Canada’s VIA Rail confirmed Nov. 14 that it is engaged with Amtrak and other rail operators in discussions aimed at extending Amtrak’s existing Chicago-Detroit Wolverine service to Toronto’s downtown Union Station.
Amtrak confirmed the same day that “We are in conversations with local, state and provincial officials about a proposed service.”
Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) for its part deferred to the two publicly owned passenger railroads for comment.
The scheme would see passenger trains returning to the 113-year-old Detroit River Tunnel owned by CPKC. A little remarked condition of the CPKC merger approval was that the merged railroad would open the tunnel to Amtrak, after years of frustrated efforts by Amtrak to revive direct Detroit-Toronto service. Amtrak last served Windsor, Ontario, from New York and Buffalo with Trains 63 and 64, the Niagara Rainbow, through to Detroit, until the end of 1979. This state-sponsored service stopped at the Canadian Pacific station in Windsor, which has since been demolished following a fire.
The CPKC merger was backed by Amtrak, which said the two railroads had been positive partners and would advance opportunities for new passenger services.
“We can confirm that VIA Rail is in private discussions with different partners, including Amtrak, to evaluate the possibility and estimate the potential costs of a project connecting Windsor to Detroit,” the Canadian passenger railway told Railway Age.
“However, VIA Rail believes it is premature to be holding a discussion on this project in the public sphere.
“At this time, VIA Rail has not committed to financing this project and no funding requests have been made.”
Amtrak is more enthusiastic in describing prospects for the proposed service, stating that “improved frequency along the corridor, with connections to Toronto, will increase demand for rail travel and decrease traffic congestion. Improved passenger rail service and connectivity is critical to enabling further economic development in the Great Lakes region.”