The long journey to get two-way, all-day GO Train service between Waterloo Region and Toronto passed a major milestone today.

Ontario’s Minister of Transportation, Caroline Mulroney, unveiled a preliminary design business case for the service and a request for qualifications to carry out rail-line improvements between Georgetown and Kitchener.

“This brings us one step closer to delivering two-way, all-day GO rail service to the communities and businesses along the Kitchener line,” Mulroney said. “By optimizing service between Toronto and the Waterloo innovation corridor we will connect more people to jobs, improve airport connectivity and increase access to Ontario's fastest-growing large urban centre.”

There was no firm indication of when two-way, all-day service might begin, but proponents said today’s announcement was a big win.

“This is a game-changer,” said Ian McLean, President and CEO of the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and Chair of the Connect Corridor Coalition. “This announcement is a huge step forward towards establishing fast, frequent two-way, all-day GO service between Toronto and Waterloo Region and unleashing the economic potential for this corridor to fuel growth and job creation and prosperity for all of Ontario.”

Mike Harris, MPP for Kitchener-Conestoga, agreed.

“This is a huge win for Waterloo Region,” he said. “Through the continued work of this provincial government, our community will see major upgrades in service with less wait times, more flexibility and direct trips between Union Station and Kitchener.

In a news release, the Ontario government said two-way, all-day GO service will result in significant travel time savings for GO riders, with train service every 15 minutes on core segments. Travel time will be an estimated 90 minutes between Kitchener and Union Station, down significantly from the current 111 minutes.

The government said an estimated 2.3 million people and 1.4 million jobs will be located within five kilometres of an existing GO station along the Kitchener line by 2031.

The government also predicted huge benefits for the growing tech community in the Toronto-Waterloo innovation corridor, with the potential to see growth of 170,000 jobs if the technology supercluster is realized, the government said.

That’s good news for Waterloo Region’s vibrant tech ecosystem, said Iain Klugman, CEO of Communitech.

"Two-way, all-day GO will enhance the global competitiveness of Canada's innovation corridor,” he said. “This game-changing investment in critical infrastructure will be a magnet for talent and capital in the region. We applaud the government for taking a significant step forward in unlocking the opportunity for Ontario businesses to turbocharge their growth and move our province’s economy forward."

Other tech leaders agreed.

“Today’s investment in two-way, all-day GO by the Ontario government is going to be a central part of connecting our quickly growing Toronto tech ecosystem with that of Kitchener-Waterloo, opening up countless opportunities to collaborate, connect with new partners and offer our workforce more flexibility in how and where they work,” said Michael Litt, co-founder and CEO at Vidyard, a Kitchener-based scale-up providing video-hosting and video-creation tools for businesses.

Martin Basiri, co-founder and CEO of edtech unicorn ApplyBoard, said expanded GO service will create an “essential conduit” that will allow for “flexibility and movement of world-class talent between the innovation corridor.

“There is no doubt the entire technology sector will benefit from expanded service, along with thousands of businesses, our economy, and our communities, especially in our increasingly competitive global environment,” Basiri said.

The Kitchener line is projected to have 39,000 jobs and an estimated 54,000 residents living within about 10 minutes’ walking distance from GO stations with two-way, all-day service.

“This is great news for Waterloo Region and great news for the Province of Ontario,” said Karen Redman, Chair of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo. “We are a growing region that is supporting the growth of jobs and driving the economy through the Toronto-Waterloo innovation corridor. The Government of Ontario's investment today prepares us for the future of transit and the possibility of two-way, all-day service, which will bring more transit connectivity, better access to jobs and housing, and growth to Waterloo Region.”

The expansion of GO rail service will also benefit the City of Cambridge, said MPP Amy Fee, MPP for Kitchener South–Hespeler.

“The Kitchener GO rail expansion project will benefit residents throughout Waterloo Region,” she said. “Our government is taking the first steps toward shovels in the ground in this massive project.”