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Ontario builds coalition for high-speed rail planning

November 01, 2017

Earlier this year the provincial government of Ontario announced a renewed focus on building high-speed rail from Toronto west to London and Windsor. The plan proposed a blended approach, combining service at up to 200 km/h (125 mph) on upgraded existing tracks with new high-speed segments designed for up to 300 km/h (185 mph). The first phase of construction could bring faster trains to London as early as 2025. The second phase to Windsor, across the river from Detroit, would not be ready until 2031 at the earliest.

Although detailed environmental studies and engineering won't begin until next year, some opposition to the project is already emerging. In particular, farmers are concerned about having their land divided by a new high-speed line.

To address these concerns and begin emphasizing the benefits of fast trains, Ontario is forming an advisory board to contribute to the planning process. The board will combine engineers and experts with residents, business owners and other stakeholders. This should ensure that community members have a voice and a role in high-speed rail planning, instead of feeling like they are simply being subjected to a plan imposed upon them by a bureaucracy.

Expanding the planning process in this way also signals that the provincial government is serious about making high-speed rail happen. It's certainly serious about its effort to transform Toronto's commuter rail system by upgrading it to an all-day regional express system. Electrifying and improving the tracks into Toronto for commuter rail will also benefit intercity trains, just as Caltrain electrification is critical for California High-Speed Rail, and CrossRail Chicago is the first step in Midwest high-speed service.

Adding a collaborative element to the planning process is always a good idea. The FRA is taking a similar approach with its Midwest Regional Plan by including stakeholders from around the region. Throughout the process, the FRA has been receptive to the concerns of the Midwest High-Speed Rail Association and our members. We look forward to seeing how community feedback is shaping the plan, and we'll have an update after the next meeting in early December.

We would not be able to do work like this without the support of our members. Donate today to allow us to continue representing you and your desire for high-speed rail to government and elected officials.

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Jorge Vasconez

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