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New GO coaches to roll, easing commuter crunch

Saturday, January 20, 2001

GO Transit is bursting at the seams at rush hour and will buy and lease a few train coaches to ease the crunch for commuters.

Yesterday, the board of the commuter train and bus system approved the purchase of four double-decker train cars, at a cost of $10-million, in addition to a $53.1-million contract for 16 cars approved last year. The first of these new cars will arrive this fall and the rest by mid-2002.

Meanwhile, GO Transit won approval to lease three bi-level rail coaches from Vancouver’s Westcoast Express for two years, with the first to be in service by April.

“This is a first step, but we have a long way to go,” GO managing director Gary McNeil said, stressing that his system cannot keep up with commuter demand. “We are held back by our lack of ability to deliver more service.”

For example, GO will dip into its capital reserve fund, a form of emergency funding, to pay for the four additional cars over the next two years. The lease agreement is a way to add capacity over the short term.

“I hope we will be able to fulfill the needs of customers at a greater level than we are able to at the moment,” GO Transit chairman Eldred King said.

Ridership for the first 11 months of 2000 jumped 7 per cent to 37.8 million from the figure a year earlier, a level of growth more than twice what GO officials had forecast.

Mr. McNeil said that when GO opened its Rutherford station two weeks ago, the parking lot quickly filled to capacity, one sign of pent-up demand for service.

“Every time we add more [train] cars, they fill up instantly and people scream for more,” he said.

The purchase of new cars is the first in GO’s 10-year plan to buy 116 new ones, part of an annual $100-million capital investment to keep up with demand.

But Mr. McNeil emphasized that GO’s 10-year plan is in effect a proposal to make up for cutbacks in service and equipment through the 1990s.