Oxford County wants high speed rail alternative in southwestern Ontario

The environmental assessment reviews for the high speed rail corridor between Kitchener and London are underway, but Oxford County wants the province to consider an alternative.

High performance rail, much like GO service in GTA, needs to be considered, says County

A high-speed train is seen leaving a station in Europe in this photo. The Ontario government intends to bring high-speed rail to the Toronto-Windsor corridor. (Associated Press)

Ontario is moving ahead with environment assessments for the high speed rail (HSR) corridor between Kitchener and London. But the municipality that sits between the two proposed stops — Oxford County — has some issues with it.

The primary concern of the County is the assessment doesn't seem to consider alternatives to high speed rail, such as high performance rail (HPR).

"High performance rail is optimizing the existing rail corridors," Peter Crockett, the chief administrative officer at Oxford County told CBC Radio.

Crockett said the advantage of HPR is that there's no need to build an entirely new corridor and therefore could lessen the environmental impact on rural communities.

"At the end of the day, a new corridor is a lot more time to develop, it's a lot more money to construct it, you can't run the first train until the whole corridor's built," he said.

According to the letter Oxford County sent to the premier, the minister of Environment and Climate Change and the minister of Transportation, high performance rail could look like the GO transit system in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton.

"Oxford contends that a distinct but similar rail/bus network serving southwestern Ontario from Toronto to Windsor is highly viable and feasible," said David Mayberry, the county's warden.

This map shows a proposed high-speed rail network in southern Ontario. Crockett said with high speed rail, the trains only connect people to big urban centres but the smaller communities are left out. (Ontario Ministry of Transportation)

Ministry responds

In an email sent to CBC News, the Ministry of Transportation said they have already met with staff from Oxford County as part of the municipal consultations during the environmental assessment process.

The Ministry did not answer whether developing high performance rail is possible in southwestern Ontario, but said they will be "working closely with rail and transit service providers" throughout the project.

"Optimizing connections with GO, Via Rail, local and intercity transit will be a critical to the success of the service," said the Ministry.

Crockett said they are waiting for a response to the letter.

"Oxford is very supportive of improving the transportation system in southwestern Ontario and we've been advocating for it for quite some time," Crockett said. "We just think that alternatives need to be looked at."


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