Ontario has committed about $11 billion to support construction of a high speed rail network. The environment assessment will take 18 to 24 months and this alone will cost about $15 million.
Paul Langan is the founder of High Speed Rail Canada, the only national advocacy group for high speed rail in Canada. He said, “Pretty simple, if the Liberal gets back in, it will happen, If Liberals don’t get back in, the Conservative government has never supported high speed trains in the past so I have no evidence to say they will do it again.”
Ontario’s plan is to build phase one to connect Toronto by 2025 and then phase two would extend to Windsor by 2031.
He said, “We are in a cultural abyss, meaning people can’t see passenger trains’ being fast, reliable, convenient and on-time, because right now the train system has been so bad in Canada for 50 years.”
“So basically as far as the education goes, we are trying to show people that the rest of the world has had fast, reliable public transportation with passenger trains for the last 50 years. We are 50 years behind. ”
“It’s like a cultural vacuum, they just cannot picture it…the people that have traveled to or come from countries where high speed rail exists take it for granted. Here it’s ridiculous, sometimes the argument that we get into with people, for them in their mind, it’s always been the auto so it always has to be the auto.” Langan said.
Public- private partnership
Canada is the only G7 country without a high speed rail system, however research and discussions about modern railway system in Canada have been going on for decades, from Inter-City Passenger Transport Study by Canadian Transport Commission back in 1970 to last year’s Special Advisor Report Ontario High Speed Rail by David Colenette.
“Well the studies has been done, and none have never been carried through. I will say that the Liberal government provincially have gone the furthest than any government in moving high speed rail.”
“By far, they (the Liberal) are making it happen. I think the missing link is that we have to have a public-private partnership like they are doing in other countries.”
In total, the project will cost about $20 billion, but it depends on how much private corporations are involved and on support from the Parliament Hill. The province is looking for partners to cooperate with.
Modern transportation alternatives
Langan said, “Every modern country has alternatives to their cars, we do not have alternatives…third world has better transit than we do, I am sure people from other countries are astounded about how bad transit is here.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne said she wants to see the Windsor to Toronto high speed rail to be up and running by 2025, which means an about 70 minutes trip from London to Toronto or an about 50 minutes travel from Kitchener-Waterloo to Toronto.
Langan added, “There is no evidence that more lanes could solve congestion…now in Kitchener they are widening the highway 401 like it is going to solve (traffic congestion), it doesn’t solve anything. ”
“As the old expression goes, when you gain weight, you undo another notch on your belt and you are OK, but you are not OK you just keep expanding.”