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Metrolinx recommends "electrifying" GO train lines

Metrolinx today released a staff report that recommends “electrifying” GO trains along two corridors in the near future.

The provincial transportation agency recently studied the entire GO Transit rail system — and the future Air Rail Link — to look at the value and effectiveness of powering GO’s network of commuter trains with electricity. The study also examined other methods to power the trains — for example, by enhanced diesel technology or other alternative technologies.

The staff are recommending that the Metrolinx Board of Directors move forward on electrifying the GO Georgetown and Lakeshore corridors in phases, beginning with the Air Rail Link on the Georgetown corridor. (The Board considers the report during its next meeting on Wednesday, January 26.)

However, electric GO trains won’t be rolling along the tracks in Southern Ontario for at least another ten years. The study suggests that electrifying the airport line would take seven to nine years. Electric trains wouldn’t run to Oshawa for at least 13 years and they won’t go to Hamilton for at least 17 years.

According to Metrolinx, operating electric trains will:

  • save commuters between five and ten minutes on the longest trips in the GO network;
  • save GO as much as $18 million each year in operating costs (or about 25 percent of the current annual cost to operate the system); and
  • better achieve the long-term goals and objectives of The Big Move — Metrolinx’ regional transportation plan — by establishing a GO Express Rail service with trains operating during rush hours as frequently as every five minutes.

The study concluded that electrification would not greatly reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions, since GO produces such a small percentage of the overall emissions in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton region. All technologies for powering trains, including “Tier-4 diesel”, result in emissions that are well below the stringent air-quality standards of the World Health Organization.

Since the Lakeshore and Georgetown corridors attract the most riders and could gain the most from electrification in terms of reducing journey times for commuters, they were the strongest candidates for the first electric lines.

GO is already improving the infrastructure along the Georgetown corridor to accommodate Air Rail Link trains by 2015 and is also planning to build a new rail maintenance facility in Whitby, where it could store the electric locomotives.

Electrification would take place in stages, starting with the Air Rail Link and the small section of the Lakeshore West corridor between the Willowbrook Yard — where GO would house the trains — and Union Station.

The study identifies the Air Rail Link as the perfect line for starting the project, since the line will operate from outside of Union Station, removing the need to accommodate electric infrastructure within the Union Station trainshed. Operating an electric service on an independent service such as the Air Rail Link would let GO develop experience before it extends the project to other lines.

Metrolinx proposes taking three to four years for early design and engineering work and for conducting the environmental assessments for the project. After that, it would spend four to six years in building the first electric line between Union Station and Toronto Pearson International Airport.

Metrolinx estimates the cost to electrify the Georgetown and Lakeshore lines is between $1.6 and 1.8 billion dollars.

If the board of directors approves the plan at its next meeting on January 26, GO would electrify service along the two lines in phases:

  • Phase 1: The Air-Rail Link and a short section of the Lakeshore West line between Willowbrook Yard and Union Station.
  • Phase 2: The Georgetown line between Union and Brampton.
  • Phase 3: The Lakeshore East line between Union and Oshawa.
  • Phase 4: The Lakeshore West line between Oakville and Willowbrook.
  • Phase 5: The Lakeshore West line between Hamilton (the new James Street North station, not the current Hamilton GO Centre) and Oakville.
  • Phase 6: The Lakeshore East line between Bowmanville and Oshawa.
  • Phase 7: The Georgetown line between Kitchener and Brampton.

You can see the Metrolinx staff report here. (.pdf)

You can see the final electrification report here. (.pdf)

You can see the highlights of the study here. (.pdf)

You can learn more about the electrification project here.

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