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GO snubs proposal for airport rail link

Added traffic would impede its service, agency fears

Joseph Hall

A proposed rail link to Pearson airport can’t run on GO Transit’s Georgetown line because the added traffic would impede its service, the commuter agency says.

“What they are proposing cannot operate on the same lines as GO Transit,” said GO chair Eldred King, who will air his objections at a board meeting Friday.

“The rail link certainly could complicate GO Transit’s operation as it exists at the present time” in the Georgetown service corridor, King said, adding a private company could never make money off the service.

Federal Transport Minister David Collenette announced last month that he’d seek private sector interest in building and running an airport line.

While the department would accept any valid idea on the link’s configuration, federal sources say a proposed $250 million service up Canadian National’s Weston Subdivision corridor to Woodbine race track is favoured.

Passengers, who would be carried on a fleet of six, self-propelled subway-like cars, would transfer at the race track to a dedicated airport light rail system.

But the Weston line, which branches north off CN’s Lakeshore corridor at Strachan Ave., is now heavily used by GO and VIA Rail and could not support the added airport traffic, King said.

GO runs five trains, both morning and evening, on the Georgetown run.

The agency hopes to expand its peak service to nine trains in the morning and evening, and add all-day service on the Georgetown route in the near future.

Eventually, it hopes to run 50 trains a day on the route.

The airport link would run trains every 20 minutes or so.

While the favoured proposal would include construction of a new set of tracks down the right-of-way, it would also employ GO’s lines.

At least five companies, including Canadian transportation giant Bombardier Inc., have expressed interest in building a link, ministry sources say.

Transport Ministry spokesperson Anthony Polci said it’s too early for GO to object in the absence of the private sector proposals.

“We don’t know what’s going to come back yet from the private sector in terms of proposals on how to operate it,” Polci said.

“So I think his (King’s) statements are made a bit in the dark in terms of what the exact shape or lay of the land will be when it comes to fruition.”

Polci said a private sector expansion on the line might take pressure off GO in the corridor and allow GO to expand in other parts of the GTA.

But King said a private airport link could not survive without public assistance and that government money would be better spent on improving GO service.

“Personally I don’t know how a rail link could ever be economically successful, unless it was in conjunction with GO Transit,” he said.

A rail link using GO trains connecting at Woodbine might be viable, King said. But Collenette has always preferred a separate airport fleet.

King said, however, that GO owns the lines running in and out of Union Station and that link owners would have to negotiate with the system to get in and out of the station.

But he admits the federal government, under the railway act, could always force GO to open its tracks to a new fleet.