Mayors devise high-speed rail plan

Four mayors from southwestern Ontario will meet to talk high-speed rail Tuesday.

Windsor, Sarnia, Chatham, London mayors want to speak with their Quebec counterparts

Southwestern Ontario mayors, including Windsor's Eddie Francis, wants the Windsor-Toronto corridor to have high-speed rail to connect Chicago to Quebec. (CBC News)

Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis has a high-speed ally in Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope.

At a meeting between four southwestern Ontario mayors Tuesday in Chatham, Hope said a high-speed rail link between Windsor and Quebec City is essential.

It's something Francis has been saying for months.
Infrastructure, such as the Detroit-Windsor rail tunnel, exists already and could jump start a high-speed rail system from Chicago to Quebec, said NDP MP Brian Masse. (CBC News)

Windsor West NDP MP Brian Masse also shares the vision.

"High-speed rail will (be a) benefit not only by providing transportation but (it will) add economic value in an economic downturn," Hope said.

Francis, Hope and the mayors of Sarnia and London met Tuesday and devised a plan of action to get provincial and federal governments to look again at high-speed rail service.

A report released earlier in the year suggested a link between Windsor and Toronto would not be financially viable.

The report recommends only building a line between Toronto and Quebec City.

The mayors say that's short-sighted.

Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis believes the southwestern Ontario route would actually make money because it could connect with a line running from Detroit to Chicago.

He adds it's time to start moving on the project.

"There is such a high price tag to … start the process of high-speed rail [that] has led many governments, federally, to run in the opposite direction," Francis said. "High-speed rail is something that needs to be looked at."

More meetings, reports planned

The mayors also want to engage in discussions with mayors in Quebec to get them on side, too.

The mayors claim there is another report — funded by the communities — that supports the link. That report has not yet been released. That is why the mayors want to meet with their Quebec  counterparts at a later date.

They also plan on meeting with members of the private sector in southwestern Ontario in January to make their case.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said at the meeting there are 17 reports on high-speed rail and that only one — the most recent one — is the only one that leaves Windsor out.

Bradley said Canada was brought together by rail and yet we are neglecting it today. 

"Other countries, other competitive jurisdictions, are making the necessary investment because they're saying the costs are certainly high, but the benefits far exceed the costs," Francis said.

The mayors are seeking assurances they will have a voice at the table whenever federal and provincial government decisions are made on high-speed rail.

High-speed rail wasn't the only topic on the agenda Tuesday. Bradley says there are other issues that deserve more attention, too.

"The 401 and 402, the border crossing issues, because they're all inter-related but we have decided to focus on this as a primary issue for us as we bring others together in the new year," he said. "The reason why we're stepping forward is because we lead the four biggest communities in this region and we feel there's a vacuum."