Rail link details hard to come by; Del
Mastro says it could be running by 2010
Published: February 28, 2008
Source: Peterborough Examiner - BRENDAN WEDLEY
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H ? Union Station, the rail hub in downtown
Toronto G ? Agincourt, in Scarborough near Markham Road and Highway
401 F ? Steeles Avenue or Box Grove Bypass, in Markham east of
Markham Road and south of Highway 407 E ? Locust Hill, adjacent to
Highway 7, just east of Markham D ? Claremont, in Pickering at the
intersection of Regional Road 5 and Brock Road C ? Myrtle, on the
northern edge of Whitby, near the intersection of Regional Road 5
and Highway 12 B ? Pontypool, in the City of Kawartha Lakes on
County Road 12, just east of Highway 35 A ? Harper Road in
Peterborough; also possible is a location in downtown Peterborough
Source: Commuter Rail Report, October 2007, Peterborough MP Dean Del
Via Rail officials wouldn't comment yesterday on whether it will provide
commuter rail service between Peterborough and Toronto when track
upgrades announced in Tuesday's federal budget are completed.
Rail upgrades would lead to positive environmental outcomes and reduce
traffic congestion, Via Rail spokeswoman Catherine Kaloutsky said.
"The proposal to expand commuter rail is positive and we await further
details," Kaloutsky said. "We at Via await further detail from our
shareholder which of course is the Government of Canada."
She referred questions on the subject to Transport Canada. Transport
Canada referred questions to the Finance Department. A Finance
Department official fielded questions but didn't provide any more
information than what's in the budget plan.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, the MP for Whitby-Oshawa, mentioned the
project in the budget speech as one of the uses for $500 million
earmarked for public transit capital spending.
Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro has told The Examiner he doesn't think
it's unreasonable to expect the commuter rail service to be running by
He estimates it would cost $88 million to upgrade the existing railway
tracks and rail infrastructure to support high-speed passenger rail and
Canadian Pacific Railway has committed to pay a portion of the cost and
Via Rail plans to provide passenger rail service, Del Mastro said on
Canadian Pacific Railway representatives could not be reached for
The money in the budget would fund the re-establishment of the service
Via shut down in 1990. At that time, Via cited the high per-passenger
cost of operating the service.
Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal tells a different story.
Leal argues Via Rail, under then Progressive Conservative prime minister
Brian Mulroney in 1990, decided to get out of commuter rail and focus on
inter-city passenger rail service.
"Obviously there must have been a substantial policy change with Via
Rail Canada as of (Tuesday)," Leal said. "This service that is
contemplated is primarily addressing the commuter market and in Ontario
GO (Transit) has been the best place to provide it.
"My colleagues at the provincial level are a little confused right now."
Del Mastro said the federal government is stepping in to provide a
service the province has so far shown no interest in providing.
"At no point did I ever get an indication from the province that they
were interested in providing this link," he said Tuesday. "If you look
at the Places to Grow Act, Peterborough is not viewed as a priority for
investment for this type of infrastructure."
Del Mastro could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The provincial public transit operator, GO Transit, looked at providing
bus service to Peterborough as part of a study in 2006. It found the
service would cost too much to operate since revenue would cover only
about 30 per cent of operating costs.
In a business plan Del Mastro produced and released in October, he
argues there's enough demand for the commuter rail service that it could
operate without government subsidies after the initial capital start-up
His findings showed the service would start with an estimated 903 daily
commuters, saving an annual 469,560 one-way car trips to and from the
Greater Toronto Area.
Leal used the Via service between Peterborough and Toronto from 1985 to
"Commuter rail service for Peterborough is something I've always been a
strong advocate for," he said.
Leal reserved any opinions on the plan to revive that service until the
federal government releases more details.
"We would certainly look forward to getting a detailed proposal from the
Government of Canada to look at," he said. "It will be interesting how
The 2008 federal budget outlines the $500 million for public transit
will be put into a trust for beneficiaries that make public commitments
before March 31 to spend on new public transit. Money can be drawn from
the trust over the next two years.
There are no details about the Peterborough-Toronto rail link in the
That leaves people with the vision Del Mastro outlines in his business
plan for the rail line. The MP stresses the findings in his report do
not reflect the opinion of the federal government.
Del Mastro suggests the rail line could operate with nine stations,
including two in Peterborough and Union Station in Toronto. Other stops
would be in Scarborough, Markham, Pickering, Whitby and the City of
In the report, Del Mastro provides an estimate from a Canadian Pacific
Railway director who argues it would cost $140 million to upgrade the
tracks for passenger service. It would cost another roughly $30 million
for passenger train cars, stations, platforms and parking lots.
The commuter rail service would generate enough revenue to cover the
estimated $3.5 million a year in operating costs, Del Mastro states. Del
Mastro has mentioned freight service as another use, citing local
businesses such as General Electric, Quaker Oats and the ethanol plant
being developed near Havelock.
Officials with General Electric Canada and Pepsi-QTG could not be
reached for comment yesterday.
Rail upgrades would improve the movement of people and freight through
the area, Greater Peterborough Area Economic Development Corporation
president and CEO Andy Mitchell said.
"Upgrading our transportation infrastructure, from an economic
development perspective, is certainly positive," he said.