CAMBRIDGE — Metrolinx’s chief executive knows when two-way, all-day GO train service is coming to Waterloo Region.
But for now, that remains a secret.
“I just can’t get to the point where I can tell you when, even though I know,” Phil Verster told a luncheon audience at Whistle Bear Golf Club on Wednesday.
“Have a little bit of patience, but have a bit of expectation,” he said. “It’s close, it’s coming, and the minister will announce it.”
Verster said the long-promised service is among his top three geographic priorities in terms of expansion, along with Niagara and Bowmanville. “You can stop asking for services to Kitchener-Waterloo,” he said. “We get it, we really do get it.”
The business case for the service has been made. It’s now a question of how it should be done, and how to do it as quickly as possible.
Significant infrastructure work on the line remains before two-way, all-day service can run in perpetuity — adding track along CN’s Bramalea-Georgetown corridor, and building a bridge to allow GO trains to cross over existing track on their way to Kitchener.
“That’s a couple of hundred million (dollars) of investment,” Verster said.
But that’s not to say something close to two-way, all-day service can’t run with existing infrastructure as ongoing upgrades are made. “I dare say you’re going to see a lot of activity from us in terms of increasing service.”
There are currently 10 trains travelling daily between Toronto and Kitchener, up from eight last fall, and seating capacity is up by 35 per cent.
Track improvements should also help to reduce travel times, Verster said. “The journey to Kitchener should be half an hour quicker than what it is now.”
Verster became president and chief executive officer at Metrolinx — the provincial agency co-ordinating transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area — in October 2017, and set an ambitious target to increase GO service across the network by 25 per cent a year for three years.
Prior to his arrival, service was increasing by two or three per cent a year. The agency hit 22 per cent last year. “It’s not really business as usual,” he said.
Amid talk of improvements, Verster touched on this week’s announcement that the Route 24 bus linking Galt and the Milton GO station is being cancelled as of June 29. The route wasn’t financially viable, running at an average occupancy rate of eight to 10 per cent, he told the audience.
An alternative route takes riders from the Cambridge SmartCentre on Pinebush Road to a commuter lot at highways 401 and 25 in Milton, where they’d have to take a Milton Transit bus to the GO station.
“It was a very difficult decision to make,” Verster said after his talk. “I really empathize with the fact that some people won’t have a bus anymore.”
But increasing service in and out of Milton is also on his to-do list, and a Cambridge-to-Milton train remains a possibility.
“Somewhere in the coming years we’re going to make adjustments to our service pattern to Milton and then we are definitely looking at Cambridge as well as part of the future,” he said.