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No time to convert air-rail train to electric by 2015 - Toronto Star

16 November 2010
Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter
The Toronto Star


People protest GO decision to go with diesel trains along the Georgetown line outside the Metrolinx meeting on Tuesday. The transit agency is expected to finalize a 36-month delivery of vehicles by Feb. 6.

Protesters who picketed the Metrolinx meeting on Tuesday, demanding a halt to plans to buy diesel trains for the Pearson airport run starting in 2015, weren’t given any hope by GO Transit president Gary McNeil.

In what’s thought to be the first definitive statement on the issue, McNeil told the Metrolinx board there simply wouldn’t be time to electrify the new airport service by the time of the Pan Am Games even if that was determined to be the best course of action.

Five years isn’t long enough to obtain all the environmental approvals, ground the track and hang the wires, he said. And electric trains might need six to nine months of track testing before the public could ride them.

A big obstacle would be the need to locate a hydro substation near the track, said McNeil. “A lot of people don’t want a substation in their neighbourhood.”

McNeil said eight to 10 years might be a reasonable timeframe for electrifying the line. “It’s not 20 years, but it’s not five years from now,” he said.

The Clean Train Coalition, a group of residents living along the Georgetown GO line, where airport trains would run 20 hours a day, say it makes more sense to electrify the airport link from the outset, rather than convert it later. About 50 protested outside the Metrolinx meeting, demanding Premier Dalton McGuinty order Metrolinx to halt plans to run diesel trains up the Georgetown GO line and the 3-kilometre spur into the airport.

“The Pan Am Games are the premier’s reason for doing this so fast. But the Pan Am organizers have said these games are the first ones to be green and sustainable,” said coalition spokesman Mike Sullivan.

The coalition says ridership on the air-rail link — estimated at about 5,000 a day in the first five years — would mean higher emissions levels per person than if all those riders drove their cars to the airport.

Metrolinx says the coalition’s numbers are based on older technology. It confirmed yesterday that it is negotiating with Sumitomo Corp. to piggyback on a purchase of trains by California’s Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, for up to 18 trains. Combining engine and coach in one car, the new trains would meet stringent “Tier 4” emissions standards and be convertible to electric down the road. They would emit 13 per cent fewer greenhouse gases per rider to begin with, and 75 per cent less once the trains are running at capacity.

The cost of electrification won’t be known until a $4 million Metrolinx study is released in January. Its estimates are expected to be lower than earlier suggestions of $5 billion to $10 billion for the whole system, because the study will separate the cost of electrification from that of ongoing improvements.

Meanwhile, an environmental group is calling on mayor-elect Rob Ford not to abandon the Transit City plan, saying light rail is not only greener but cheaper than alternatives.

“From the perspective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the most effective way of doing it, per dollar spent, is through light rapid transit,” said Franz Hartmann, executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance. “It’s the best from an environmental perspective and it’s the best from a financial perspective.” In the campaign Ford said he would add buses and extend subways instead of buying streetcars and wants to halt a provincially funded plan to build light-rail lines.

The TTC has already ordered 204 streetcars to replace its current fleet at a cost of $1.2 billion, and Metrolinx exercised an option to purchase more than 180 LRT vehicles for the Transit City lines last June.

As originally published here: http://www.thestar.com/article/891679--no-time-to-convert-air-rail-train-to-electric-by-2015


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