Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek announced last week that commuters on the Kitchener GO Line can expect two way, all day train service to and from Toronto by 2024.
In an interview last week with CBC Radio, Yurek said that the province is in talks with CN to use train tracks that currently aren’t owned by GO.
Yurek’s interview came on the heels of an announcement that GO would be reinstating the previously nixed 4:50 p.m. express train. He announced changes to the Kitchener GO line back in December, but once they were implemented on January 7 it caused widespread chaos. Commuters complained of even worse overcrowding and longer commute times. The backlash was swift and GO announced last week it would be reinstating the train.
The previous government had plans to create a freight bypass to free up tracks and allow for more frequent service, but it would be at least 5 years. Back in December Yurek announced that the province would be abandoning those plans.
But the minister says they have something new in the works, and it would allow them to deliver two-way all-day GO service faster than the previous government.
“We’re going to go forward with getting two-way, all-day GO transit for Kitchener to Toronto at a faster timeline than previously promised and that’s part of our plan on building up the economy in this province and opening up Ontario for business,” he said.
Yurek says the government hopes to make a more formal announcement on its plans within the next 12 to 18 months, during which time it will make smaller changes along the way.
Local transit advocate Sean Marshall says options for providing two-way-all-day GO are limited without the freight bypass and will come with some challenges, but there are alternatives.
“A third or fourth track through downtown Brampton would provide additional capacity but could be disruptive. It would mean moving the historic Brampton train station further north, and expanding the railway berm behind the Rose Theatre. This work would require many years of planning, consultation, engineering and construction. Even then, the tracks still belong to CN,” said Marshall.
“Even in the short term, there are challenges to improving GO service on the Kitchener Line. The third track and platform at Bramalea Station that could be used by local GO trains is closed for the next two years while a new bus loop, station building and parking garage are being built. Further east, it will take several years for Metrolinx to add a fourth track under Highway 401, and through Weston and Bloor Stations. Capacity on that section of the line is limited by UP Express trains, which are prioritized over Kitchener Line service.”
Despite these apparent constraints, Yurek appears confident. “CN’s been very good about working with us and opening up lines and that’s why we were able to reinstate the express train, which is an additional train, back onto the track because we were able to work with CN to open up some of the freight times,” he said.