Hamilton eyes broader rail service
Source: Daniel Nolan - The Hamilton Spectator
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Hamilton could be on track for more passenger trains beyond expanded GO
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
"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."