Accomplishing what Kathleen Wynne's government has promised — to have all-day two-way GO service between Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo by 2024 — is doable according to a local transit planning expert, but only if the Liberals throw enough money at the project to get past any unforeseen snags.
"There's really no technical reason, no physical reason why we can't have two-way all-day GO service by 2024," said Jeff Casello, professor at the University of Waterloo's School of Planning. "The Chinese were able to build 1,300 kilometers of high-speed rail between Beijing and Shanghai in three and a half years."
It's time for the province to be serious about this connection - Jeff Casello, professor, University of Waterloo School of Planning
Still, Casello said he's watched as plans for a better connection between Toronto and K-W have been announced and re-announced, but with little follow-through.
"I came to the region 13 years ago and we were talking about two-way service between Toronto and Kitchener then," he told The Morning Edition's host Craig Norris on Friday.
"And it's incredibly frustrating for residents here, and I think equally frustrating for residents in Toronto, to be having this talk about really good rail service connecting the two cities — including this innovation corridor — for this long and not having any real progress."
"It's time for the province to be serious about this connection," said Casello.
Be generous with funding: Casello
On Thursday, NDP MPP Catherine Fife's private member's motion asking the majority Liberals to include the Toronto to Waterloo Region corridor of the Regional Express Rail in its Long-Term Infrastructure Plan and commit to firm funding and timelines by April 2018, got all-party support in the legislature.
"I think this government is in a place right now where they understand that there is ultimately a trust issue," Fife told CBC News after the motion had passed.
"I think they recognize now that in order to go forward in a positive manner they're going to have to give us clear timelines and very clear budgetary allocations. So in many respects had they voted against this they would have been admitting that there really is no guidelines going forward," said Fife.
But Casello warns the government needs to be generous as it sets about crunching the numbers for this long-promised, much-anticipated project. And that means being ready to throw extra money at the project for when it hits a snag.
"The issue is, if we're going to stick to a time window, and there are going to be unforeseen delays, there's going to be things we don't expect to find. The only way that you catch up that time is you allocate more [financial] resources."
Canada's largest commuter rail program
The most recent update from the provincial government on all-day, two-way GO trains between Toronto and Waterloo region came in July, when it announced it had closed its request for proposals to build another rail tunnel under Highway 401.
"Once completed, the second rail tunnel will allow for all-day two-way GO Train service between Toronto and Waterloo Region. The new rail tunnel may also be used to support future high speed rail services on this corridor," said the Ministry of Transportation in a news release.
It went on to say the province has set aside $13.5 billion for Go Regional Express Rail, part of a larger plan to transform the GO network from a commuter train to a regional rapid transit system.
Once complete, the government said it would be the largest in the country.