The Ontario government announced Monday it will be increasing GO train service along the Kitchener line but it may be at the cost of the planned $2.25 billion freight bypass that was expected to provide two-way, all-day GO service to Brampton and other communities along the line.
Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek visited the Kitchener VIA Station Monday to make the announcement along with Leslie Woo, Chief Planning and Development Officer at Metrolinx.
Yurek touted government plans to increase service along the Kitchener line by 25 per cent. Starting January 7, commuters from Brampton will have the option of an additional morning trip from Brampton GO and Mount Pleasant GO stations, as well as additional trips along the Kitchener Line.
But perhaps the biggest surprise is that the Ontario government may abandon its plans for a freight bypass that would have allowed for two-way, all-day service.
“Thanks to an enhanced relationship with our rail partner, CN, we are increasing GO train service for people travelling on the Kitchener line without waiting for a costly rail bypass,” said Minister Yurek.
Two-way, all-day service has been a priority for Brampton, Kitchener and other cities along the line for years. It provides a critical link to Toronto and has been earmarked as a priority project to increase the region’s connectivity and competitiveness.
The key to unlocking two-way, all-day GO for Brampton and the other cities and towns along the line is the CN Freight Bypass.
The bypass was expected to divert freight traffic from existing rail lines to free them up for GO trains and allow for greater frequency. The project has proven to be challenging and last week a Metrolinx report revealed the province isn’t anticipating two-way, all-day GO service until as late as 2030.
Now, based on Yurek’s comments, it appears the province may be abandoning the project altogether and opting instead for a new plan for which it hasn’t yet provided the details.
Yurek noted that the government is “speeding up negotiations” with its partners to free up track time and increase frequency. He didn’t indicate how this new solution will compare to the freight bypass option in increasing capacity along the line.
If the freight bypass doesn’t proceed, other projects will also be impacted, including building more track between Georgetown GO and Kitchener GO, and electrification of the line between Bramalea GO and Kitchener GO, which would have allowed for faster and more frequent train service west of Bramalea.
The new improvements coming into effect in January also include extended trips to and from Kitchener. Morning trips will now begin at Kitchener GO instead of Georgetown GO and afternoon trips, which currently end at Georgetown GO, will extend to Kitchener and stop at Acton and Guelph GO stations. These won’t give Brampton more frequent service, however.
A morning trip from Georgetown is also being added and a new afternoon trip from Union Station to Bloor, Weston, Etobicoke North, and Malton GO stations.
Yurek indicated that the government plans to come back with an update on two-way, all-day GO service in 12 to 18 months.