| Jun 26, 2019

After being passed over during the most recent federal budget, the Shining Waters rail proposal, linking Toronto and Ottawa with stations in Peterborough, Tweed, Sharbot Lake, and Smiths Falls along the way, has new life.

Mariam Monsef, MP for Peterborough and Minister for Gender Equality and International Development, announced on Tuesday (June 25) that the federal government and the Canada Infrastructure Bank are committing $71.1 million in new funding to complete planning activities over two years to advance the VIA rail proposal.

The announcement was made at the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, which is housed in the former Peterborough passenger rail station. A similar announcement was made in Trois Rivieres, Quebec, as the proposed Toronto to Ottawa rail line has been paired with a Ottawa-Montreal-Quebec City line that would travel on the north side of the St. Lawrence River through Trois Rivieres.

A map that was printed along with article in the Globe and Mail that broke the news about the funding includes stations in Tweed and Sharbot Lake.

“This project would bring significant economic growth to our community and the affected regions along the corridor,” Monsef said.

The work that is slated to be done using this injection of funds includes consultation with stakeholders and indigenous communities, an examination of the required land and track acquisition, and the completion of the technical, financial, and commercial analysis that is required for a final investment decision.

Monsef added that this new expenditure is a step along a process towards bringing the new rail line to fruition but said “this train has yet to leave the station, but this is the furthest we have ever come on the idea of a passenger train.”

The project itself will cost about $4 billion to complete, $6 billion if the rail cars are fully electric. One of the potential outcomes of the $71 injection of federal dollars is to create enough certainty about the viability of the rail service for it to attract private investment dollars

In the Globe and Mail article, the section of the proposed line that runs between Ottawa and Peterborough is said to “involve reviving a long-abandoned rail line that has since been converted to a recreational trail”.

The advantage of using the trail is that it is simple to acquire, whereas the section between Peterborough and Toronto will require the purchase of an existing Canadian Pacific Rail line.

Central Frontenac Mayor Frances Smith received a heads up from VIA rail’s communication department about the announcement early this week, and brought the information to a meeting of Central Frontenac Council on Tuesday afternoon.

“This is the first communication I have received from VIA since just after the federal budget came out in April , when it looked like the project did not have much momentum,” Smith said. “That seems to have changed.”

The announcement of funding for rail in Eastern Ontario and Quebec comes about on the second business day after the start of a long summer of election campaigning. The House of Commons rose last week, not to return until after the election.

The Frontenac News has received an unconfirmed report that VIA rail has already looked at locations for a station in the vicinity of Sharbot Lake, and is considering ducking just south of the village rather than following the former rail line which would rumble within metres of the Sharbot Lake Family Health team, the Sharbot Lake beach and the Central Frontenac township office.

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