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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.

The bad news: diesel cancer train traffic will double along the Kitchener corridor when increased GO service is introduced to Kitchener by 2016.

That does not include the increased carcinogenic diesel exhaust load created by the new UP Express trains between Union Station and Pearson running every 15 minutes (or a train passing by every 7.5 minutes) on the same corridor, beginning next year. The first new cancer trains have already arrived in Toronto. And as many news articles have pointed out, most residents along the diesel-choked corridor will not have access to UP Express due to high premium fares and few stops.

In a health study no longer on the Metrolinx website, Metrolinx identified the area around the Bloor and Dundas GO/UP Express stop as being the most exposed to increased health risks on the corridor, due to heavy rail traffic and idling diesel engines. (“Receptor 41”).

The Clean Train Coalition joins with Premier Wynne in urging the Liberal government to electrify commuter rail services as quickly as possible to mitigate the harmful effects on human health, the environment, and also future government budgets, since electric trains are cheaper to operate than diesel.

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