Last week the Ontario Government announced upgrades to both the Milton and Kitchener GO lines. The first, a Request for Proposals (RFP) from Infrastructure Ontario (IO), includes "additional track, GO station modifications, improved rail crossings and new locomotives and train control systems" for the Milton Line. The second, announced by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne herself, detailed "key advances in bringing two-way, all-day GO train service to Kitchener by 2024, as part of the GO Regional Express Rail project (GO RER)."

The Milton Line upgrades include "new station buildings" and "reconfiguration of parking lot layouts, bus loops, and passenger pick-up/drop-offs" at both Milton and Meadowvale stations. These upgrades are similar in scope to the $128 million contract for the reconstruction of Cooksville GO that was awarded in November 2017 (see image below).

Rendering of the new parking garage and other improvements at Cooksville GORendering of the new parking garage and other improvements at Cooksville GO, image courtesy of Metrolinx

The RFP also includes the construction of what Metrolinx is calling the Station Operations West Facility, which includes "partial demolition and retrofit/renovation of a vacant office and warehouse facility to accommodate future office, warehouse and parking needs for GO operations."

What is noticeably absent however is details surrounding the "additional track" mentioned in the IO announcement. Milton Line passengers are quick to note that their line is being largely left out of the GO RER-related improvements, including electrification and the promise of 15-minute all-day two-way service that customers on most other lines will be receiving by 2024, so any news surrounding additional track which may lead to even marginal service improvements is eagerly anticipated. It is unclear whether the additional track mentioned is any substantial length of track to allow for increased service, or merely the occasional siding to increase the efficiency of existing service. Hopefully more details on this aspect of the project will be announced once the contract is awarded.

Metrolinx's GO RER Electrification PlanMetrolinx's GO RER Electrification Plan, with the Milton Line noticeably not included, image courtesy of Metrolinx

The second announcement this week was for improvements to the Kitchener Line. Much of the infrastructure improvements being undertaken on this line are in conjunction with the $11 billion High Speed Rail project, Phase 1 of which will run from Toronto to London at speeds of up to 250 km/h.

Map of the Ontario HSR projectMap of the Ontario HSR project, image courtesy of the Government of Ontario

This announcement also included details surrounding two Environmental Assessments (EAs). According to the announcement, "one EA is to provide electrified service between Georgetown and Kitchener, and the other EA is the next step for the freight bypass to provide unrestricted rail access for passenger trains between Toronto and Kitchener." It is expected that the electrification of the Georgetown to Kitchener segment of the Kitchener Line will be undertaken in order support both HSR and GO services.

The second EA pertaining to the freight bypass is what is commonly referred to as the Missing Link. UrbanToronto published a detailed backgrounder on the Missing Link last year, and is a worthwhile read for those who are unfamiliar with or would like to brush up on the specifics on that project. Suffice to say, the Missing Link is a crucial component of any future HSR or GO RER service on the Kitchener corridor, and seeing it advance to the EA stage is a welcome development.

GO, CN, and CP rail configuration with the Missing Link in placeGO, CN, and CP rail configuration with the Missing Link in place, image courtesy IBI Group study

UrbanToronto will be following these projects closely over the coming months, and will provide updates as new information emerges. In the meantime, if you would like to share your thoughts on any of these projects, you can do so in our associated forum threads on GO Construction, High Speed Rail, and the Missing Link, or by leaving a comment in the area below.