GO train service that runs every 15 minutes between Waterloo Region and Toronto is possible within five years, according to Liberal candidate Glen Murray, who was Ontario's transportation minister until this month's election call.
The announcement comes less than a month after Premier Kathleen Wynne admitted there was no specific set date for true, all-day, two-way GO service to the region. Wynne made the remarks in an interview with CBC Radio's The Morning Edition at the beginning of Mary.
- Kathleen Wynne admits no 'specific dates' for all day, 2-way GO service
- GO: No firm plans for a.m. Toronto to Kitchener trains by 2016
In March, Wynne announced a move to add four new GO train trips between Waterloo Region and Toronto by 2016. According to Murray, all-day service is possible just a few years after that.
"We're going to be moving very quickly within the next two to three years after that to take the diesels off, replace them with electric trains, these three- to six-unit trains, and we'll be running service to Kitchener, Waterloo and to the other communities along the line every 15 minutes all day," said Murray in an interview with CBC News.
"So those are our immediate priorities and we're going to get those done, the first round within two years, the next round within five."
PC Leader Tim Hudak said earlier this month he would cancel electrification of GO trains, as well as some planned LRT lines in the GTA, and use the money to provide more frequent two-way GO service.
More than hourly?
After Wynne's comments in March, a GO spokesperson said that the expanded GO service did not include a trip from Toronto to Kitchener in the morning. Currently two trains leave Kitchener in the morning for Toronto, and two trains leave Toronto for Kitchener in the evening.
"If we (only) went to hourly service we'd have a lot fewer people give up their cars. Once people know they can go down there on 15-minute service and they can connect to local LRTs in each of the communities they're getting off in… if the high-speed rail service and if the regional rail service is that good and that reliable you have to get to that threshold to get people to change their behaviour," said Murray.
According to Murray, the expanded GO service, along with investment in the region's LRT and a proposed high-speed rail hub are budgeted for.
"Let's get those projects done, because those are budgeted and we can afford to do those, and they're financially sustainable because each of them have good revenue generation because we expect very high ridership," he said.
Local leaders react
"I'm pleased to hear that would be within five years," said Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr.
"The more frequent service within five years would really send a strong message I think to the people who are considering living and working here in the community and I think it's a doable project," he said.
Zehr, along with regional chair Ken Seiling, were part of a consortium that pitched all-day, two-way GO service to the provincial government in December. The consortium includes the cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Guelph, the Region of Waterloo and Communitech.
"If people were promised good service and frequency I think they could certainly improve on what they have now, whether every 15 minutes is reasonable I don't know, but certainly even an hourly train would be phenomenal," said regional chair Ken Seiling.
The consortium estimated it would cost at least $396 million to install a second track along the Kitchener rail line in order to provide two-way service. That figure is based on a 2009 environmental assessment.