Toronto, 18 Oct. 2016: The Clean Train Coalition is calling on the Ontario government to stick to its commitments to electrify the GO rail network by starting the delayed environmental assessment process immediately.
“We support Premier Kathleen Wynne’s bold plan for electrified, all-day 15-minute GO service through the Regional Express Rail project, and Toronto Mayor John Tory’s related SmartTrack,” says Mike Sullivan, spokesperson for the Clean Train Coalition. “But the government is dragging its feet. The environmental assessment process for electrification was supposed to start four months ago in July. It has not started, there has been no announcement explaining the delay, and there is no word from the government when it will start.”
Transit-based environmental assessments are called Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP). According to Metrolinx, the provincial agency that oversees GO Transit, the TPAP for Regional Express Rail electrification was to have started in July, with a draft report finished for public comment by October 2016.
Metrolinx CEO and President Bruce McCuaig, appearing with Transportation Minister Stephen Del Duca at a transit public meeting in Scarborough in early October, confirmed the TPAP has not started. The GO Transit electrification website has not been updated since March 2016.
“We’re concerned the government is quietly putting the brakes on electrification while continuing to use outmoded, slow, polluting and carcinogenic diesel locomotives and related rolling stock,” said Sullivan. “And although portions of the network, such as the UP Express, could have been electrified by next year, Metrolinx is stalling, saying wait until 2024.” The environmental assessment for UP Express was completed in early 2014. No work has yet begun.
Regional Express Rail hinges on electrification of the Metrolinx-owned rail corridors. Only electric trains, with higher speeds and the ability to quickly accelerate and decelerate, can meet the promise of 15-minute, two-way, all-day service with additional stations. This is the vision of Regional Express Rail and SmartTrack plans to accommodate massive urban growth, relieve congestion in the GTA, address climate change, and make the 19th century rail corridors serve 21st century needs.
In addition to speed, electric trains are cheaper to operate than diesels, run quieter, and would rely on abundant Ontario-generated electricity rather than imported diesel.
Diesel exhaust also adds to greenhouse gas emissions. Every weekday, the Coalition estimates GO trains emit about 207 tonnes of carbon dioxide to GTA’s atmosphere. Metrolinx’s plans to increase diesel-based service by 47% within five years will add an additional 304 tonnes per weekday, or 79,000 tonnes a year (not counting weekends).
Diesel exhaust is also carcinogenic. It is listed in the same category as asbestos and mustard gas by the World Health Organization. According to the Paris-based International Union of Railways, every kilogram of diesel emissions for a suburban train set produces 42.8 grams of harmful nitrogen oxides. Other pollutants include fine particulate matter, volatile organic compounds including benzene, and sulphur dioxide. Metrolinx’s 2009 environmental report on increased diesel traffic on the Georgetown (now Kitchener) rail corridor revealed that neighbourhoods near the Junction and the Bloor GO station are most at risk for adverse health effects due to increased diesel emissions.
About the Clean Train Coalition: