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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,

We are writing to wholeheartedly support the recently completed Environmental Project Report (EPR) on GO Rail Network Electrification… and express extreme caution regarding the complementary Hydrogen Feasibility Study.

We are concerned an early infatuation with hydrogen technology, which doesn’t power a single system-wide rail transportation service anywhere in the world, will further delay the necessary electrification of the GO network using proven technology.

The EPR is an impressive document that outlines the many benefits that support your government’s vision of an electrified Regional Express Rail system, and dives deep into the many technical requirements needed to get there.

For more than 15 years the Clean Train Coalition has been arguing for the benefits of traditional electrified rail, a proven technology powering rail networks around the world. It means powering our trains with Ontario-produced electricity rather than relying on imported fossil fuels. Benefits include lower operating costs, quieter trains, faster trains that make 15-minute all-day service possible, and greatly reduced air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions… a demonstrable, measurable commitment to fighting global warming while improving local health outcomes.

Despite assurances from Metrolinx, it now appears the government’s promised schedule for Regional Express Rail is at risk. While there are hydrogen demonstration projects for a technology that has seen very slow adoption rates, there is not a single rail network or transportation network of any kind on the scale of GO that employs hydrogen fuel cell technology.

There is an inherent inefficiency and energy loss in using mass amounts of electricity to make the hydrogen by splitting water, then moving the hydrogen around the network to locomotive refuelling stations, then converting the hydrogen back into electricity with the fuel cells.

Other disadvantages include the need to move the hydrogen, presumably in a new fleet of diesel trucks (additional expense and hazard), and extra weight on the trains which would now need to carry fuel.

Though modern hydrogen use is touted as safe, no doubt opponents will also point out its extremely high flammability. Huge efforts would be required to overcome images of the Hindenburg.

As Metrolinx states, “Whether or not choosing hydrogen will require a new EA will be one of the outcomes of the feasibility study.” This raises the specter of more studies, more delays, more costs, when we already have a plan. A very good plan. Your government’s plan. (And the EA for the Kitchener line (UP Express) was completed two years ago.)

Do not let a shiny new thing delay the 2025 opening of modern, electrified rail service that will add immeasurably to the quality of life and economic vibrancy of the GTA. It’s time to deliver.

Respectfully yours,
(in alphabetical order)
Carlo Ammendolia
Mary Louise Ashbourne
Doug Bennet
Simon Chamberlain
Rick Ciccarelli
Judith Hayes
Mike Mattos
Kevin Milburn
Mike Sullivan
Suri Weinberg-Linsky

For the members, Clean Train Coalition

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