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A Clean Train response to Metrolinx electrification EPR

On October 11, 2017, Metrolinx and Hydro One released the Environmental Project Report (EPR) for the GO Rail Network Electrification Project. The report was the result of many months of study and public consultation. The public had until November 9 to respond to the completed report. Below is the response from the Clean Train Coalition, which supports the EPR but warns of the recent interest in hydrogen-fuelled trains, which could further delay electrification.

9 November 2017

Hon. Chris Ballard
Minister of the Environment and Climate Change

Hon. Kathleen Wynne

Hon. Steven Del Duca
Minister of Transportation

Adam Sanzo
Project Officer
Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change

James Hartley
Manager, Environmental Programs and Assessment
Metrolinx – GO Transit

Patricia Staite
Environmental Planner
Hydro One Networks Inc.

Dear Minister,

Electrification public meetings in November

weneedelectrictrainsNov. 6, 2016: While not the start of the formal environmental assessment process for electrification, Metrolinx is holding several public meetings in the Greater Toronto Area in November to provide an update on plans to electrify the GO rail transit lines.

The full schedule is posted on the GO Transit electrification page. It’s also posted on the official notice [PDF].

The formal environmental assessment, called the Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP), is a requirement for electrification work to actually begin. The TPAP was supposed to start last July and conclude this past October. However, Metrolinx says the process has been delayed due to local concerns about the location of traction power facilities, which are being worked out.

Metrolinx has not announced a new date for commencement of TPAP.

Clean Train Coalition calls on Ontario government to fulfill electrification commitments

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:

Open letter to Metrolinx: How to fix UP Express

December 2, 2015

Mr. J. Robert S. Prichard
Metrolinx Board of Directors


Mr. Bruce McCuaig
President and Chief Executive Officer
97 Front Street West
Toronto ON M5J 1E6

Attn: Kathy Haley, President, UP Express

cc. Premier Wynne, Minister Del Duca; Mayor Tory

Re: Union Pearson Express

Dear Mr. Prichard and Mr. McCuaig,

Toronto’s north-west needs a public transit line that accessible, affordable and sustainably electric.
Unfortunately, the Union Pearson Express is not on track to deliver on any of these counts. As is well documented since the opening day, it is overpriced, under-used, too oriented toward marketing a commuter “airline experience”, and employs vehicles that will need to be converted in some fashion to handle transit ridership needs and electrification.

UP Express producing more CO2 than it’s saving

3 Oct. 2015: One of the promises of the diesel UP Express rail link to the airport is that it would save greenhouse gas emissions by taking car trips off the road.

But calculations by the Clean Train Coalition show that UP Express is producing more CO2 than it’s saving at current operating levels of only 2,500 riders per day.

The Clean Train Coalition estimates UP Express trains produce 318,928 lbs of CO2 per week (see assumptions below). At the current 10% ridership levels, the trains save 240,452 lbs of CO2 per week, assuming each rider would otherwise take a private car, taxi or Uber to the airport.

At that rate, UP Express produces a net excess of 78,476 lbs per week of CO2.

UP Express would need to increase current ridership by 40% to offset the amount of CO2 produced by car trips.

Clean Trains Railbender Oct. 8, Indie Ale House

As many predicted, the business plan for the diesel UP Express trains appears to be in tatters. As widely reported, trains are running at less than 10% capacity. UP Express is turning into a social justice and public transportation fiasco.

The question now is: How can UP Express be transformed from a taxpayer-funded, carcinogenic express rail service for a select few who can afford the premium fares, to a true electrified urban transit system connecting Toronto’s two biggest employment zones — downtown and the airport — to transit-starved communities along its route. At affordable fares. Like Vancouver.

Join us to discuss at the next…
Clean Train Railbender, Thursday, Oct. 8, from 7 p.m. onwards at the Indie Ale House, 2876 Dundas St. West, at Keele Street in the Junction.

From The Globe and Mail, 23 Sept. 2015:

March for clean trains July 5, 1 p.m., Queen’s Park


Dig out those old “Dirty Diesel” placards… a major march is brewing for climate change, social justice and jobs, issues close to the hearts of clean trainers.

The march takes place Saturday, July 5, 1 p.m. from Queen’s Park to Allan Gardens, led by, TTCRiders and many others in advance of the Climate Summit of the Americas in Toronto the following week. ‪#‎CSOTA‬.

Register online at

The momentum for electrified rail transit is strong thanks to the work of many groups and individuals, but it’s not a done deal till the first wires go up. Join the march! Thousands will be there.

Gas-o-Meter for June 27, 2015


UPExpress Greenhouse Gas-o-meter2

Clean train colouring contest winners announced June 1 at Queen’s Park rally for electric trains

A student entry in TTCRider's Clean Train Colouring Competition. More than 140 students at 12 schools participated

A student entry in TTCRider’s Clean Train Colouring Competition. More than 140 students participated

19 May 2015: Our good friends at TTCriders are using a Clean Train Colouring Competition to send a big, bold, creative and beautiful group message to our elected officials asking them to say yes to clean trains, lower fares, and more stops for the new Union Station to Pearson Airport train line.

The diesel service with only four stops and a $27.50 regular adult one-way fare starts June 6.

The student winners of the Colouring Competition will be announced June 1 at 9:45 a.m. at a special rally urging elected officials to do the right thing for our health and the environment in the lead-up to World Environment Day and Clean Air Day.

Rally For Clean Trains and Clean Air
Monday, June 1, 9:45 p.m.
Queen’s Park, Toronto, at the corner of College and University
All invited! Please rsvp

Ontario’s Electric Budget

Moving Ontario Forward plan from the 2015 Ontario Budget

Moving Ontario Forward plan from the 2015 Ontario Budget

An Electric Budget

Toronto, 2 May 2015:   Pinch us!

From a battle begun by residents of Weston in 2005, who were and still are deeply concerned by dangerous increases in dirty diesel train exhaust, to the top-priority item announced in last month’s Ontario provincial budget, the realization of electrifying commuter rail traffic in Toronto is finally in sight. The Clean Train Coalition (CTC), which grew out of the Weston battles a decade ago, today applauds the Provincial government for committing hard dollars to the electrification project in the new budget.

“After many years of pushing our Provincial government to electrify the Georgetown, now Kitchener, Corridor, we are cautiously optimistic that we will finally see this come to fruition in the near future,” says Suri Weinberg-Linsky of Weston and the CTC. “As well, north-west Toronto needs a rapid transit line connecting it to the downtown that the new UP Express does not accomplish: one that runs frequent affordable service, stops in neighbourhoods and is well integrated with other transit routes so that the public can access the transit system network.”

A good week for electrification: Toronto council votes, Metrolinx shops for electric trains

10 February 2015

The vast majority of Toronto City Councillors spoke out today in favour of electrifying 19th-century rail corridors under Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack transit proposal.

The plan overlaps with Ontario’s Regional Express Rail proposal, both of which rely on electrifying GO rail corridors that now employ polluting, carcinogenic, costly, slow and noisy diesel trains.

Toronto Council voted to spend an additional $1.65 million on feasibility studies for SmartTrack. But councillor speeches talked broadly about the benefits of the plan to maximize existing rail corridors for a modern transit system reaching across Toronto and integrated into TTC networks.

Meanwhile, Toronto Star reporter Tess Kalinowski reports that provincial transit agency Metrolinx, which runs GO, has “started shopping” for electric trains. “The provincial agency is looking for manufacturers of electric locomotives, dual-mode (hybrid) locomotives and electric multiple-unit trains (featuring several engines through the length of the vehicle),” she reports.

Clean Train update: On the path to electrification

From Rick Ciccarelli, Chair, Clean Train Coalition, 14 December 2014:

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. 

Following our board meeting last month, the Clean Train Coalition has been very active through the OUR UNION PEARSON campaign organized by TTC Riders and through our plans for engaging with Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack proposal that requires electrification of the existing rail corridors. 

OUR UNION PEARSON includes the Toronto Airport Council of Unions, Greater Toronto Workers Assembly, Social Planning Toronto and CTC, as well as TTC Riders. Please circulate the petition and campaign materials.

The OUR UNION PEARSON campaign was launched with pamphleteering and petition-signing at Pearson airport, Weston GO Station, Dundas West subway station and Union Station on December 3.

The environmental group Green 13, actively supporting both CTC and OUR UNION PEARSON, also issued a letter campaign to Mayor John Tory, Metrolinx Chair Rob Prichard and Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig, Premier Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca, and to elected officials along the Union-Pearson corridor. 

MEDIA ADVISORY: Clean Train and Our Union-Pearson announcement on SmartTrack Dec. 8 at 10:30 a.m.


Clean Train Coalition and OUR UNION PEARSON to make announcement on Toronto’s SmartTrack and Affordable Fares

Date: Monday December 8, 2014
Time: 10:30 am
Location: Toronto City Hall Press Gallery Office Lounge, 1st floor City Hall

Rick Ciccarelli, Clean Train Coalition
Sean Smith, Toronto Airport Union Council
Jessica Bell, TTC Riders

Clean Train Coalition has joined efforts with Toronto Airport Council of Unions, TTC Riders, Greater Toronto Workers Assembly and Social Planning Toronto to advocate for OUR UNION-PEARSON.

OUR UNION-PEARSON calls on all levels of government to make the rail corridor between Union Station and Pearson Airport a public transit line that provides frequent, electrified, multi-stop service across the City’s north-west and has TTC level fares within Toronto’s boundaries.

The airport train that airport workers can’t use

The Ontario government’s plan for the Union-Pearson Express is coming under increasing criticism for its high-fare, premium-service business model. The line was funded with $456 million in taxpayer dollars.

The Clean Train Coalition has joined with other groups denouncing the airport train that airport workers can’t afford to use. (See the video.)

The new Our Pearson Coalition is calling for an affordable, electric train to the airport instead of the forthcoming diesel service for the 1%. Coalition members include TTC Riders, Toronto Airport Council of Unions, Social Planning Toronto and the Greater Toronto Workers Assembly.

Sign the Coalition’s petition for an affordable, electric service!

UP Express fares are expected to be in the $20-$30 range, based on its business plan already criticized by Ontario’s Auditor-General for being unrealistic.

Orders to electrify, good. More diesel cancer trains, bad

The good news: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has given Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca clear instructions to “provide 15-minute, two-way electrified service” over 10 years on GO commuter rail as “the cornerstone of our government’s transit plan,” as outlined in the “mandate letters” to Cabinet ministers released today (25 Sept. 2014).

Furthermore, the mandate letter to Glenn Murray, Minister of the Environment (and former Minister of Transportation), instructed him to move forward on “an action plan to help our government achieve its greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020.” Murray is also instructed to work with “with business, industry and partner ministers to provide Ontarians with better information about chemicals linked with cancer.”

In more encouraging news, Metrolinx announced this week it had purchased 53 km of rail corridor from CN. The “Guelph line” runs from Georgetown to Kitchener. With Metrolinx now owning this line, it should make electrification of GO rail services easier to accomplish.

New health study points to emission-caused premature deaths

Yet another health study points towards the urgent need to move away from dirty diesel trains towards clean electric trains.

A new study from Toronto Public Health shows that emissions from transportation are a leading cause of premature deaths in Toronto.

The study showed that a minority of vehicles cause most of the pollution. While the study focused on road vehicles, Dr. Monica Campbell, director of health policy at Toronto Public Health, wants attention paid to truck traffic, the majority of which is powered by diesel engines.

The World Health Organization has labelled diesel emissions as carcinogenic, on the same level as asbestos and mustard gas.

Ontario’s electrical authorities have indicated an electrified Union-Pearson Express (which will start as a diesel service in 2015) can easily be supplied with existing electrical resources. Ontario is also in discussions with Quebec regarding the importation of more clean hydro-powered electricity from low-cost Quebec sources.

Wynne already wavering on electrification?

The Clean Train Coalition congratulates the Ontario Liberal party on its June 12, 2014 election victory, with its promise to electrify the province’s existing (and planned) carcinogenic diesel commuter train services.

But mere days after the provincial election, an article in The Toronto Star would suggest Metrolinx is sending messages intended to lower expectations for electrification of the Union-Pearson Express train (and GO trains generally).

The Liberals promised to electrify the carcinogenic, slower, louder and more expensive diesel train service as part of their election budget.

The opportunity to electrify the new Union-Pearson Express from the beginning is narrowing fast. Once the diesel trains are running before the Pan Am Games (presuming construction and manufacturing schedules can be met), there will be limited time during off-hours to make the necessary modifications.

Ask your provincial candidates: where do they stand on electrification?

Table comparing Toronto's diesel rail service to the airport vs Vancouver's better electric rail service

The forthcoming and contentious Union-Pearson Express rail link is designed as a premium, high-fare service ($15 – $25 one-way) to carry a select few to the airport.

The train will cut through some of Toronto’s highest-needs neighbourhoods without stopping to offer local service or public transit to employment areas such as the the airport or downtown.

It will be largely hidden behind 16-foot-tall concrete noise walls, while leaving behind carcinogenic diesel exhaust.

An electrified Union-Pearson Express, like Vancouver’s Canada Line, would be cheaper to operate, non-polluting, quieter, and create the opportunity for more stations with faster stopping- and-starting trains.

Ask your provincial candidates in this election campaign:

• Should social justice be a consideration in transit planning?
• Does your party support electrification of the Union-Pearson Express?

• Does your party have a concrete plan, with deadlines and funding, to electrify the Union-Pearson Express?