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$20B high-speed rail project could leave Sarnia in the dust

Published on

Pam Wright

A high-speed train between Toronto to Windsor sounds good, but Sarnia residents won’t benefit unless existing transportation links to London are improved, a local rail advocate says.

“We’re not well connected, said Mabel Higgins, co-chair of RAIL, or Rail Advocacy In Lambton.

“It’s a great idea, but we can’t wait because we’re not even sure it’s going to happen.”

Ontario has launched a $15-million study of the Toronto-to-Windsor line, which would feature trains operating at up to 250 kilometres per hour.

The first link, from London to Toronto, would cut travel time to 73 minutes.

The $20-billion high-speed project is expected to be a campaign issue in the June 7 provincial election.

For Sarnia residents without a vehicle, including commuting students, getting to Toronto can be difficult.

Sarnia was reduced to a single daily train in 2012, which departs early in the morning and returns late at night. Greyhound ended its bus service in 2010.

Robert Q offers a one-way adult bus shuttle to London for $42.40. A round trip is $84.80, with discounts for seniors and students.

“The elderly can’t get to medical appointments, students can’t get home and people have a hard time in emergencies,” Higgins said.

The lack of service is not just economic, it’s a social justice issue, she added.

“People need to be connected.”

RAIL has been fighting to improve Sarnia’s train service the past five years. There have been gains, including badly needed upgrades to the Sarnia VIA station, which included making it wheelchair accessible.

RAIL co-chair Jim Houston agrees with Higgins about the high-speed concept.

“As far as Sarnia goes, a high-speed rail system is only as good as the connection to London,” he said. “We need to be part of the London transportation hub.”

Currently, passenger and freight trains between Sarnia and London share a single track. The second line was removed in the 1990s, although the rail bed still exists.

RAIL says the government needs to invest in doubling the track again, at an estimated cost of $41 million.


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