Rapid rail brings out skeptic in London Coun. Phil Squire

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With a few concerns and a touch of skepticism, city politicians threw their support Monday behind the Ontario Liberals’ pledge to build high-speed rail linking downtown London to Toronto.

The project, which the provincial government believes could be operating by 2025, would pull the Forest City into Toronto’s commuter orbit, potentially sparking the kind of transformative growth already seen in such cities as Hamilton and Barrie.

Monday, council’s civic works committee voted 5-0 to endorse the province’s plan. But at least one politician was subtly skeptical.

“Businesspeople (have told me) how important this would be if indeed it happens,” Coun. Phil Squire said. “I think it’s great if it happens.”

Assuming it does happen — there are plenty of skeptics about Premier Kathleen Wynne’s multi-billion-dollar plan — the biggest issue for London could be the details.

Specifically, some politicians wonder whether the high-speed rail line should run right into downtown, as the province prefers, or to a destination near London’s edges.

City hall is mulling a possible overhaul of the Via train station on York Street as a multi-modal transit hub, including for high-speed rail.

“My big concern is location,” Coun. Harold Usher said. “Looking out 10, 20, 50 years from now, is that what we want? That kind of edifice in the centre of the city?

“I’m just wary about having (more train) tracks passing through the city. It look good today. But I wonder if in the year 2040 or 2060, whether we’re going to regret this decision.”

The details, such as the potential expropriation of land, would be led by the province, city staff say.

The committee voted 5-0 to endorse two things (council must still give its official support next week):

  • To deem construction of a high-speed rail link between Toronto and Windsor “a priority for the City of London”
  • To consider an “integrated multi-modal transportation mobility hub” for downtown, combining high-speed rail, bus rapid transit, Via rail and other services.



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