Hamilton eyes broader rail service 
Published: April 21, 2008
Source: Daniel Nolan - The Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton could be on track for more passenger trains beyond expanded GO service.

Hamilton and Welland officials are pushing an idea with CP Rail of having some type of rail service return to the former Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo Railway line that runs between the two communities and passes through Smithville, Grassie and Fenwick. Passenger service ended in 1981.

"I think there's an opportunity there," said Welland Mayor Damian Goulbourne. "It's just a question of whether the other players we need to make this a reality are going to help us."

The move, first floated two years ago by the operator of a short-line railway in Port Colborne, comes after the province approved spending $3 million to build a platform near the former CN station (now LIUNA Banquet Centre) for new GO trains that could roll down to Niagara Falls. GO also approved building a new $6.1-million train layover facility at the Hamilton GO Centre (formerly the TH&B station), which will allow it to give Hamilton a new morning train to Union Station.

Wayne Ettinger, head of Trillium Railway, a short-line which runs on former CN lines in Niagara, proposed operating two self-propelled rail cars (called Budd Cars) on the CP line. The idea was to show demand and attract GO service one day. He was reluctant to talk about his proposal.

"The big railroads don't like things in the paper until they make decisions," he said.

Hamilton Councillor Bob Bratina has met and talked to Goulbourne, plus CP officials, and believes the idea has merit. "There's nothing concrete yet, but no one has given up on it."

CP Rail spokesperson Michel Spenard says the company is open to the idea, but some conditions have to be met. They are insurance and liability, traffic and signal upgrades and squeezing passenger trains onto a busy freight line. "We'd certainly not slam the door on anybody," said Spenard. "But that route is a busy international freight corridor and for any kind of augmentation, as far as passenger service is concerned, we'd have to put in a significant amount of capital to really make it viable."

CP officials met in February with Welland-Niagara officials to talk about the scheme. Welland and Hamilton officials are to meet next month "to see if this thing has legs," said Goulbourne. The mayor notes Welland has been identified in Niagara policy statements as an economic gateway for future development. He also notes the Niagara-GTA corridor study. "It's not just a highway. All modes of transportation will be examined. It makes me think rail is an option."