VIA Rail formally announced $25M of investments in its London station on July 11, 2023. When complete, the improvements will make the station fully accessible, more environmentally sustainable, and according to Peter Fragiskatos MP “fitting for a community that is growing to the extent that London is.”
The first two phases of the renovations were already completed between 2020 and 2022. These were structural upgrades, re-cladding the outside of the building and its tower, replacing the glazing for improved energy efficiency, making all the doors fully accessible, and refitting the passenger washrooms. A sheltered bicycle parking space and EV charging stations were also added in the station car park.
The next phase will see the three station platforms rebuilt and resurfaced, to be ready for VIA Rail’s new Venture trains when they are fully deployed throughout the Windsor-Quebec corridor in 2025. The announcement was accompanied by the arrival of train 672, a test run with recently-delivered locomotive 2204.
Tactile strips will be added to the platform edges to bring them up to the latest accessibility standards, although the project does not appear to include raising them for level boarding because the station tracks are owned by CN. This will be followed by further interior work and upgrades to the station’s heating and cooling systems.
These projects are possible thanks to $112M in funding for station maintenance in the Windsor-Quebec corridor provided by the federal government in budget 2022. Masonry repairs to the Woodstock station also recent got underway, as Transport Action had been asking, and repairs to the Chatham station are expected to follow.
London Mayor Josh Morgan, several councillors, and city transit staff were present; and held discussions with VIA Rail staff about improving transit and intercommunity bus integration. Transport Action is calling for the station to become a true regional mobility hub in future, connecting Southwestern Ontario’s intercommunity bus routes with each other; and providing passengers with a safe and comfortable place to make those transfers or connect to trains. We highlighted this in our input to MTO’s Southwestern Ontario Transportation Task Force and to Transport Canada’s ongoing study of increased VIA Rail service for the region, and we hope that both levels of government will contribute to realizing this vision.
A new mural has also been installed at the station, celebrating London’s recognition by UNESCO as Canada’s first International City of Music, in 2022. Tourism London is keen to promote the city as a cultural destination, with visitors arriving by bus and train from across the region.
London is already the fourth busiest station on the VIA Rail network, and has room to grow with more frequent services in future.
Top photograph: Peter Fragiskatos, MP London North Centre; Josh Morgan, Mayor of London; Arielle Kayabaga, MP London West; Rita Toporowski, Chief Customer Officer, VIA Rail Canada