By: Tess Kalinowski Transportation reporter, Published on Tue Sep 02 2014
The CEO of Metrolinx has confirmed that the province’s promise to electrify GO trains within 10 years is achievable. But that doesn’t mean all seven lines will get all-day, two-way, 15-minute service in that time.
Although he has never said it couldn’t be done, Bruce McCuaig had previously called the 10-year timeline “aggressive” and “constrained.”
On Tuesday, he told the Toronto Star that Metrolinx would deliver on Premier Kathleen Wynne’s promise in April to “phase in electric train service every 15 minutes on all GO lines that we own.”
But he cautioned that GO doesn’t own all its track — including the popular Milton corridor, which is CP’s main freight line, and the track west of Burlington that runs into Hamilton, which is owned by CP and CN.
Negotiating with the railroads to expand passenger capacity on those routes is only one of the complications in the electrification process.
“We’d like to go beyond the lines we own … But we should also recognize that the premier’s language is the reference point we’re starting from,” he said.
A report before the Metrolinx board on Friday provides an early look at the complexities of electrifying GO. The project will require 500 kilometres of catenary wires along the rails, 340 new kilometres of track; renovations to more than 60 stations, 130 bridge expansions and up to 46 grade separations.
Each GO corridor will have its own service concept, defining the frequency of service, the mix of all-stop trains versus express trains, and new infill stations.
McCuaig said he sees TTC buses dropping riders at GO stations in the same way they serve the subway. Metrolinx will have to work with other municipal transit agencies to match local bus service with expanded GO schedules.
Considerations outlined in the Metrolinx report also include station capacity. Union Station can take the load for the next 10 years, but more capacity will be needed in the longer term. There will also be expanded roles as regional transit hubs for the Oakville and Pickering stations.
Although the Union Pearson Express is going to be electrified first because the work is furthest along on that route, it will be at least another year before Metrolinx knows how the rest of the work will be phased in, he said. Regardless of which lines get electrified first, it will be necessary for electric trains to reach the maintenance facility in Whitby.
GO won’t abandon its investment in diesel locomotives and its signature bi-level coaches. But an expanded, diversified GO fleet will also include diesel locomotives and electric multiple units that incorporate the engine into the coaches.
By the time the project is complete there will be 150 additional GO coaches and 20,000 more seats on the system, says the board report. McCuaig promised there will be incremental improvements across the system almost immediately, with a new station in Hamilton being prepared for next year and Kitchener service expected to double in 2016. More weekend trains were added to the Lakeshore line this summer.
Mayoral candidate John Tory reiterated his confidence that the Metrolinx plan will support his SmartTrack “surface subway” transit platform.
“Metrolinx is referring to the whole network. SmartTrack is two lines out of a network of seven and a spur to Mississauga,” said Tory, whose seven-year plan depends on the electrification of the Kitchener and Stouffville GO lines.
Electrification considerations on GO corridors
Lakeshore West: CN owns the corridor west of Burlington. CP owns the track into the Hamilton GO Centre. The new Hamilton James North station will be complete but there is no passenger service plan yet. At least one new track will be needed along much of Lakeshore West. Service could operate all-stops between Hamilton and Oakville and then non-stop between Union Station and Oakville.
Milton: CP owns most of the corridor, and Metrolinx faces a hefty public engagement process through the Streetsville area, where there is lots of residential development near the tracks. Two new tracks would be needed along the corridor.
Kitchener: CN owns the corridor through Brampton, although it’s expected the province will buy it. A new track would be required and Metrolinx would face similar community issues near Brampton, where the tracks run through developed areas. Service could run all stops between Kitchener and Mt. Pleasant, with express service between Mt. Pleasant and Union Station.
Lakeshore East: Owned by GO, it would require one or two new tracks along much of the corridor. All-stop trains could operate between Oshawa and Pickering and then run express between Pickering and Union.
*All corridors would require grade separations