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Metrolinx will electrify GO rail corridors with an overhead contact system

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Metrolinx will not be using hydrogen fuel cells to power electric trains along GO Transit rail corridors - at least, not for now.

Instead, after studying multiple variations of electrification, Metrolinx has chosen a 25 kV (kilovolt) overhead contact system as the base concept when analyzing all the environmental and cost benefits of its electrification plans.


Metrolinx is currently looking for a private-sector partner to collaborate with it to design, build, operate, and maintain GO rail services as a rapid rail system. Those partners may also submit proposals to Metrolinx that may vary traction-power technology and fleet composition and could potentially use:

  • Energy-regeneration technology reducing power consumption by as much as 20 per cent or more.
  • Dual-mode (electric / diesel) vehicles in network areas where the cost to build power infrastructure is prohibitive or infeasible.
  • State-of-the-art construction techniques to speed up construction, while lowering impacts to ridership and costs.
  • State-of-the-art monitoring and inspection equipment to operate and maintain the system — increasing system safety and reliability with less operational, maintenance and life-cycle cost.

In June 2017, the provincial transit agency launched a study of hydrogen fuel cells as an alternate technology to move trains. In November of that year, it joined the Government of Ontario in hosting an international conference about the feasibility of hydrogen as a fuel source for trains.

How will electric trains with an overhead contact system work? Hydro One will supply electrical power through connections from its 230kV transmission lines and transformer stations. Traction power substations transform the voltage from 230kV to the appropriate level for trains (25 kV). An overhead contact system (OCS) distributes power along rail corridors. OCS is a series of overhead wires which supply electricity to the electric trains through pantographs. (A pantograph is the Z-shaped structure on the roof of many streetcars, replacing trolley poles.) The maximum distance between OCS supports is about 65 metres.

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