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GO examines options for going electric

by Tim Foran

GO Transit is considering going electric…at least partially. Metrolinx staff will release six options to electrify all or part of GO’s seven train corridors through Toronto at its board meeting Tuesday, Nov. 16. The six options will be compared not against the status quo but rather a “base case”, which assumes an increase in train service but using cleaner diesel locomotives than are used currently. The non-diesel options that will be examined include:

  • Electrifying only the Lakeshore East and West lines, which run through East York/Scarborough and Etobicoke respectively as well as Toronto. This project, which would allow GO to run up to 10 trains hourly in peak periods, is already considered an unfunded priority by Metrolinx and a consultant has determined it has a high benefit to cost ratio. A moderate implementation of the project would cost $1.8 billion, according to the consultant’s benefits case anaylsis.
  • Electrifying only the Georgetown line, which runs through Toronto, York and Etobicoke. The obvious benefit to electrifying this corridor is that it will be used by Metrolinx’s Pearson Airport to Union Station air-rail link, which is scheduled to stop in both Weston and Bloor (beside Dundas West Station). The link would see 140 trains daily running downtown from the airport in time for the Pan Am Games in 2015.
  • Electrifying both the Lakeshore and Georgetown corridors.
  • Electrifying the Lakeshore, Georgetown and Milton lines. Adding a track and improving infrastructure to allow for all-day, two-way train service on the Milton corridor, which runs through Toronto and Etobicoke and which stops at Kipling Station, has a high beneft to cost ratio because it services Mississauga.
  • Electrifying the Lakeshore, Georgetown, Milton and Barrie lines. Adding a track on the Barrie corrdior, which runs through Toronto, York and North York, to allow for all-day, two-way train service has the same high benefit to cost ratio as it does for Milton.
  • Electrifying GO’s entire train network, including the Stouffville (via Markham) line which passes through Toronto and Scarborough and the Richmond Hill line, which cuts through Toronto and North York. However, running all-day, two-way service to Markham and Richmond Hill had lower benefits to cost ratios than doing the same on the Lakeshore, Barrie and Milton lines.

“It is important to note that the discussion about the preliminary findings and the conclusion work is still underway and will not be presented at this (board) meeting,” said Vanessa Thomas, a spokesperson for the provincial transportation agency Metrolinx. Currently, GO Transit uses diesel locomotives designated Tier 2, an emission standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States. However, the base case assumes GO will upgrade to Tier 4 locomotives, which emit 80 per cent less particulate matter and 90 per cent less nitrogen oxide compared to the current Tier 2 trains.

However, the Clean Train Coalition, which is fighting for the electrification of the air-rail link, is planning a demonstration at the Metrolinx board meeting.Electrification of the Georgetown corridor must be the number one priority for Metrolinx and for the government of Ontario, the coalition said.

For more information on the board meeting, and to obtain the electrification study update, visit