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Protestors upset air-rail link will be diesel

by Jonathan Jenkins
City Hall Bureau

Chanting slogans and waving hand-made signs, about 60 protestors staged a demonstration outside Metrolinx’s Bay St. offices before taking turns occupying the 10 seats set aside for the public at the transit planning agency’s board meeting.

“We wanted to come here to the board to let them understand it’s people that are affected by these decisions,” Keith Brooks, spokesman for the Clean Train Coalition, which organized the demonstration, said.

“It’s not just a plan that takes place on a piece of paper.”

The CTC has been pushing Metrolinx, which oversees GO Transit and is in charge of building the proposed Union Station-Pearson airport rail link, to electrify its diesel rail service, arguing investing billions of dollars into such a project would result in cleaner air and faster service.

Diesel GO trains have been operating in the GTA since 1967 but the community opposition — particularly in west Toronto — arose with plans for a major increase in service on the Georgetown corridor, which runs through the neighbourhoods of Parkdale and Weston.

The Union-Pearson link — which the provincial government has promised will be finished in time for the Pan Am Games in 2015 - will also run through that corridor.

“There’s no excuse for expanding these diesels,” Parkdale resident Rob Fairley said.

“We shouldn’t be stuck with decades of diesel for two weeks of the Pan Am Games.”

At its board meeting, Metrolinx confirmed it is entering into talks with Sumitomo Corp. of Japan to buy up to 18 diesel locomotives for the Union-Pearson Line.

Metrolinx is studying the possibility and cost of converting its system to electric power, and hopes to release an estimate of that cost early in the new year.

But Metrolinx chairman Rob Prichard denied the coalition’s charge that it had been shut out of the electrification study process.

Prichard said the CTC’s submission on the subject was presented to board members and that he and president Bruce McCuaig had spent an hour with representatives before the board meeting.

As well, the coalition was in regular contact with the project manager of the electrification study while it was underway, he said.