There will be two more morning and afternoon GO trains during peak travel times between Kitchener and Toronto starting this fall, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced Tuesday.
The province is also adding a new all-day express bus service between Kitchener and the Bramalea GO station in Brampton starting in September.
Wynne also announced provincial money for the new transit hub in downtown Kitchener and an agreement-in-principle with CN to build a new rail corridor to ease congestion on the line between Kitchener and Toronto.
"As a government whose priority is jobs and growth, we need to support what's happening here in Waterloo region," Wynne said at the announcement, which she made after arriving at the KItchener train station on board a GO train.
"We need to make sure that the ideas, the enthusiasm and the entrepreneurialism of this region are all supported and that they are spreading," she said. "We know that we will never realize your potential if the way in and out of the region continues to be a congested stretch of Highway 401, from Kitchener-Waterloo to Toronto. That's not going to serve the region."
No morning trains from Toronto to Kitchener
Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said the new corridor will benefit businesses in Waterloo region. "This is good news for your tech industry," Del Duca said.
The increased GO train service will actually be an extension of the GO line that currently ends in Georgetown, but the announcement did not detail which trains will be affected.
Currently, there are two trains from the Kitchener station in the morning:
- The 5:49 a.m. train arrives at Union Station at 7:52.
- The 7:10 a.m. train arrives at Union Station at 9:13.
Morning trains from Georgetown arrive at Union Station at 7:27, 7:55, 8:20 and 8:50.
Currently there are two return trains from Toronto Union Station, arriving at the Kitchener station at 6:57 p.m. and 7:57 p.m.
Evening trains start arriving in Georgetown at 4:42 p.m., again at 5:28 p.m., 6:28 p.m. and 7:56 p.m.
The announcement did not include any plans to bring trains from Toronto to Kitchener in the mornings, returning in the evenings, which would give people who work in Waterloo region and live in the GTA another commuting option.
A spokesman for Del Duca says there are plans for contraflow trains by 2024.
New rail corridor to be built
Wynne also announced an agreement-in-principle between Metrolinx and CN to build a new freight corridor between Kitchener and Toronto.
That agreement is "an extremely important part of the puzzle," Wynne said. "This is a major move towards two-way, all-day GO."
A new freight line will mean CN will be able to move most of its freight traffic from its current section of the Kitchener corridor – between Georgetown and Bramalea – to the new line, freeing up capacity for more GO service from Brampton through to Kitchener.
The new freight corridor is good news, not just for Waterloo region, but also Guelph and even Toronto, Del Duca said.
"Today's news means that more trains, more trains at more times of the day in both directions will be a reality," he said.
Not the final step
Ken Seiling, chair of the Region of Waterloo, said last Thursday, it took him more than three hours to get home from meetings at Queen's Park.
"Sadly, this latest experience was not outside the norm," he said. "It's a frustration faced daily by commuters and haulers, and was a vivid reminder about the difficulties of traveling along the 401 corridor."
He said he is pleased the province has recognized the need to invest in transit.
"Employment and employees, the movement of goods, timely business and professional connections all suffered for many years of inadequate land-use planning and transit infrastructure investment which has come home to roost," Seiling said.
"Waterloo region is an important part of Ontario's and Canada's economy. It is stating the obvious to say that the future success of the province is linked to making the Waterloo region and Toronto corridor work as a unit, creating jobs, encouraging investment and helping setting the pace for our future."
Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, who has been touting an innovation corridor with Toronto Mayor John Tory, offered up "a freight train full of thanks" for this step in making two-way, all-day GO service a reality.
"Today may not be the final step in our journey, but we have moved forward substantially on this journey," he said.
$43 million for transit hub
The province is committing up to $43 million to fund the transit hub in downtown Kitchener, which will serve as the main station for Via Rail, GO trains and buses, LRT and Grand River Transit buses, Wynne announced.
Kitchener Centre MPP Daiene Vernile said the investment will help commuters seamlessly connect with transit.
"I have worked closely with our municipal partners to move forward on the promise to improve transportation and invest in our local infrastructure, building our community into the agile and competitive centre we know it can be," Vernile said.
"These advancements are helping deliver on my commitments to all local people who value progress, infrastructure, and the ability to travel more conveniently in the years ahead."
Announcement 'an insult'
Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris called Tuesday's announcements "an insult" to commuters and businesses in the region.
The Conservative politician said Wynne was just reannouncing previous promises.
"It's like Groundhog Day all over again. We're told to expect a big GO transit announcement; we hope it will finally deliver the promised all-day, two-way service and we awake to a reannouncement of increased peak trains," Harris said in a release. "These are the kind of games this government plays with our transit priorities."
Kitchener-Waterloo MPP and NDP finance critic Catherine Fife said Tuesday's announcement was a start, but there's still a long way to go before the needs of commuters are met.
"The key is connectivity – getting people to their jobs in Kitchener-Waterloo in the morning and home again," Fife said in a release.
"To do that, Waterloo Region needs two-way GO service. While today's agreement-in-principle helps, without a funding commitment for a bypass that will cost billions, without a proposed route, without an environmental assessment, without a commitment from the federal government, there is little reason to believe that the premier's promise to deliver all-day, two-way GO rail by 2024 is any more solid that the previous promise to deliver all-day, two-way GO rail by 2019."