Metrolinx CEO confirms that HFR will be accommodated at Toronto Union Station

By Adam Mills | Intercity Rail and Bus

Mar 15
Metrolinx CEO Phil Versteer appearing virtually at the House of Commons Transportation Committee via zoom from an office wearing a headset

During virtual testimony to the House of Commons Transportation Committee on February 29, 2024, Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster confirmed to committee members that Metrolinx is working to accommodate the High Frequency Rail project at Union Station in Toronto.

“…since 2020 we have worked closely with VIA HFR to make sure that the infrastructure we’re building and the services we’re planning will be capable of accommodating VIA.” … “All of our planning incorporates keeping the capacity and footprint for VIA in that design and operation.” he said during an opening statement.

Transport Action and its Ontario chapter have been working for years now to get confirmation that VIA Rail services, including possible new HFR services will be accommodated at Union, ideally with new platforms for level boarding and improved passenger flow to reduce queuing.

Unfortunately Phil Verster’s appearance was cut short due to a vote in the House, and not many details were provided, but this is a positive assurance from Metrolinx that plans for the busy station are taking VIA services into account.

Recently, concerns have arisen that VIA-HFR might not service some major downtown areas, but at least for now it looks as if Toronto will avoid this predicament, which would limit the competitiveness of higher speed rail with driving and flying.

“..whatever the strategies are for implementing VIA-HFR, they have to be driven by an obsession with what the customer base is you’re trying to serve, rather than starting with what the infrastructure solution is.”

Phil Verster – Metrolinx CEO speaking at TRAN

Another comment Mr. Verster iterated is that the VIA-HFR project should be focused on the customer base that the government is trying to serve. The person in charge of the largest transit expansion in North America, GO Expansion, also noted Metrolinx’s positive relationship with the freight railroads and that they “always find a way forward with them”. This has been possible in part due to generous infrastructure funding and operating support by the province.

 “I just want to leave a last thought with the committee and say the type of product that HFR can be—if it’s driven by an understanding of what the real customer markets are that we are serving—can contribute significantly to the economy of Canada.”

Transport Action is happy to receive this reassurance from the Metrolinx CEO, and is also happy to hear his endorsement of higher speed rail in Canada, but stresses the importance of transparency and wishes that Metrolinx would be more forthcoming with details in response to requests for information that help us advocate for better public transportation across the country.

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