Metrolinx on track to provide all-day GO train service by 2024
by Helen Hall
October 4, 2017
While all-day two-way GO trains are on schedule for 2024, Kitchener city council is hoping they arrive early.
Kitchener city council received an update from Metrolinx transit agency at its September 25 meeting.
“One of the largest infrastructure projects that is going on in North America right now is the Regional Express Rail System for GO,” said Gord Troughton, Metrolinx Director of Infrastructure for the Kitchener Corridor.
The system is being built in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH), which is the region of southern Ontario that wraps around the western edge of Lake Ontario, with Toronto in the centre. It covers 32,000 square kilometres reaching from Peterborough to Niagara region.
It is home to two-thirds of the population of Ontario and nearly one-third of the population of Canada.
Troughton said Metrolinx will be constructing 150 kilometres of new track, purchasing new electric trains, building new bridges and tunnels, and renovating and building new GO stations.
Troughton said the Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge area is growing at a rate of 5.5 percent, which is higher than the national average.
Troughton is in charge of the infrastructure for GO trains on the Kitchener Corridor, which runs between Union Station in Toronto and downtown Kitchener. This stretch is 101 kilometres long, and Metrolinx currently owns 79 percent of the corridor.
Currently, GO has four trains travelling from Kitchener to Toronto from Monday to Friday. Four leave in the early morning and four return at the end of the workday.
One of the biggest challenges for Metrolinx to have all-day two-way service is finding available tracks. Currently it shares some track with Canadian National Railway (CN) in the Kitchener Corridor.
“We plan to build a freight bypass with CN to open up the tracks for transit,” he said.
The 30 kilometre freight bypass will be built between Brampton and Milton, and will free up track between Bramalea and Georgetown for GO trains.
A train layover station has been built on Shirley Avenue in Kitchener. It is being expanded to include storage for 20 buses, with washing and fueling facilities.
The Kitchener Corridor will have 16 GO stations, including a new one to be built in Breslau.
Kitchener’s GO Transit station will move from its current location on Weber Street West to the new King Victoria Transit Hub, which is currently under construction in downtown Kitchener.
Erin Moroz, Director, Community Relations and Communications of Metrolinx Regional Express Rail, said the transit project is at different stages in different communities along the route. She said Metrolinx accepts feedback from the public at any time - whether they are in the planning or construction stage.
Following the presentation councillor Bil Ioannidis stressed revenue lost in the local economy by not having all-day two-way trains. The Metrolinx presentation said traffic congestion is costing the Golden Horseshoe between $6-billion and $11-billion a year in lost economic activity.
Councillor Scott Davey added that it is not only revenue that is lost, but also productivity time, as people can work on the train.
Councillor Sarah Marsh asked about pedestrian safety at train crossings.
Moroz said the electricity for the trains is in the overhead wires and that Metrolinx follows established safety standards to protect people from coming in contact with them.
Councillor Yvonne Fernandes asked if there was any way to shorten the trip on one of the current trains travelling between Kitchener and Toronto. It currently takes over two hours to travel each way.
Troughton said that Metrolinx will take over the maintenance of the track between Georgetown and Kitchener in 2018, and it may be able to shorten the trip slightly, but not to the 75 minute mark it hopes to achieve when the whole system is completed in seven years.
Fernandes also asked if they expect there will be enough demand for two-way all-day service.
“There is a bit of a tipping point when it (the train) comes often enough,” Moroz said. She said people don’t have to worry as much about the schedule and know if they go to the train station, a new train arrives regularly.
Mayor Berry Vrbanovic agreed with other councillors that they would like to see the train link with Toronto in place sooner than seven years.
He said that, as a growing tech and innovation centre, Kitchener is working collaboratively with Toronto on a bid for Amazon’s new headquarters. He said joining the two communities with a transportation link is an “important part of making that successful.”
A GO bus facility is being constructed by the GO train layover station on Shirley Avenue in Kitchener. It will be able to house 20 buses and have washing and fueling facilities. Photos by Helen Hall
GO trains at the new layover station on Shirley Avenue in Kitchener.
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