In 2012, a commuter train left the Via Rail St. Catharines station never to return. The twice-daily weekday return trains, which ran from Niagara Falls to Toronto and stopped in St. Catharines, became cancelled.
However, in June 2016, a GO transit train pulled into the Via Rail St. Catharines station. The Ontario province announced it will bring weekday GO rail service to St. Catharines by 2023.
The plan is part of a larger announcement to bring weekday GO rail services between Hamilton and the Niagara Region starting in 2021, with service to Niagara Falls by 2023. Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca made the announcement on a packed platform at the Via Rail St. Catharines station.
To understand the impact of this announcement, let’s first go back to 2012 when Via Rail cancelled the commuter service, then let’s look at why the weekday GO rail will expand business, jobs and real estate in Niagara.
Via Rail St. Catharines commuter train cancellation
In 2012, Via Rail cancelled the Niagara commuter train as part of a larger plan to reduce its workforce by 9% or 200 full-time positions. It also cut routes across the country. Many Niagara residents complained about its loss.
Welland’s Deanna White would take the train at least once a month for work conferences and meetings. At the time she said she is sad this is ending, because she doesn’t know what she’s going to do now. This was in a St. Catharines Standard article.
Grimsby’s Vera McCausland used to commute to her job in Toronto on the Via Rail. She called the cancellation “awful” in a 2013 St. Catharines Standard article.
“I’m damaged in a way,” she added. “I cannot explain how upset this has made me.”
But in the article where White was quoted, someone made a comment. He said he hoped the GO would now fill the void.
GO rail service will come to St. Catharines
The province is planning weekday GO rail service between Hamilton and the Niagara Region starting in 2021. The existing Via Rail St. Catharines station will be upgraded as well.
Regional Chair Alan Caslin said the train service “will drive economic prosperity in Niagara Region” at the announcement. This was in a Niagara This Week article. Caslin added the train will play a crucial role in strengthening Niagara’s connections with the powerful Greater Toronto Area, attracting more people, and expanding business and jobs.
Jim Diodati, mayor of Niagara Falls, said “It’s so much more than a train. This is literally like plugging into the (Greater Toronto-Hamilton area) and the economic development that’s going to happen as a result of this catalyst is going to be huge.”
He added “the announcement is giving confidence to the business community and to people buying and selling homes in Niagara.”
Caslin followed that up. He said communities that are keen to grow need to have adequate transportation. “If you can move around, if you can get to work, if you can get to school, people are going to want to live here.”