• Sean M. O'Connell

The issue with rail lines in London

For many years Londoners have struggled with rail lines cutting through the city and the delays caused by them. The issue of track relocation is complex.

To illustrate, there are (provincial) discussions about a high speed rail network to integrate with London's transit initiatives, discussions about relocation of the existing rail network and consolidating rail lines. Discussion about how we deal with the Richmond and Adelaide crossings if we cannot relocate the line. There are environmental considerations, business integration of CP and CN Rail, strategic links to markets, capacity, operational costs and VIA rail service. Not to mention possible relocation of the train yards if a line was moved. Most of this is not the city's responsibility. For London, it is a simple concept, move the line out of the city or combine the rail lines. However with any infrastructure project there are procedures and consultation with the provincial and federal governments because of jurisdiction.

For London, it is a simple concept, move the line out of the city or combine the rail lines.

For instance, legislatively, the federal government through the Canadian Transport Agency is responsible for removing rail structures, building new facilities, ceasing operation of rail lines or allowing other rail companies to operate on its lines. However, the city bears the brunt of the costs associated with moving rail lines as the federal government has criteria that any relocation or rerouting lines occur with no net costs to the railway company. Meaning, that the federal government does not want to spend money on a relocation process if it doesn't have to. CP and CN Rail have both sent letters to City Hall in their obstinance to paying for any relocation.

The province has been conducting an environmental assessment for its plan to build a high speed railway to link Toronto to Windsor. This will include London as a major stop and be integrated in with our Rapid Transport Master plan. There are reasons to be excited about the potential for high speed rail. It will increase mobility for Londoners to commute between cities, create more opportunity for businesses to grow, have a steady influx of people and offer better job growth. There is potential to piggyback our rail needs with high speed rail but that remains to be seen. In the meantime, we as Londoners have to push ahead with our plans and not let the rail issue deter us.

We have to push ahead with our plans...

For those who are wondering, the city has requested the Canadian Transport Agency (CTA) to facilitate discussion between CP and CN Rail to negotiate an agreement to relocate and merge onto the CN Rail tracks. In addition, the city has set up a pilot project to monitor incoming trains, their duration and a notification system to inform drivers and people about incoming delays.

CP and CN Rail have dug in their heels and are unwilling to incur any costs associated with relocation. The rail line will have to be dealt with sooner or later, but who will pay for the cost of doing so is up for debate. I would personally prefer cost sharing by all parties and perhaps as Mayor I can initiate that process and revisit this issue.

After hearing the Civic Works Committee discussions, it looks like the issue of rail is a battle for another day.