In the future, high-speed trains could rocket through cities heading from Toronto to southwestern Ontario, but Brampton won’t be on the line.
The Ontario government is launching the environmental assessment for a potential high-speed rail (HSR) line from Toronto to Windsor, stopping in urban centers throughout southwestern Ontario. The comprehensive EA will cost $15 million and take several years to complete.
Before launching this EA, the province commissioned a special report, led by David Collenette, former federal Minister of Transport and the brains behind what would become the Union-Pearson Express. The report is a preliminary analysis of the line and can be read online here.
The proposed line and stations notably miss Brampton. It is the city with the third highest population on the line, after Mississauga, which is served by the Malton/Pearson Airport Station.
The cheaper alignment will use the existing train corridor to send trains through the city. The more expensive option would tunnel a new high-speed corridor under Brampton from Pearson Airport onwards.
The preliminary report recommends that the province proceed with the cheaper scenario B. This is good news for Brampton, as at a later date, the ability to easily add a station may be possible.
The first phase to London would open in 2025, with service to Windsor at a later date. The full HSR line would cost up to $21 billion. The full implementation of Metrolinx’s electric all-day, two-way GO Regional Express Rail program would shave $5.5 billion off this cost.
A missing question is does the report consider the proposed CN (and possibly CP) freight rail bypass that would take freight traffic off the Kitchener GO Line. Metrolinx and others have repeatedly said that this needs to happen before more passenger traffic can be routed on the line.
Fight Gridlock, a Brampton-focused transit advocacy group, thinks too much attention is being put on HSR. “Overblown attention on HSR before the EA process even starts – no matter which side someone is on – has the risk of distracting from other transportation issues,” says Kevin Montgomery, a cofounder of the group.
The other cofounder, Chris Drew, says “While we wait for HSR to go through a multi-year EA and see further discussions, what is the status of the bypass tracks for CN Rail, or evening and weekend GO service? We can’t take our eye off the ball because of a non-EA approved general idea. Fight Gridlock in Brampton calls on the Province to provide as much information as it can, as soon as it can, on the GO improvements and how things are going with CN Rail.”
A HSR corridor connecting Kitchener to Toronto has long been a part of the Innovation Supercorridor plan. A fast link between the two city regions has frequently been advocated for, and the numerous advocates of a proposal in both communities’ tech sectors, is what prompted the government to initially bring the idea forward.
As Brampton works to assert itself on this economic development plan for the region, the new service bypassing the city could undermine its efforts and hinder economic growth.
Councilor Elaine Moore, Wards 1 & 5, thinks it’s unacceptable that the line wouldn’t stop in Brampton. “The idea that any rider should have to travel east to come west makes no sense. If this is truly an innovation corridor, then Brampton deserves to be treated as a major player and deserves to benefit from all the opportunities this higher order transit project would bring.”
In the interim, it’s likely that Brampton travelers heading further west would be asked to board at an expanded Malton GO station, which would serve as the Pearson Airport stop, with an extended people-mover.