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Chatham Wants In on High Speed Rail in Ontario

Chatham-Kent's mayor is seeking more information after a recent announcement concerning high-speed rail made no mention of the municipality.

Randy Hope said once he learned of the plans concerning the next phase of the project, he sent a message to the premier's office for further details.

“Number one, I agree with high-speed rail. Number two, I don't agree that it's not stopping in Chatham-Kent,” he told The Daily News on Friday. “You're going to get more value, more returns … if you're looking at centres like Chatham. It's not all about the GTA, London and Windsor.”

On Friday, London municipal officials and MPP Deb Matthews were on hand as Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca announced the next steps for the rail line, which will eventually link Windsor, London, Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto.

Hope said it makes sense to have a stop in Chatham as well, stressing that he's not advocating for the train to collect passengers in every smaller community in the municipality.

“High-speed rail has been on my radar since the 90s,” he said. “It's about moving people. … It's about growing an economy throughout Ontario, not just in specific areas.”

The environmental assessment phase, which includes meeting with municipalities, business groups and First Nations to determine the best technology and route for the line, is set to begin early next year and take as long as four years, Del Duca said.

He added the government has actually expedited the environmental assessment phase and that before 2008, transit EAs could take more than a decade.

"People have to understand, this is a very significant, massive (project),” Del Duca said. "It's very important we get this right."

The high-speed rail line is one part of the Liberals' $29-billion, 10-year infrastructure plan to address transit, roads, bridges and highways.

Hope said he's heard from people who would prefer to reside in Chatham-Kent if they didn't have such a long trip to Toronto or other large centres.

“Cost of living is cheaper and there are a number of variables that make it attractive for small business and entrepreneurs to set up shop here, but still be able to go the hub ... in order to conduct some business if they need to,” he said.

source chatham daily news