Regional mayors united behind high-speed rail

A group of southwestern Ontario mayors will continue to push for a high-speed rail link between Windsor and Toronto despite the fact a report says it's not viable.

Expert says they are fighting a losing battle

A group of southwestern Ontario mayors will continue to push for a high-speed rail link between Windsor and Toronto despite the fact a leaked government report says it's not viable.

The mayors of Windsor, Chatham, Sarnia and London plan to gather in the near future and plot a strategy to make the rail link a reality.

"We are prepared to work together as municipal leaders to do our part to turn this potential into opportunity for our communities, province and country," Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said in a media release.

A public transportation expert and consultant says the mayors are fighting a losing battle.

A government report leaked earlier this week suggested that a high-speed rail link between Windsor and Toronto would not be financially viable.

James Armstrong, the former president of the advocacy group Transport 2000, partially agrees with the report.

Leaving Windsor out saves money

"I might be inclined to go along with the idea of leaving the idea (out) as it is for the purpose of saving money," said Armstrong, who has studied rail service for nearly 25 years.

He's in favour of improvements, upgrades and higher-speed service, which differs from high-speed rail.

"If they are going to plug this area into the high speed arena at the lower level then that will still mean faster trains and less time to get to Toronto," Armstrong said.

Country behind the times

Armstrong said Canada is 30-50 years behind the rest of the world in terms of high-speed service. He compared Canada's rail service to that of a Third World country.

He said that likely won't change anytime soon.

"As far as having a really up to date service ... it won’t happen in my lifetime," Armstrong said.

Armstrong said the focus needs to be where the population and desire for rail service already exists.

"I don’t think there is as much interest in fast railway services down here as there is where you have a huge population," Armstrong said outside the Windsor Via station while gesturing up the tracks toward Toronto.

Francis has long argued a high-speed rail service between Toronto and Chicago, through Windsor, will service 65 million people.

"The recent study neglects to consider the 65 million people that live in the Midwest and the real opportunity to provide them a convenient and attractive high-speed connection from Chicago to Quebec," Francis said in the release.

London's mayor Joe Fontana says the idea of high-speed rail that begins in Quebec and ends in Toronto is short sighted.