Londoners looking to travel to and from Windsor will soon have another option to choose from as an intercity transportation provider gears up to fill the void left by the closure last year of Greyhound Canada.
Mississauga-based Onex Bus (Ontario Express Bus) confirmed this week that it plans to roll out London-Windsor service later this month to complement its London-Toronto route, which has been operational since August, with tickets costing $35 each.
“We had a lot of inquiries when Greyhound shut down of helping students get to and from Toronto into London, so we started a run that catered more or less to the general public, including the students,” said Harvey Tawatao, project manger for Onex Bus, which describes itself as a “consortium of family-owned limousines and bus companies.”
Greyhound Canada announced in May 2021 that it would permanently cut all bus routes across the country and shut down operations in Canada after nearly a century of service due in large part to a significant decline in passengers brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The motorcoach company’s closure dealt a major blow to rural areas where affordable transportation options are limited.
The province also expanded GO train service to London via Stratford and St. Marys in September as part of a two-year pilot project. The ride is slow, however, as getting from London to Kitchener alone takes roughly two hours due to track conditions and other factors.
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Fewer options have sprung up for those looking to travel to and from the Windsor-Essex region.
Tawatao says Onex Bus had eyed providing service to Windsor when it rolled out its London-Toronto route last year, “but we figured, let’s just go through our growing pains first and cater to the London to Toronto.”
“Also another operator started there just before we were thinking of starting it from Windsor to Toronto, so we held off and concentrated out of London,” he said, a possible reference to Rider Express, which suspended its London-Windsor service in November.
“Since that service is no longer available, we just proceeded on.”
Onex Bus had hoped to begin service to and from Windsor at the start of January, but those plans were pushed back to later in the month as a result of the Omicron variant, hesitant travellers and the province’s current pandemic restrictions, Tawatao said.
He added that initial skeleton service to and from Windsor is expected to begin “hopefully within two weeks,” noting that they have fielded calls from people looking to get to London and Toronto for medical appointments.
When service does begin, stops will be located at the Via Rail station in London, the Via Rail station in Chatham-Kent and two locations in downtown Windsor.
“It’s challenging because the ridership is not there. I wish the ridership was there, we would have started a lot easier, would’ve started a lot sooner,” Tawatao said of starting a bus route during a pandemic.
“Via Rail, their schedule is limited also. Our schedule is going to basically cater in between the services of Via Rail. So this way, when the trains are gone, at least people can still pick and choose a different time.”
Global News reached out to Megabus, Rider Express and Via Rail for comment and updates on their current service levels,
A spokesperson for Megabus said in an email that the company was “continuously examining expansion options,” including to and from Windsor, and that it had enhanced its London-Toronto service, done in partnership with Badder Bus, in September.
Rider Express and Via Rail did not respond by publishing time.