Kathleen Wynne rolls out high speed rail plan

WATCH ABOVE: Premier Wynne says the cost of high-speed trains can't result in another "lost moment" for reliable transportation development in Ontario

The province is moving ahead with preliminary design plans and a comprehensive environment assessment for a high-speed rail corridor from Toronto through Windsor.

During a news conference at the Carling Heights Optimist Club in London this morning, Premier Kathleen Wynne said there’s a strong business case to invest in the new transit line, which would bring passengers from London to Toronto in about 73 minutes.

The province is moving ahead with preliminary design plans and a comprehensive environment assessment for a high-speed rail corridor from Toronto through Windsor.

“It took two hours to get here,” said Wynne. “After this, we’re going to Kitchener-Waterloo. The drive will take us an hour if we’re lucky, and we don’t hit traffic. With high-speed rail, the trip will be cut down to 25 minutes.”

Trains on the rail line would travel up to 250 kilometres per hour, with stops in Toronto, Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Chatham, and Windsor.

Deputy Premier Deb Matthews discusses high-speed rail

The project will be split into two phases; phase one covers a line from London to Union Station in Toronto, and is set to be finished by 2025. Phase two will be a line from London to Windsor, and is set to be completed by 2031.

“This is where our economy thrives… we need to make sure that we keep it the vibrant and diverse region that it has been, and that we provide it the connectivity that will allow it to survive,” said Wynne, emphasizing a need to provide faster, better and more sustainable transportation options.

“It’s a precedent-setting project, a new kind of transportation… for our province, and for our country,” said Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca.

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“When you’re talking about the scale and the size and the scope and the complexity of a project like this, it’s important to make sure we’re asking the right questions and providing those answers. We want to make sure that fundamentally, we get this right.”

The announcement is welcome by Mayor Matt Brown, who says shrinking the distance between London and other communities in Southwestern Ontario will have positive impacts on the city.

“When 2025 rolls around, and when we have high speed connection to Toronto, you can’t imagine the number of things that will be different in our community. People can live in London, work in Kitchener-Waterloo or Toronto, and vice versa.”

President and CEO of the London Economic Development Committee Kapil Lakhotia echoed similar sentiments about the rail’s potential in broadening London’s economy.

“If you look at the morning rush to Toronto on VIA rail, much of those cars are full of people who are commuting to Toronto for work, and it includes all kinds of professions: legal, accounting, different businesses are on those trains. So we certainly hope that this kind of infrastructure will bring more talent and more companies to London.”

WATCH: Ontario Liberals announce $15M study for high-speed rail between Toronto, Windsor. Alan Carter has more.

The government tasked David Collenette in 2015 as a special advisor to assess the possibility of high-speed rail, who concluded there is a strong business case for the project.

The report pegs the overall cost of the project at around $20-billion, and suggests seeking private sector partnerships to cover parts of the cost.

Speaking on The Andrew Lawton Show with guest host Mike Stubbs, Ontario PC transportation critic Michael Harris told AM980 the liberal government should focus on improving current transit infrastructure.

“We need to be working with the federal government and VIA to see in the interim, how we can provide better access on the existing lines that we have before we look at shiny trains or toys, 10, 20, 30 years out.”

Harris also slammed Wynne for making the announcement the public has heard before, leading up to an election.

“Southwestern Ontario has been waiting on high-speed rail for years,” he said in a statement. “This is not the first time we’ve seen the government make a promise in order to win votes. Before the 2014 election the Wynne Liberals slapped together a last minute study on high-speed rail to sell voters. Years later and we have nothing to show for it.

“What we need is real investment and a commitment to infrastructure that will meet our transportation needs today. People are sick and tired of waiting to see if promised Liberal trains will ever pull into the station.”

Wynne said the province has set aside $15 million dollars for a joint environmental assessment with the federal government, which was mentioned in the provincial budget around a month ago.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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