Oxford farmers concerned about high-speed rail line

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WOODSTOCK – 

Farmers in Oxford and Middlesex counties are mobilizing to fight high-speed rail, saying the proposed line between Toronto and London could intrude onto their properties and potentially threaten their livelihood.

“We don’t want to be sleeping at the switch up here,” East-Zorra Tavistock farmer Harold Bickle said.

Bickle is hosting a meeting Friday for people living in Oxford and Middlesex who are concerned about high-speed rail.

Premier Kathleen Wynne announced in London in May the province would begin a $15 million environmental assessment and design study for a rail line that would carry high-speed trains between Toronto and Windsor.

The project that would cost an estimated $20 billion and be completed in two phases — Toronto to London by 2025 and London to Windsor by 2031.

Wynne said the line would provide faster, more sustainable transportation in Southwestern Ontario and the GTA.

But the prospect that the line would cross local farms and roads has farmers in Oxford and Middlesex on high alert.

They worry the line could slice farms in half, making them more difficult to work and more difficult to drain, while not providing any benefit to county residents.

The line is expected to bypass Oxford County, stopping in Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Chatham and Windsor, with a connection to Pearson International.

“It’s no good to us,” Bickle said.

Farmers are concerned the line will undermine emergency services by cutting off concessions and increasing response times, he said.

Bickle said local farmers are preparing to fight the high-speed rail line “tooth and nail” should it be located on their north Oxford farms.

“That’s our livelihood here,” Bickle said. “We’re not against going forward — that’s progress. We just say put it where it is best for all of Ontario.”

— — —

IF YOU GO

What: Meeting for citizens concerned about high-speed rail in Oxford and Middlesex counties.

When: Friday, 10:30 a.m.

Where: 516590 11th Line, Tavistock


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