GO Trains to Cambridge - Solving the 40-year Debacle


GO Trains to Cambridge Ontario

I moved to the City of Cambridge in the mid 1990s and was aware of the hard work that the late Lee Palvetzian and others had been doing for years as they fought for GO Rail to become a reality here. Years later, I was given all the documents that Lee had used to try and convince politicians and bureaucrats that Cambridge should have GO train service. So much work put forth with no results. Fast forward to 2023 the nothing has changed.



Forty years after the original advocacy for GO Rail service began in the City of Cambridge, we are no further ahead in 2023 than we were then.


 There is plenty of blame to go around for this debacle. Countless municipal, regional, provincial and federal politicians, from all political parties, have come and gone with the same negative result. Some bothered to ‘talk the talk’ about the need for GO trains, some did not even bother with that token gesture.

 Past and present bureaucrats from all levels dealing with this issue have been blissfully ineffective. In some cases, they are making decisions today that threaten the slim chance of ever getting GO Rail service. 

 In recent years public advocacy has been limited. Perhaps the seemingly hopelessness of the situation has kept the public from fighting for GO Rail service. This needs to change and the public need to get active now.


Of the twenty-four largest populations in Ontario, only the City of Cambridge has no passenger rail service.


 Here is some history on this issue, followed by a discussion of the current situation.

 There are two ways for GO Rail service to happen in Cambridge. It is interesting to note that both these lines once had passenger rail service in the 1950s.

 1.The Canadian Pacific Line which runs east-west. GO trains currently end at Milton but could continue through to Cambridge. This is a busy freight line. (green dotted line on the map below)

 2.The Canadian National Fergus Subdivision which runs from south of the Hwy 401 through Hespeler up to Guelph. It could connect with GO train service Guelph to Toronto, or even have some through trains leave from Cambridge. It is a rarely-used freight line with just one small train per day (purple dotted line on the map below).

 Rail Lines in Cambridge Ontario

Rail lines in Cambridge and expansion of GO service to Cambridge - Purple dotted line is CN line, Green dotted line is CP.

Both the 2009 Passenger Rail Feasibility Study and the subsequent 2014 Cambridge to Milton Passenger Rail Business Case and Implementation Strategy stated that the preferred routing option was to extend the current GO Train service from Milton.

The 2014 study entry scenario proposed that it would connect Cambridge to Milton with four Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) trains and one interim station (initially) in downtown Cambridge (Cambridge Central) with four trips each way for fast implementation. The capital cost for this scenario ranges from $20 to $73 million. 

GO Rail proposed DMU Cars

Aside from the fact that making people transfer is a disincentive to taking transit, the recommendation to use the CP line proved to be wishful thinking.

A May 2020 report to council explained why switching to the CN Fergus subdivision was a better business decision.

-         Connecting Cambridge to the GO rail network via the Fergus Subdivision has a higher degree of constructability and deliverability compared to the Milton GO Line extension given the ability to bypass the need for negotiations with Canadian Pacific Railway to operate along the Milton GO Line.

 Previous to this change of possible GO Rail routing to CN Fergus subdivision, the City of Cambridge starting in 2016, in cooperation with Metrolinx, offered a GO bus service between Cambridge and Milton.

 There were 12 trips a day timed to connect with train service at Milton station. According to a Toronto Star article from January 19, 2018, a Metrolinx spokesperson stated, “The bus service is the lowest performing route on the GO network. Average weekday ridership is 55 people, with 1,200 passengers using the service each month. A month’s worth of riders would not be enough to fill a single GO train, which has a capacity of up to 2,000 people.”

 While advocates for a Cambridge GO train station contend upgrading the bus line to rail would increase demand, a major obstacle is that the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) owns the track on the Milton corridor and uses it for frequent freight service.

 Metrolinx has an agreement with CPR to operate GO trains as far as Milton, but not farther west. Until a new freight corridor is built that would allow freight service to be shifted off the Milton line, Metrolinx says it is “quite limited regarding expansion.”


So, the CP Rail Milton connection is ‘off the table’ and the emphasis now is on the Fergus subdivision route.

 CN Fergus Subdivision GO Rail Possible Route

Map showing study of GO Rail service from Cambridge to Guelph via Fergus Subdivision

The 2021 Region of Waterloo, Cambridge to Union GO Rail, Feasibility Study PHASE 2 REPORT, Final by Dillon Consulting Limited / Hatch Ltd was released in February that year (2021). The 94-page report went into detail about GO Rail service from Cambridge to Guelph via the Fergus Subdivision, even suggesting station locations. See a map of the line above.



The City of Cambridge Planning Department and Doug Ford’s Conservatives are making decisions now that benefit Developers at the possible expense of future GO Rail service for Cambridge.



Shockingly, the City of Cambridge Planning Department and the Doug Ford government are making decisions to benefit Developers along the CN Fergus subdivision rail line in Cambridge that may prevent GO trains from coming to Cambridge. Here are some examples.


211-215 Queen Street West Development (Old Lens Mills, Forbes Mill)

 The Developer Blacks Point Development has submitted their plan to the City of Cambridge (see below). It only mentions the rail line for a couple paragraphs. There is no mention of the future use by GO Rail or the needed safety and infrastructure improvements required to allow the development to exist with GO trains. The line runs the width of their property. To my knowledge, the City of Cambridge Planning Department also does not bring this issue up, contrary to the City of Cambridge stated goal to bring GO Rail service to Cambridge.


211-215 Queen Street West Cambridge

211-215 Queen Street West Blacks Point Development (Old Lens Mills, Forbes Mill) The potential GO trains line runs right across their property, yet is ignored in their plan.


241 Queen Street West - Lammer Developments

The Doug Ford Conservative government on April 13, 2023 unilaterally changed the Region of Waterloo official plan (Plan Amendment No. 6), without consultation from the public, city council, the Region of Waterloo planners. This change opened up land for a high-density apartment development at 241 Queen Street West which is next to the development above.

The CN Fergus sub railway line, which is the proposed future GO Rail line, cuts right across the 241 Queen Street West lands. The City of Cambridge Planning Department supported this zoning change for the developer without any restrictions or even mentions about the future GO trains on this line.

The developer Lammer of Guelph makes no mention of the GO Rail future rail line in their development plans submitted to the Ministry of Housing but does so in a recent city presentation.

This is another example of a Developer and City of Cambridge Planning department not supporting the City of Cambridge’s own policy to bring GO Rail service to Cambridge. 

 241 Queen Street West Hespeler

241 Queen Street West High-Density Development (blue lines) - Ford Government opened up this area along the future GO Rail corridor with no mention from the Developer or the City of Cambridge Planning Department on this issue.

241 Queen Street West - 742825 Ontario Limited represented by John Wright

To further dissect this area there has been an application, (on half of Canadian National) to sever the sliver of land marked #1 on the image below.  This land is currently attached to the Fergus Subdivision and is to be conveyed to the owner of, and consolidated with the rest of, the 241 Queen Street West lands. 

The lands marked #2 and #3 (representing a sliver of the former Grand River Railway ROW which was not sold when the rest of the right of way was merged with 241 Queen Street West lands) are - or were - held by Canadian National and the Ministry of Transportation and can be conveyed without approval by the city.

This land is next to the future GO Rail rail line property. I am not aware of any written objections to future uses, made by the City of Cambridge Planning Department, as these pertain to future conflicts with the GO Rail line next to it.

 241 queen street west addition

241 Queen Street West - 742825 Ontario Limited represented by John Wright

What Can Be Done to Ensure that GO Trains Come to Cambridge

 We have to end this 40-year embarrassment and make the goal of GO Rail service in Cambridge a reality. We must:

 1. Hold our municipal, regional, provincial, and federal politicians accountable. Email them and call them frequently to ask them what they are doing to bring GO Rail service to Cambridge.

 2. Get the City of Cambridge Development Planning Department and Region of Waterloo Planning personnel to start working aggressively to support the City of Cambridge goal to bring GO Rail to Cambridge. Planning must not support development that undermines our future GO Rail goals.

 3. Advocate for funding to pursue and then purchase the Fergus subdivision from CN. Our provincial government should stop ignoring the City of Cambridge. Further, because the railways are under federal jurisdiction, our local MP should help in this process also. Cambridge is the only large city in Ontario without passenger rail. It is a travesty.

 4. Metrolinx must support adding GO Rail service to Cambridge in their immediate future plans. We have been ignored far too long.

 5. Citizens should unite to form a strong local lobby group to push for GO Rail service and to ensure that bureaucrats do their jobs. Ensure that politicians who do nothing to bring GO Rail to Cambridge do not win in the next election.


Paul Langan, Cambridge, Ontario, December 7th, 2023


Copied to all municipal, provincial, federal politicians of Cambridge.


  1. I echo your thoughts. Though I recently moved to Cambridge, I always thought why Cambridge does not have Go connectivity when Guelph and Kitchener has. The reasons seem to be more political. It's good that people like you are voicing the opinion of the larger population. Like you said, we should ensure that bureaucracy hear these voices.

  2. Who can we contact to demand they look into this?

    1. I would suggest the local MPPs as it is the provincial government that oversees GO Transit.


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