Hamilton

All-day GO trains coming to Hamilton's West Harbour station

Ten years after the province promised all-day train service to Hamilton, the province says it’s finally happening.

The long-awaited train service is finally happening starting on Aug. 7, the province says

Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney says all-day GO trains will run between the West Harbour and Union Station GO stations. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Ten years after the province first promised all-day train service to Hamilton, it's finally happening. The province and regional transit agency Metrolinx announced Monday that all-day service between West Harbour GO station and Toronto's Union Station will start Saturday, Aug. 7.

"You no longer have to drive or take a bus to Aldershot GO station just to get on a train," Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said in an announcement at the West Harbour station. "This region is booming and we must keep up with the demand."

Trains will begin shortly after 5 a.m., with the latest return trip from Toronto leaving at 11:45 p.m., said Metrolinx president and CEO Phil Verster. "Pre-COVID, we were at 40 trains a week. We are now going to 250 trains a week."

Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins later confirmed to CBC Hamilton that service will be hourly.

'It's long overdue,' says local resident

Local resident Brandon Archer, who attended the event in a custom-made GO Transit mask, said the community has been eager for all-day train service. 

"It's long overdue," Archer, 23, told CBC Hamilton. "It's nice to have an option in the North End of Hamilton… Now I can just hop on a train, pay my fare and I'm practically in Toronto."

The new service will not affect existing routes running out of the Hamilton GO Centre on Hunter Street, which operates two trains each way per day and the all-day express bus, Mulroney said. 

There are also plans to increase HSR bus service on the section of the A-line that connects with the West Harbour station, said Mayor Fred Eisenberger.

The expanded schedule will also help pave the way for more frequent service to Niagara, and to the station planned for Centennial Parkway North, said Verster. "Confederation (station) is… the next part of our expansion."

The impact of all-day service on Hamilton is significant, said Donna Skelly, PC MPP for Flamborough-Glanbrook. Right now, Hamilton residents "have to drive up to half an hour to the nearby Aldershot GO station because Hamilton stations don't have access to an all-day rail system."

Skelly cited 2019 data that shows 62 per cent of customers who drove to the Aldershot station were from Hamilton. "On weekends, 70 per cent of GO bus passengers who transferred at Aldershot came from Hamilton," she said.

All-day service first promised in 2011

Then-premier Dalton McGuinty promised all-day GO service for Hamilton in 2011, saying it would be operating in time for the 2015 Pan-Am Games.

The West Harbour station, located on the CN Rail tracks at the north end of James Street North, was announced in 2013, touted as the way to eventually bring all-day train service to Hamilton. That's a level of service that wouldn't be an option at the Hunter Street station, where the tracks are owned by Canadian Pacific Railway.

"Having the second station will open up additional access to additional rail lines," said then-transportation minister Glen Murray. CN Rail controls much of the rails heading into Hamilton, and the corridor between downtown and the new Stoney Creek station.

By 2015, the station was largely complete, but frequent service had yet to materialize. 

By the time of the 2018 election campaign, there were only four one-way trains a day from Hamilton — which remains the case today.

Ancaster MPP Ted McMeekin said at that time that negotiations with CN Rail for more frequent service were "going well." 

All-day GO train service will be offered at Hamilton's West Harbour station starting in August, 2021. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

But the following year, a Metrolinx report described full implementation of all-day service in 2031.

"After years of promising that all-day GO service was just around the corner, we now find out that Metrolinx identifies all-day GO service for Hamilton for the year 2031," Eisenberger told CBC News in an email at the time. "This is unacceptable."

Liberal Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MP Bob Bratina was Hamilton mayor in 2013 when the West Harbour station was announced. He posted a video on Facebook on Sunday confirming all-day service was finally coming.

"In 2011, McGuinty approved the building the station, but the all-day service couldn't come because of infrastructure shortfalls," he said, noting the federal government has helped fund extra tracks that allow for added GO trains.

"The Building Canada Fund... has invested $196 million to build new trackage between Burlington and Hamilton West Harbour stations, bridge upgrades and the Lewis Road layover facility, all of which are essential to all-day train service."

With files from Samantha Craggs and Julia Chapman

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