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Kevin Westcar Wants Upgrades to Existing Rail in Ontario

Comedian Rick Mercer once quipped that Canada is a leader in high-speed rail reports. He was referring to the fact that numerous, expensive studies have been done by federal and provincial government agencies since the 1970s, and not one metre of track has been laid.

In early 2015 Ontario commissioned yet another study of a possible high-speed rail service connecting downtown Toronto to Kitchener, London and eventually Windsor.

Much credibility was added by the appointment of former federal Liberal transport minister David Collenette. He has since managed a stakeholder consultation process that was scheduled to culminate in the release of a report in November 2016. It’s now expected this year.

Probing the concept of sleek and speedy passenger rail services captured the futuristic interest of several communities along the proposed route and, possibly, caused them to lose focus on advocating for significant, shorter-term improvement to existing services. Likely it has pushed the possibility of badly needed intercity public transportation improvements in Southwestern Ontario well beyond 2020 as Via Rail continues to struggle with outdated equipment and Highway 401 suffers chronic congestion and frequent closure.

It’s now clear the Wynne government asked the wrong question of Collenette and his team. Instead of prescribing the high-speed rail solution, the province should have asked what is wrong with the current system (which isn’t a system) and how do we go about fixing it on a staged basis that involves all the current players and assets.

If high-speed rail winds up being part of a long-range vision, fine. But it alone will not fix the basic problems we experience in Southwestern Ontario or anywhere else in Canada.

The solutions are multi-modal and they must be undertaken in a step-by-step fashion that is driven by a co-operatively crafted master plan. You can create a master plan only when all the players are talking to each other and they come to understand the problems each is facing, as well as the opportunities for co-operation and co-ordination. Read the rest of the article below from Lond Free Press.