Via Rail on James North

By RTH Staff
Published April 02, 2008

What an emotional whirlwind the past week has been for rail advocates.

After years of behind-the-scenes negotiations between the city, the province and Via Rail over bringing a new stop to Hamilton, it finally looked last week like a breakthrough may be at hand. The Ontario budget included $3 million to install a GO train station on James St. North near LIUNA Station (formerly a train station itself).

Unlike the TH&B station on Hunter St. which will continue to provide rush hour service, the James St. station would provide all-day service.

It appeared that Via would add service to this station as well, having abandoned James Street in 1992 for its Aldershot station. This came as a relief after suggestions that a new Via station might end up in Stoney Creek instead.

Then it all (here comes the obligatory rail metaphor) came off the rails two days later, when Via announced that it was not going to stop at James after all.

As Via spokesperson Catherine Kaloutsky explained, "The James Street location just isn't conducive to us to serve our customers, so we will continue to serve the Hamilton area through Aldershot and Grimsby."

Raise the Hammer sent Via an email asking them to explain why having a station in downtown Hamilton "isn't conducive" to serving their customers. Given that Via's mandate is to provide intercity rail service in Canada, it seems bizarre to bypass a major Canadian city altogether. [We did not receive a reply in time for this blog post.]

Well, obviously we must have convinced them, because Andrew Dreschel reports in his Spectator column today that the deal is on after all. Kaloutsky is quoted saying that as long as GO builds the facilities, "Via will stop some of its trains [at the James station] as well".


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By Very Pleased (anonymous) | Posted April 02, 2008 at 09:59:00

Yahoo! VIA Rail has seen the light and are going to now stop some of their trains at the soon-to-be retrofitted James St North location. This is great news. However, what confuses me is why VIA Rail is so resistant to a downtown Hamilton train stop? This should be a high priority for VIA Rail in its mandatae to service inter-city transport. People work in the Hamilton downtown core and more and more people are choosing to live in the Hamilton city centre. It's a destination as well as a populous place. Having a train station in Stoney Creek doesn't really encourage people to take the train to Hamilton because they would be dumped out in the suburbs only needing to find another mode of transport to get to the city center. Come on VIA Rail. Get on board. I would suggest stopping all the trains in Hamilton, and not just "some." However, am pleased they are going to stop some of them!

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By beancounter (registered) | Posted April 02, 2008 at 13:01:29

I would guess that Via Rail's reluctance might have something to do with the difficulty of running through trains from Toronto to points west of Hamilton.

A train coming from Toronto and destined for London, Sarnia or Windsor and stopping in Hamilton would have to back up to get out of the city and back to Hamilton Junction to rejoin the main east-west line. Nothing personal!

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By Very Pleased (anonymous) | Posted April 02, 2008 at 13:33:57

Agreed beancounter. But it still doesn't explain VIA Rail's desire to plunk at train station in Stoney Creek and not downtown Hamilton. All trains from Toronto heading toward Niagara should stop in downtown Hamilton. Those trains traveling from/to west of Hamilton (e.g., London, Sarnia, Windsor) can still stop at Aldershot... no need to backup trains! All the best.

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By beancounter (registered) | Posted April 02, 2008 at 21:56:45

Yes, they could and the HSR could help out by improving bus service to the new GO station - shuttle buses maybe to meet each train?

Also, they could provide a link from downtown Hamilton to Aldershot to connect with the other trains.

I remember quite a few years ago when the old Canada Coach Lines ran a bus to the old Dundas train station to connect with trains going to, or coming from, the west. That was a fun trip, because the turn off highway 8 under the train tracks was so sharp that the bus would have to go to the top of the escarpmant, turn around and then make a left turn into the train station's access road.

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By Bob Bratina (anonymous) | Posted April 03, 2008 at 16:22:37

The VIA arrangement with GO had already been agreed upon. The original negative article was wrong, as I stated on a radio interview. GO's long range planning included a station stop in Hamilton at James North, which I reaffirmed as as a GO Transit Board member regarding VIA's possible use of GO infrastructure in Hamilton. Rob McIsaac and Mayor Eisenberger advanced the idea to the Province, who eventually came up with the funding. I appreciate your interest and thank you for your letter, but the original story about VIA not coming was wrong, and we all knew it was.
Bob Bratina.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 09:41:38 in reply to Comment 20738

Remember when?

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By Jon Dalton (anonymous) | Posted April 08, 2008 at 09:34:59

The obvious course of action would be to stop all Toronto - Niagara trains stop at Hamilton, and all Windsor - Toronto trains stop at Aldershot.

"The James Street location just isn't conducive to us to serve our customers, so we will continue to serve the Hamilton area through Aldershot and Grimsby."

What customers is she talking about? Obviously not customers from downtown Hamilton as we haven't had service for 10 years. There can't be any customers where there is no service.

Maybe they should look at the 40 some odd GO buses that leave Hamilton packed every day and consider those as potential customers.

Pretty sad when those in charge of our rail service don't understand one of the key points of rail travel, that is downtown to downtown service.

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By MHI.Baird (anonymous) | Posted April 08, 2008 at 14:38:42

For as long as I can remember it has been a case of "poor old Hamilton." On the plus side, our real estate prices and rentals are way below those of our neighbour to the East, and we have a massive expansion around McMaster University with upwardly mobile professionals looking for nice houses in places like Ancaster. Why not a CBC radio station? Why not a half decent train service to Toronto?

In Scotland (a much poorer country than Canada) the two major cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh are connected by a train service at a frequency of 15 minutes throughout the day. We put up with crowded buses whose schedules are at the mercy of traffic conditions on the QEW. What has Hamilton done to deserve this?

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By Very Pleased (anonymous) | Posted April 08, 2008 at 23:28:09

I guess Hamilton can only blame itself for letting others (like Via Rail and the CBC) treat the City the way they do. We let these organizations get away with their ill treatment of us. I am at a loss what actually can be done. Of course, Hamilton deserves better. Anyone have any ideas what we can do to reverse things?

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