GO Transit has announced that effective late in 2011 they will begin operation of two trains each way on weekdays to Kitchener-Waterloo stopping at Guelph and Acton.
No details of train times nor of overall service levels in the Georgetown Corridor are mentioned in the press release other than that this will be an improvement to current service.
The press release states that the storage facility will be “in Kitchener”. GO Transit has clarified this as follows:
The temporary train layover facility will be located north of Victoria Street South, between Park Street and King Street West, in Kitchener and will include storage for two 12-car trains, crew and electrical trailers, fencing, and lighting.
The facility will be used until the permanent one is built at Nafziger Road in Baden.
I’ve been following this story for some time. The storage facility is likely a pair of tracks to be built by the mainline in west Kitchener, just west of Ira Needles Blvd. There’s plenty of space there, although some residents a few hundred metres away are understandably nervous.
Given that they’re only talking about $18 million in investment, I think GO’s doing this on the cheap on the theory that it’s more important to get the service in and improve it over time than to go with the gold standard right away. $18 million is not enough to build the hoped-for new station at King and Victoria, and that was probably a side-project for the Waterloo Regional LRT in any event. I expect they’ll re-use the VIA stations in Kitchener and Guelph (the latter of which is due to be renovated and combined with the intercity bus terminal, and possibly the local bus terminal as well. A stop has been promised in Acton, and I expect they’ll simply resurrect the stop next to the Old Hyde House. I suspect they may take two established runs from Georgetown and extend them to start out and finish in Kitchener.
For me, the big question mark is Breslau. The proposed stop is in the middle of a farmer’s field, so it could be covered under the $18 million, but I’m not sure. It’s not mentioned in the press release. Breslau is basically where Kitchener would come to park. Right now, parking is quite limited at the VIA Rail stop.
$18 million also isn’t much for track improvements, including the slow-order bridge over the Grand River. But I keep on hearing that funding is already available for VIA to make track improvements, assuming they can reach some sort of deal with the rather intransigent Goderich and Exeter Railway which leases the line (from CN).
The CTV story says there will be two trains to Toronto in the morning and two trains to KW in the evening.
gokw.org gives 6:15 am and 7:30 am as the times for the morning trains.
Steve, will the trains also stop at the current Georgetown stops or only in Kitchener, Guelph, and Acton?
Steve: Don’t know. However, the press release implies that these trains will also improve service for folks on the existing line, and that implies stops east of Georgetown.
So basically there will be more service to Bolton than Kitchener-Waterloo…moo moo cows are fun to tip
Seriously, is this normal when introducing a new service?
More service to Bolton than KW?
Steve: There is no rail service to Bolton right now. Yes, it’s normal to start with a low level of service and then build up.
The E.A. document showed a storage facility west of Kitchener, south of Luxemburg (not the country) on Nafziger Road.
Storage facility layout
GOKW says departure times of 06:15 and 07:30. The E.A. included train graphs which implied journey times of two hours from Kicthener to Union (assuming all stops… I reckon skipping everything between Georgetown and Union would save about 20 mins).
My big question: why is GO doing this and not VIA? VIA already provides service between Toronto and Kitchener, so why not just provide VIA with the means to run extra trains? Having two providers means that you have to choose between them when you buy a season ticket, and then the existence of the other company’s trains is moot. I’d rather see one company run five trains a day each way than VIA run 3/day and GO run 2/day (which the current plan). (My assumption is that tickets will only be valid on one, not both. I’d love to be proved wrong, and see a ticket valid on both for the same price as valid on GO only).
The cynic is me thinks it’s because the province wants to see “Ontario’s” train company provide the service, not “the feds'”.
I worry that VIA will loose revenue because GO will probably offer cheaper tickets, potentially affecting service beyond Kitchener where VIA is the only choice.
Steve: VIA has plans to run many more trains per day each way on this line, but there is an argument between VIA and the Goderich & Exeter which leases the line from CN for at least the next few years. Isn’t private enterprise wonderful? You don’t need a government department to get in the way of better service. GO carries a bigger stick than VIA.
This announcement is quite “interesting”. There were no prior announcements about lay-over facility, its construction, level crossings, signalling, and such. The main WEB site seemed to indicate. that K-W will happen in the future. This expansion is in contrast to planned expansion to Bowmanville, where everything seems to be planned in big detail.
Just in time for the election!
Miroslav, did you accidentally swap Bolton for KW in your comment? The fact that Bolton doesn’t have train service is frustrating, I’m sure. On the other hand, Kitchener already has four trains with VIA, and a number of Greyhound express buses.
But Waterloo Region is a developing market. The area population is already at half a million, and is expected to hit 750,000 by 2031. VIA and GO want to increase the number of trains between the two centres to upwards of 20 per day, with reverse commuting being an option.
Now if only we can get past an intransigent leasing freight railway.
I’d like to correct my earlier statement suggesting that the two trains are extensions of existing trains. As the press release says “This is also good news for existing Georgetown and Brampton customers who will have improved service as a result of this expansion”, which implies additional trains making stops in Georgetown and Brampton.
Which will make for a lengthy run between Kitchener and Toronto. Still, the service is welcome and will do well, I’m sure. I wonder, though if they might consider skipping stops from Malton east. That would cut three stops, which don’t have too many connections to the rest of the network. That might speed up service a little.
Hmmm…. ggiven the VIA/GEXR dispute, I’m wondering if GO was willing to pay higher access fees than VIA. (Not that will help the dispute, as VIA will argue GO *should* pay higher fees than VIA, because the trains are longer and heavier.)
Jiri S.: The E.A. document goes into plans in great detail. The Bowmanville material is actually less detailed (because it’s just started its E.A.).
I go to Kitchener once or twice a month.
I said service, not which one specifically. There is a bus service to York Mills and one to Union Station (I think it goes down to Etobicoke North where you switch the train).
I have been saying for years that Kitchener should get train service.
But right now as it stands right now KW will get less service than Bolton, I find that wrong.
When you have taken enough train rides around the world you get to know what’s better, I prefer GO Trains for the GTHA.
Fair enough, Miroslav. In that case, I would say that this arrangement appears to be a case of working to get a base service in and then expanding it later. I can see the benefits of such a strategy. It’s sometimes easier to start small and expand, rather than try to bring in the whole thing at once.
But I’d certainly be happy to see more trains.
Tom West: One can already take both GO and VIA to Oshawa from Union Station. GO is cheaper, of course, while VIA is slightly faster. But you can get a GO pass and then some number of extra-fare tickets which let you take the VIA if its schedule is better for you on some specific days. VIA allocates a block of seats for people with such tickets.
On a comment: KW gets less “service” because KW is it’s own area, and Bolton is not. Bolton is, in reality, a bedroom community for Toronto, whereas KW is a city in it’s own right, where people drive in to town to work. I don’t know for sure what the exact numbers are, but my guess is that the number of people who live in KW and work in Toronto is far far less of a proportion of the same in Bolton.
I for one am glad that GO is offering this service. VIA is far too expensive for short-haul trips! A quick check of their website shows that a round-trip ticket from Kitchener to Union is around $60. I don’t know enough about VIA’s cost structure to understand why their fares are so high, but for short trips the fare needs to be low enough to be competitive with the car.
Now all we need is direct service to St. Jacobs on Saturdays so Torontonians can go to the market!
Kitchener-Toronto one-way on VIA is $33.90 full fare, but $24.86 with three-day advance purchase. VIA has a commuter pass (20 one-way trips in a 30-day period) which cuts the price to $15.65 per trip. That’s still more expensive than GO, which is currently $14.60 for a single ride, or $13.50 per trip with a 10-ride ticket. GO also benefits from being HST-exempt, which VIA is not (the above VIA fares include tax).
Why no station stop for Rockwood? I understand speed’s a factor but really that is a wide spacing gap between Acton and Guelph, and the GO bus makes a stop there already.
How have they not figured out the Niagara tripper yet?
I understand that track issues may be present – but if they can do it on a seasonal basis – what is stopping them from doing it year round?
THAT is a sure fire way to free up some space on the QEW.
Let’s see …. $18 million to for 4 runs to K-W and $1/2 Billion for 4 runs to Peterborough … time to make a trip to Dollarama -tm to purchase new calculators??? 😉
Steve: KW is being done really on the cheap with existing equipment and minimal track upgrades. Peterborough is quite another matter. However, the more important difference is that KW is a Liberal project and will be implemented as quickly as possible.
I agree with Steve about slowly building up service. Kitchener-Waterloo also has the advantage of having two universities. This might help on the long-term in getting off peak service as well (especially for GTA students attending university in Kitchener.)
Steve: One huge annoyance of the VIA schedules and the small number of trains is that a perfect market for students to the many universities along the line (London, K-W, Guelph, not to mention Toronto) is not served because there are not enough trains and their schedules suit the railway, not the passengers. Things are a bit better since the through service to Chicago was eliminated, but still not ideal.
This frankly is a perfect market for GO, but they are so fixated on 10-and-12 car bilevel consists serving commuters in Toronto that they can’t be bothered with service to an important corridor like this. They should be chomping at the big to take over the line now leased bythe GEXR once that contract is up.
Did you turn off the ability to get a RSS feed of comments to a specific entry? 😦
Steve: This should still work. The format is:
where “xxxx” is the post number.
I agree Steve. However, I am not sure about GO receiving the lease – I know they have done this on other lines, but they are not a freight operator, not should they be. If they took over the GEXR line when the contract expires, who will handle any freight along the route? I assume that the GEXR could be allowed to provide freight service (what there is) along the line, but at least their trains would run when GO says and not the other way around. It would also help VIA as I would imagine that GO and VIA would get along very well.
Something missing here, I think, is the need for the province to step and contract with VIA to provide service where desired. Several U.S. States have done this with Amtrak, using it to provide commuter or student-friendly or tourist rail services that were not commercially viable or federally subsidized.
VIA (as Amtrak does) can tailor the type of service (rolling stock, business class/economy) etc. according to the desires/needs of the province.
This would be a more cost-efficient way of delivering service in some smaller communities.
Speaking of cost-efficiency. Can someone tell me why VIA runs such short consists? Surely that drives up the cost per passenger, running 4-car trains, instead of 8.
Steve: I have been on trains in that corridor when they are nowhere near full. I believe that the problem is a combination of an unattractive level of service and schedule with the limitations of VIA’s fleet.
Advantage GO over VIA is no need for reservations, quicker loading and unloading at stations (Except Union Station). GO Trains should cover more of Ontario. But they need to be able run shorter trains then 10 – 12 cars. Those are huge trains to fill.
They used to run 4 car trains , which accelerated faster and emptied quicker at Union. In fact the old 4 car single-deckers were rockets, often arriving early. To me that was better service then today’s slow heavy 12 car trains. The GO trains need to be more flexible too, adding or subtracting coaches as required.
I would think the cost differential between running to Kitchener compared to Peterborough is that the K line is intact and relatively good condition, but the P line is 10 mph all the way due to bad track and a few bridges need major fixing. On the short term running GO trains to Kitchener is just a matter of crews, trains, fuel and a place to park the trains and if they ran shorter consists they wouldn’t even need to extend platforms.
The line to Peterborough needs major overhaul.
“I know they have done this on other lines, but they are not a freight operator, not should they be. If they took over the GEXR line when the contract expires, who will handle any freight along the route? ”
Either the lease or the freehold on that line being assumed by Metrolinx would not preclude freight operations, merely prevent GEXR from wielding a veto on improvements which would cause them downtime or otherwise inhibit their operations. Instead they would pay track access fees, which admittedly might impact the viability of individual freight services if the per-train cost was accounted differently to when a bulk lease fee is paid or if the track slots available were few in the most convenient dispatch times.
The suggestion that VIA operate some services has some merit, but what has to be kept in mind is that if those services dispatched from London then delays caused in the section from London-Kitchener might have knock on effects on Kitchener-Toronto and its ever tighter numbers of available slots into Union.
In its current state, VIA is totally unsuitable for students for a few major reasons:
– A return fare costs about $45, and requires an ISIC card, which is a hassle to get (they don’t accept regular university student cards).
– The schedule at Kitchener is so infrequent that if you miss your train, you may have to wait until the next day, and it’s impossible to have a flexible schedule.
– The Kitchener station is not easily accessible from the universities.
There’s no reason students would take the VIA train when Greyhound is much cheaper ($25 return fare), the buses run every hour at peak time, the travel time is about the same, and the buses are easier to access than the train station. During peak hours Greyhound buses even stop at the universities, and off-peak they stop at the bus terminal. And Greyhound tickets are transferable – you can use them at any date or time before they expire (3 months), unlike VIA tickets which are only valid on a particular date and time. So if you happen to catch a ride with someone else, you can still use your Greyhound ticket the following weekend.
I’ve said this in the past, but my impression is that the best response to all the complications with the GEXR route is to give the line entirely to Metrolinx (one way or another, personally I prefer outright purchase, but I think CN wants to hold onto this one) and extend GO all the way to London. Sarnia VIA trains can then run through Brantford, which should be about an hour faster, and would get Brantford almost hourly service to Toronto. Add a fare agreement between VIA and GO for Brantford commuters and timed connections in London and everyone’s network makes a lot more sense than it does even now, and we’ve saved a lot of scheduling complexities.
Now if only GO would invest some serious money into upgrading the tracks to allow for faster speeds (hopefully up to 160km/h west of Brampton) to allow trip times of less than an hour. Currently it takes 1 hour 36 minutes by VIA and about the same (depending on traffic) by Greyhound, and the GO train will take more like 2 hours because it makes more stops. Doing this will make the train much more competitive with driving or the bus. This is needed on Peterborough as well if it is ever upgraded, otherwise it is faster to take the bus.
I am willing to bet that the two new trains will operate express from Bramalea to Union. One would probably replace the existing train or GO could operate three expresses, two from KW and one from Georgetown. GO already has the pocket track at Bramalea so that passengers who wanted off before Union could transfer to a local. This would speed up service for those who get on at Bramalea or west and would provide seats for those who get on east of Bramalea which is the heaviest stop on the line. It would be nice if they had two tracks open so they could run some equipment out to Bramalea dead head
@Andrew – VIA have wanted to make some of the improvements you seek. However, at present the railroad is controlled by a company who is in dispute with VIA before the Canadian Transportation Agency on the matter, and they have yet to rule on it.
There have been a few comments about possible Peterborough… the track is appalling shape and would require complete replacement before a passenger train could run on it at anything over 10mph. We’re talking something the expensive side of $100m, at least. (Cost wise, it might even be cheaper to build a spur from the CP line east of Courtice/Oshawa parallel to Highway 115. The existing line has the sole advantage that a railway already owns the land and right to run trains).
Oh, and the ridership projections were low, because the line runs almost entirely through greenfield until it reaches Toronto.
Extension to Kitchener (even the full $40m package) is much better value for money.
November 17, 2010 at 12:40 am
“Now if only GO would invest some serious money into upgrading the tracks to allow for faster speeds (hopefully up to 160km/h west of Brampton) to allow trip times of less than an hour. Currently it takes 1 hour 36 minutes by VIA and about the same (depending on traffic) by Greyhound, and the GO train will take more like 2 hours because it makes more stops. Doing this will make the train much more competitive with driving or the bus. This is needed on Peterborough as well if it is ever upgraded, otherwise it is faster to take the bus.”
Upgrading to 160 km/h would involve some hefty investment in curves and signalling. I doubt that the trains would run local all the way from Kitchener to Union. They would be hauling too many empty seats for too many miles to make it worth while. I bet that they will run express from Bramalea to Toronto with a local coming out just after them.
November 14, 2010 at 8:57 pm
“Something missing here, I think, is the need for the province to step and contract with VIA to provide service where desired. Several U.S. States have done this with Amtrak, using it to provide commuter or student-friendly or tourist rail services that were not commercially viable or federally subsidized.”
I think that GO/MetroLinx is providing the type and level of service that the Province wants and are doing it for a lot less subsidy the VIA would require. Can you imagine a VIA train loading 700 people at an intermediate station. It would take hours through the two doors that they would have open. I have watched a VIA train take 10 minutes to load 50 passengers then have a GO train come in and load 700 in 2 minutes. Lets keep VIA as far away from the commuter game as possible. While GO has trouble thinking anything other than FRA TC compatible equipment, at least they look at different designs.
If GO/MetroLinx wanted to increase their average speed to something approaching electric locomotive hauled trains they could run AC locomotives and put one at either end. AC has an initial tractive effort of 30 – 45% higher than DC and using two locomotives would double that. You would end up with initial acceleration rates of 260 to 290% of today’s. That would improve speed a lot more than increasing the maximum speed. Look at the amount of time that the train spends accelerating versus running at 160 km/h in commuter service. GO will not do that because the cost for the locomotives would be very high, but the operating cost would probably be similar, higher fuel versus lower wages due to time saved.
To be fair, if VIA was carrying 700 people on a train it would probably be a longer set than the current ones, and without the niceties of directing people to specific cars on the set as sometimes happens.
Steve: The basic design problem is that staff is required at each door to assist people boarding and alighting, and the cars are not designed for fast turnover of passenger loads. Reserved places are essential on long busy trains so that passengers (luggage and all) don’t wander back and forth tracking down the 10 remaining empty seats.
“Reserved places are essential on long busy trains so that passengers (luggage and all) don’t wander back and forth tracking down the 10 remaining empty seats.”
I would disagree here. The British rail (or should that still be British Rail post privatization, can’t decide) system seems to manage fine with people wandering in this way. Many of their long distance trains are running just as far as anything in the Corridor, and yes, standees do happen with regularity. I’d much rather have that, with the option of reserving a seat than the mess VIA is.
The only thing preventing this on VIA (aside from Union’s platform size, which GO handles reasonably well) is the need for crewed doors. My understanding is that VIA is quietly looking at possibilities it’s next generation equipment, and automatic doors already exist on the Ren fleet. All it takes to fully automate doors at this point is automatically folding steps to replace the step stools and the whole VIA operation becomes a lot more turnover friendly. Frankly, my impression of VIA in the corridor is that they are trying to imitate airlines, but have grabbed all the worst features of air travel bar security to no particular advantage.
The question is whether this is a commuter service or an intercity service. VIA doesn’t do commuter service; that was made very clear when the Federal gov’t made them abandon the Uxbridge line, even though it was apparently running at full capacity. If this is for people going back-and-forth within the region on a more-or-less daily basis, it’s a commuter service and outside VIA’s mandate.
Metrolinx’s name should give you an indication of why they shouldn’t be involved with trains to London and Sarnia… they’re to be a regional transit agency, linking up various services in the GTA (“Metro”) and Hamilton area. Toronto to London or Sarnia is clearly intercity, not regional.
And you don’t want to sit for 2 hours on those GO train seats, any more than you want to load commuters through VIA’s narrow single doors with steps.
Go Trains will be starting January 3rd, 2012.