who hasn’t yet been vaccinated to go and please get vaccinated. It’s the best way to keep yourself and your community safe.”
Those health and safety protocols include more space between chairs and seats, dividers between the seats, and hand sanitizers on the train.
The province says in a release that it’s working closely with VIA Rail and CN to extend service and “explore ways to improve the speed and frequency of passenger rail service.”
As well, the province adds that the Southwestern Ontario Transportation Task Force will continue to look for ways to “build an integrated transportation system” across a variety of transportation options, including rail and bus.