Ottawa Ontario - Plans for a new passenger train service between Ottawa, Peterborough, and Toronto are taking shape, an official from VIA said Friday.
"Our high-frequency rail project is pretty much going forward," said Jacques Fauteux, director of government and community relations for VIA Canada, at a roundtable discussion in the city.
The discussion took place at the offices of Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef, the MP for Peterborough-Kawartha.
Monsef had gathered 14 people to the table, including politicians, representatives from area First Nations, and economic development professionals.
Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs Minister Jeff Leal, Peterborough County Warden Joe Taylor, Mayor Daryl Bennett, Selwyn Mayor Mary Smith, and Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Jamie Schmale were all present.
"There's a lot of power and influence here, but there's also a shared commitment to transportation," Monsef said.
Monsef told the group they would first discuss the plans for a VIA passenger train service, and later discuss investments in public transit.
VIA has proposed a passenger train by 2020, but it needs federal approval and money.
Leal told the group it's "crucially important" to bring a passenger train service to Peterborough.
"We look forward to making this project move forward," he said.
Taylor said a train service would save "massive" amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.
"The County of Peterborough is very, very, interested in this project," he said.
Fauteux said it's "pretty encouraging" to see representatives from all levels of government, including local First Nations, gathering to talk about it.
"We're all on board," he said.
He added there's a great appetite in Peterborough for a passenger train service, and he's glad to see it.
Although the feds haven't promised funds for the project yet, Fauteux said VIA has done all its studies and is prepared to go forward.
He sees it as an achievable goal.
"We'll have a high-frequency rail service, that we proposed," he said.
The federal government's 2018 budget includes $8 million to be spent over the next three years to study the plan.
Monsef asked Fauteux how that spending is advancing the project.
Fauteux said those studies mean the government is "doing its due diligence", he drew a comparison with a prospective home buyer hiring a home inspector to take a look at the house before purchase.
Yet Schmale has said there are already ample studies to support the need for a passenger train, and he thinks the government is wasting both time and money with further study.
On Friday following the meetings, Schmale said he's heard from constituents that they want a train service as soon as possible.
"They don't want more and more studies," he said.
"People will be disappointed if this is another study that sits on a shelf. If they (the Liberals) shelve it, I'll get more and more vocal."