Signalling upgrades being undertaken by the Goderich Exeter Railroad have led to a slight change in passenger train service for VIA Rail to its St. Marys station.
Stations in Strathroy and Wyoming, meanwhile, have been temporarily closed due to the same work.
“Due to technical issues, Transport Canada ordered VIA Rail trains to reduce their speed from 60 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour for safety reasons, along the track between London and Kitchener,” explained a news release last week from the constituency office of Perth-Wellington MP Gary Schellenberger.
The railroad tracks between London and Toronto, via St. Marys, Stratford and Kitchener, are owned by the Stratford-based Goderich Exeter Railroad. The company is in the middle of a program of signalling upgrades at level crossings, with work taking place in recent weeks in the Wellburn, St. Marys, and St. Pauls areas. But according to VIA Rail spokesperson Mylene Belanger, it wasn’t until Aug. 19 that Transport Canada made its decision to limit train speeds.
“As a result, VIA rail trains have reduced their speed,” Belanger told the Journal Argus earlier this week.
“Train 84 (the daily early morning train) departs earlier from London and St. Marys to make sure our trains get to Toronto on time, and so that passengers can also make their connections with other trains going to cities like Belleville, Kingston, Cornwall and Ottawa,” she explained.
According to Belanger, departure time from St. Marys is now 7:57 a.m. instead of 8:12 a.m. She explained that Train 84’s departure from Sarnia remains at 6:10 a.m., but for the time being the trip between Sarnia and London will be quicker. That’s because it will not stop at either Wyoming or Strathroy.
The Sarnia-to-London stretch of rail is not owned by the Goderich Exeter Railroad. It’s owned by Canadian Pacific, Belanger said.
This change allows for an earlier departure from London (7:08 instead of 7:33), and a slower trip to St. Marys and Stratford at decreased speeds.
Departure time from Stratford for Train 84 remains the same (8:34 a.m.).
Aside from the decision to temporarily close the Wyoming and Strathroy stations for Train 84, the other main complication of the change is the inability of VIA Rail to offer a guaranteed transfer to the London-Kitchener-Toronto line passengers taking the early-morning route from Windsor to London. Belanger says that connection can’t be made under the current circumstances.
She noted all changes are temporary, with a projected October 20 completion date for the signalling upgrades.
The VIA spokesperson added that anyone affected by the change who already has a ticket can receive a full refund. And, for any Strathroy or Wyoming passengers, transportation is being offered free of charge to the London VIA station.