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Peterborough - Toronto commuter train proposal
receives more federal and provincial funding

Both the Peterborough Examiner and report that a plan to restore commuter rail service between Peterborough and Toronto continues to move forward.

On Monday, the Province of Ontario agreed to pay half of the $300,000 cost of completing a preliminary engineering report on the rail line that stretches from Havelock through Peterborough to downtown Toronto.

The Government of Canada had asked the province for its share of the funding on Tuesday, August 2 and the provincial government indicated its support last Monday, August 15.

In 2008, the federal government and the province each committed $150 million toward the resuming commuter rail service between Peterborough and Toronto, which the non-profit Shining Waters Railway Authority is now ready to spend.

Peterborough member of parliament Dean Del Mastro has spearheaded work on the project. Del Mastro says that Shining Waters would release an economic impact study on the plans for operating a commuter rail service and for improving freight service in the “coming weeks” — just as soon as FedDev — the federal development agency that’s funding the work — has finished reviewing the scheme.

Del Mastro and others working on the project are discussing a preliminary draft of a business plan with the Canadian Pacific Railway, which owns the railway tracks and other infrastructure. Del Mastro has vowed that passenger rail service from Peterborough will resume on July 1, 2014, with workers starting repairing the rail line as early as next summer.

The new federal and provincial government money supports the advanced engineering contract portion of the project. This work will take six to eight weeks and allow Shining Waters to put together the full contract for the rail project and start work on determining the final route.

Key to the Shining Waters Railway plan are:

  • transferring ownership of 107.2 miles (173 kilometres) of main track, spurs, sidings,structures and all land, with CP Rail donating the ownership to Shining Waters. This would consist principally of the Havelock Subdivision (Miles 90.78 to 178.0) and the Nephton Subdivision (Miles 0.0 to 20.0).
  • Rehabilitating the Havelock Subdivision from Peterborough George Street to the CPR’s Toronto Yard (Miles 117.97 to 178.0) to Federal Railroad Administration(FRA) Class 4 standards, which means that passenger trains could operate at a maximum track speed of 80 miles per hour (129 kilometers per hour) freight trains at 60 miles per hour (96 kilometers per hour).
  • Upgrading the rest of the Havelock Subdivision (Mile 90.78-117.97) and the Nephton Subdivison (Miles 0.0 to 20.0) to FRA Class 2 to allow freight trains to operate as fast as to 25 miles per hour (40 kilometres per hour).

A contract operator would provide the SWR freight service along the full length of the two subdivisions. The freight operator will provide locomotives and crews for day-to-day operations. The freight operator would interchange traffic with CP Rail and the entire North American rail network at Toronto Yard. Revenue will be divided between the SWR, the third-party service provider, the CPR and its interline partners.

The SWR’s passenger service would operate from Peterborough George Street to Toronto Union Station, a distance of 76.5 miles (123 kilometers), using the Havelock Subdivision (Miles 117.97 to 178.0) and trackage rights over CP Rail’s Belleville Subdivision and GO Transit’s (formerly CP Rail) Don Branch to the Union Station Rail Corridor.

SWR would contract passenger service to an experienced third-party rail-service provide, using rolling stock which the SWR would own. Service frequency would likely consist of two morning westbound and two afternoon eastbound trains for commuters Mondays to Fridays. The service plan includes at least one return trip on Saturdays, Sundays and statutory holidays. The organizers project a 90-minute running time from Peterborough to Toronto with passenger station stops at:

  • Peterborough George Street;
  • Peterborough Harper Road;
  • Pontypool;
  • Myrtle;
  • Claremont;
  • Locust Hill;
  • Steeles Avenue East; and
  • Toronto Union Station.

The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce owns and occupies the Peterborough George Street site and the City of Peterborough owns the Harper Road site. The City of Toronto and the Government of Ontario both own Toronto Union Station. The other station sites occupy land that CP Rail currently owns.

Except for the Chamber of Commerce’s former CPR Peterborough station and Toronto Union Station, all locations will require new shelters and platforms. The communities have indicated a willingness to provide basic support, such as snow clearing and grounds maintenance.

A 2010 Metrolinx study projects that 950 passengers would ride the trains within one year of starting the operation, rising to 1,500 over 15 years. Using information from VIA Rail Canada, the backers of the SWR expect that the passenger service will support itself. They will test ridership, revenue and operating costs further as part of the business plan.