The tantalizing prospect of a high-speed rail link to Toronto could be within reach, though direct access from Sarnia remains unlikely.
Ontario’s Liberal government has ordered an environmental assessment to study the impact of a high-speed rail corridor connecting Windsor, London and Kitchener-Waterloo with the provincial capital.
The planned line could allow Londoners to reach the Big Smoke in just over an hour, and in turn, bolster regional transportation access to the rest of the province.
It could also prove to be a blessing for Sarnians dreaming of quicker access to a Blue Jay game or business meeting. The current commuting options include costly flights, infrequent trains and limited bus service.
“We would receive indirect benefits of access through London,” said Mayor Mike Bradley, who estimated the chances of the electrified rail corridor being built as “definitely, maybe.”
Nevertheless, the mayor has urged Ontario to fast track the environmental assessment, which is expected to take four to six years.
Details are scarce about the high-speed corridor, with provincial officials saying it’s too early to discuss construction timelines or cost estimates.
A government release only describes the project as a component part of the Liberal’s $29-billion long-term transit and infrastructure plan.
While tentatively supporting the high-speed line, the head of Rail Advocacy Lambton says urgent action is needed to provide immediate relief to commuters in the Sarnia area.
Jim Houston says senior governments need to invest in crucial equipment upgrades to improve the pace and frequency of train service to Sarnia-Lambton.
Sarnia is currently served by a once-daily Via Rail trip to Union Station, which takes about four and a half hours.
Building a dedicated commuter line, Houston said, would improve service for area travellers without the hefty cost or lengthy wait of the high-speed corridor.
“(The province and the feds) should be encouraged to investigate the feasibility of incrementally acquiring or building dedicate passenger lines segments,” he said. “It would be a benefit to their routing (and would) improve the service.”