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Ontario High Speed Rail Study and Press Conference: Moving Forward or Stuck in Neutral

It is hard not to by cynical when the Ontario provincial government announces there we be yet another study on high speed rail in Ontario. This one costs $15 million. The David Collenette HSR study is the 22nd  study that has not produced any results so are things any different this time around.

The Wynne government has announced the study today on the Friday of a long weekend. This is definitely not a preferred time to have a press conference. Governments usually reserve this time for bad news or news or when they cannot get any high profile media.


Here is the press conference with Premier Kathleen Wynne and Steve Del Duca in London Ontario today.


The David Collenette study recommends that a full environmental assessment be done and suggests two different cost scenarios depending on speeds. 300 km/h at a cost of $149 million/km  250 km/h at a cost of $55 million/km.

As a cost comparison the 1995 Ontario-Quebec High Speed Rail Study at the 200/250 km/h speed the total cost of the Windsor-Quebec line was $16 billion. Today to do the same speed just the London-Toronto would cost $11 billion.

London to Toronto would be complete by 2025 and expanded to Windsor by 2031.


Collenette understands that for this high speed rail project to happen it must be a 3P, public-private partnership. High Speed Rail Canada strongly recommends that this 3P move beyond the narrow focus of Bombardier and VIA Rail to  companies/countries that have over a half a century of experience in building and operating  high speed rail.


There is also a recommendation  that a new government body would be organized to oversee design and implementation of high speed rail line between Toronto and Windsor within the Ministry of Transportation.

Could high speed rail finally happen in Ontario? We do believe that with the proposed new Federal Government Infrastructure Bank and the Federal Liberals seemingly interested in larger infrastructure projects that maybe the time is right. However at the Kitchener press conference, the Premier stated they had not had any discussions on this subject matter with the federal government. Time will tell if HSR finally comes to Ontario.


  1. If you believe that this will get built on time and on budget you are dreaming. This was presented by the Liberals as an election goody, just like the last time they presented it. There is no high speed rail in the proposal until the train is past Kitchener.

    This plan requires too many other things to happen before it can get built, like the missing link which will not be ready in the time line Metrolinx proposes because they cannot build anything on time.

    The equipment that they propose does not meet FRA standard and since Transport Canada does not have any standards for trains above 95 mph it will probably adopted the FRA ones. The proposed equipment is 8 car EMUs but FRA standards forbid passengers from the lead unit of any train over 125 mph. That is why the new North East Corridor trains from Alstom have a locomotive at either end as do the BrightLine trains in Florida while their European counter parts are true EMUs.

    The proposal calls for high platform stations, probably because the NEC ones are high platform, but contrary to public opinion most European trains have a platform height of 500 mm, about 20" above the rail head. This will make combined GO HSR station either very long or 4 tracks wide to accommodate both high and low platforms.

    The alternative is what is happening in California where CalTrains, a commuter rail operator has tohave by bi-level cars with doors over the trucks and at the normal position on the lower level. An option that costs 16 seats, requires a lift in the car to move accessibility challenged people from one level to the other and adds about $300,000 to the price of the car.

    This plan also did not study which cities should have service and which should be bypassed. A topic on which I spoke at Brampton City Council this morning. Brampton council, as I am sure are other councils, are ticked off because there was no consultation as to which cities would be getting service and no warning about the plan until it was announced.

    This entire plan wreaks of a political move to try and win the Liberal Party seats in Southwest Ontario cost be damned. Can you say "Gas Fired Generating Stations," or how about "Wind and Solar Generation." This is another plan that will produce no useful results for 30 years and will cost billions over estimates.


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