All-day Milton GO stopped in its tracks by CP, says Metrolinx

While Metrolinx says it fully supports two-way, all-day GO service for Milton, nothing can happen until the agency manages to negotiate a deal with Canadian Pacific Railway for the use of its tracks.

This was the message delivered once again to Milton Council by Metrolinx staff Monday evening, when the organization presented details of its draft 2041 Regional Transportation Plan.

Although all-day GO for Milton isn’t in the document, Metrolinx’s Brian Gallaugher said that the agency is “working with CP as hard as we can to try and get their co-operation” on the matter.

“The problem isn’t us — it’s them,” he said. “And that’s OK; it’s a matter of negotiation and working that out.”

CP Rail owns a significant portion of the Milton line and uses it as a main freight line through Toronto.

But local and regional Coun. Colin Best said he works next to the rail line and sees an average of two freight trains in the morning and evening, and six to eight trains between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

“Don’t tell me you can’t put more trains on that line,” he said. “I think this is ridiculous.”

He also asked if Metrolinx has done an analysis on the existing line for any additional GO train capacity.

“We’re completely at the mercy of CP on this stuff,” said Gallaugher. “They tell us how many trains we can put on that line per day. We work with them very closely to get as much capacity as we can. If they said you can have more capacity, we would use it.”

Gallaugher said he thinks CP is “very protective” of its capacity.

Best encouraged town staff and Metrolinx to work with CP to address the matter.

“We’re as interested as you are and all the residents of the town in expanding service on that line as quickly as possible,” said Gallaugher.

The increased service would also bolster Milton’s chances of getting more train stations on its line, added Gallaugher.

While some people have suggested taking CP freight off the Milton line and putting it on CN-owned tracks, Gallaugher said both companies are in business to make money and likely wouldn’t be interested in helping out their competitors.

“We have to find another solution realistically that will allow us to introduce passenger service on the CP line,” he said.

“I hope you find something before hover trains are invented,” quipped Ward 8 Coun. Zeeshan Hamid.

In an email statement to the Champion, CP media relations manager Andy Cummings said the company is working directly with Metrolinx to study what infrastructure upgrades would be needed for all-day commuter rail service on its Milton corridor.

“That process has been ongoing for some time,” he said. “CP is in the business of hauling the nation’s freight, including the products that Canadians use in their personal and business lives every day. In situations like these, we must balance the desire of passenger rail authorities to expand service with the needs of our freight customers. We will continue to work directly with Metrolinx toward that end.”

Milton chief administrative officer Bill Mann told council the town is still endeavouring to arrange a sit-down with CP top executives to discuss the issue.

He emphasized to Metrolinx staff that the town needs “political support at the highest level” on this matter.

“I would be very surprised if the president of CP wouldn’t pick up the phone if the Premier of Ontario phoned him,” he said.

Mann added, “We’re not asking for something that’s inappropriate. We really want to make a complete community. In order to do that we need Metrolinx, the Province of Ontario and CP’s help.”