Get GOing Electric: Electrifying Airport GO Transit Service

Electrifying the new airport GO Train service that will connect downtown Toronto with Mississauga's Pearson International Airport by 2015 could be the first step in creating an above-ground rail link connecting downtown with the surrounding region, says the Clean Train Coalition.

In a report being released today, the CTC recommends the Ontario government abandon its elite, business-class concept for the Pearson-to-Union Station shuttle and turn it into public transit.

Lower the fares and increase the number of stops, and Toronto could be on its way to a European-style service such as the Berlin S-Bahn or London's Overground.

With a provincial election looming on Oct. 6, the report is intended to hold the Ontario government's feet to the fire on the issue of electrifying the GO system, said said Greg Gormick, who wrote the CTC report that's titled "No Little Plan: Electrifying GO Transit."

Metrolinx, the provincial government agency that's working to provide the Greater Toronto & Hamilton Area (GTHA) with a modern, efficient and integrated transportation system, supports electrification. Its $4 million, year-long study recommends it as a means of providing more frequent, all-day, two-way GO service.

Ontario's Liberal government has also agreed to a $15 million environmental study of electrification on the air-rail link.

But electric train advocates don't trust the government to move.

"These people need to be watched," said Gormick.

The CTC study, funded by rail advocacy group Transport Action and the CAW, also comes at a time when the man who has led the charge on electrification is heading to Ottawa as an NDP MP.

Mike Sullivan says his election this month to Parliament in the riding of York-South-Weston will give him a stronger voice to push for immediate electrification of the air-rail link, a Metrolinx project that is expected to cost about $457 million.

Metrolinx has already contracted to buy diesel trains that it says could later be converted to electric. It says the Georgetown corridor couldn't be electrified in time for the air-rail opening.

Delay is what electric train advocates fear.

In 2001, the government of former Premier Mike Harris passed on the chance to buy surplus electric trains from Mexico that could have run on the Lakeshore East line, according to the report. It would have cost more money up front than buying diesel trains, but saved hundreds of millions of dollars in operating and maintenance costs that could have been plowed back into GO, and attracted more riders and revenue, said Gormick.

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