Liberals are dragging their heels on all-day GO to Hamilton: Horwath

Andrea Horwath says expanding GO trains to Hamilton would be one of her first priorites as Ontario's premier — especially she since remembers how frustrating it was to rely on them to get to work.

The Ontario NDP leader says expanding GO service to Hamilton would be a top priority as premier

"There’s the exact same number of GO trains right now, leaving Hamilton in the morning and coming back in the evening, as there was in 2004." (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Andrea Horwath says expanding GO trains to Hamilton would be one of her first priorities as Ontario's premier — especially she since remembers how frustrating it was to rely on them to get to work.

The NDP leader said Tuesday that the service isn't much better than when she was elected MPP of Hamilton Centre in 2004, when six trains ran between Hamilton to Toronto every day. 

"I think we can achieve more trains during the day," she said. "I think that's got to be the No. 1 priority."

"As someone who 14 years ago had to deal with the same service that people are dealing with today, it's not good enough, and we can't let it stay the same."

St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley, Mayor Fred Eisenberger of Hamilton and MPP Ted McMeekin from Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale broke ground at the future Confederation GO station site in February. It was ceremonial since construction has already started, and the ground was too cold to actually break. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Horwath made the pledge while unveiling her plan for the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA) Tuesday. Her comments happened at the Dundas campaign office of Sandy Shaw, the NDP candidate for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas. Shaw is running against Ontario PC candidate Ben Levitt and Liberal incumbent Ted McMeekin.

The province, she said, has long promised all-day, two-way GO service between Toronto and Hamilton. But it still hasn't delivered.

Metrolinx says it's working on it. In 2015, it opened the West Harbour GO station on James Street North. It eventually plans to offer rush-hour service every 30 minutes from there to Union Station in the morning, and from Union to West Harbour in the evening.

Right now, though, there are only four one-way trains a day. And last year, Metrolinx said expanded GO train service to Stoney Creek and Niagara would run through the Hunter Street Hamilton Centre GO station instead.

Through Metrolinx, the province is also spending $35 million to build the Confederation GO station on Centennial Parkway, although it's still not clear how the trains will get there, or how many there will be.

This graphic shows Metrolinx's eventual service plan for trains running on the Lakeshore West line. (Metrolinx)

Through its regional express rail project, Metrolinx also plans eventual 15-minute service from Hamilton GO Centre to Union Station during morning rush hour, and from Union Station to Hamilton GO Centre in the evening rush hour period. It also plans two-way service midday, evenings and weekends.

The problem rests largely with CN Rail. That company controls much of the rails heading into Hamilton, and the corridor between downtown and the new Stoney Creek station. McMeekin said in February that negotiations are "going well." But they've also been going on for years.

Horwath said she knows there are issues there, but said an NDP government would do better. More importantly, she said, it would scrap the idea that trains can only run one way. Torontonians need to get to Hamilton too.

"We need to have two-way service all day long."

This map shows the plan for midday, weekend and evening service on the Lakeshore West line. (Metrolinx)

The Ontario PC platform doesn't mention GO service to Hamilton, said Donna Skelly, Flamborough-Glanbrook PC candidate. But she echoed that it seems to be taking too long.

"I would certainly suggest that as an elected official, I would be lobbying very, very hard and speaking to my fellow PC representatives."

​The GO reference wasn't Horwath's only nod to Hamilton-related transit Tuesday.

Her GTHA plan includes funding 50 per cent of the operating costs of transit. That includes HSR, she said, and it includes Hamilton's planned $1-billion light rail transit line.

The province used to fund half the operating costs of transit, she said. Reinstating that would free up money for Hamilton to expand routes and buy more buses.


Samantha Craggs is journalist based in Windsor, Ont. She is executive producer of CBC Windsor and previously worked as a reporter and producer in Hamilton, specializing in politics and city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca