New Windsor Via rail station opens its doors to rave reviews

From The Windsor Star:

Don Martel of Windsor passes through the new VIA train station for the first time this morning, September 11, 2012. Loaring Construction built the bright and spacious building right next door to the old Walkerville train station. A grand opening ceremony is planned for the future. (NICK BRANCACCIO/The Windsor Star)

First impressions are often everything.

And with Windsor’s new Via rail train station opening its doors to travellers for the first time Tuesday, those looking around described it as a long overdue beautification, not only for locals who ride the rails, but also as an important eye-catching first appearance for those entering this city.

“It’s beautiful, it’s high time” said Len Larche of Tecumseh. “The old station was just awful. It was an embarrassment to think that people came to the city and would see that.

“This is very impressive. I like the openness, the airiness. It looks a lot more inviting and clean.”

The design of the new train station is essentially a duplicate of Windsor’s new downtown bus station – with one notable exception. The entire roof is glass panes giving the station an open, bright appearance.

“It’s really quite nice,” said Don Martel of Windsor after arriving home on a train from London. “There is lots of light in there. It has a nice, modern look. The one thing it does need is a concession stand and maybe a few more touch-ups, then it will look great.

“It’s a 100 per-cent improvement. The old station had been there for a long time and does not have anywhere close to the light that this one has. The old one had to go.”

Despite opening the doors to passengers, Via rail refused to discuss anything about the new train station on Tuesday.

No information about its construction, amenities or costs will be discussed until the official opening “sometime this fall,” said spokeswoman Mylene Belanger.

“Whenever we are ready to officially open, we will be happy to answer questions about price or anything else at that time,” she said.

Construction of the new station was initially announced in March, 2010, with an estimated price tag of about $6.3 million.

Construction originally was to begin a couple of months later and be completed by fall 2011. But the project was delayed and didn’t really get fully underway until last summer.

The new facility is just east of the old station which is already being boarded up and will be demolished. The space will be used for parking.

The former station was built in the 1950s and was criticized for years as being cramped and outdated.

Windsor is listed as the seventh busiest station in the country, according to Via. More than 75 per cent of revenue for Via – a Crown corporation – is generated in the Windsor to Quebec City corridor.

Even with the new station opening Tuesday for business, workers for contractor Loaring Construction were busy completing the finishing touches.

The new station still has a currency exchange, which was open off and on for the public on Tuesday. It has an area for a small food kiosk, although the space is not yet occupied. There is also a space for vending machines and an ATM, but those are not yet in place.

Dorothy Wessbecher of Oshawa was among those to arrived in Windsor around noon on Tuesday to visit with her sister and was impressed with what she saw. It was her first visit to the city in about four years.

“It’s very nice,” she said. “I really like it. I like the openness, how it’s nice and wide.”

One regular train user, Emily Wiedrick of Hamilton, noted the vast improvement of the new station in Windsor for rail passengers.

“It looks really clean and organized,” she said. “It’s looks a lot better than the old station, which is really a good reflection on the city, as well.”