Electrifying News for GO Transit

According to today’s Star, Metrolinx will today announce the commencement of a study of electrification.  Although this had been planned sometime in the future, the dates were vague depending on which report one read.  Indeed, GO seemed to be leaning more to continued diesel operation with a mix of local and express trains rather than using inherently faster electric trains for all services.

This is a great victory for the Clean Train Coalition who will release “The Better Move”, a response to Metrolinx’ Regional Plan, “The Big Move”, at a press conference on Wednesday (May 27).

The West Toronto Chapter of the Professional Engineers of Ontario plans to set up a subcommittee to study the electrification issue, and will hold a meeting on the evening of May 27.  Mike Sullivan from the Weston Community Coalition will be speaking.  The meeting is open to the public, but pre-registration is required.  For information, please see the PEO Chapter’s flyer.

16 thoughts on “Electrifying News for GO Transit

  1. While electrification of the whole network is nice, there is too much a vested agenda being pushed through (Society of Professional Engineers etc.) A diesel train is still better than 3000 cars (pollution wise) so the “harmful effects of diesel pollution” seems like a red herring to me.

    Their other two agenda items also seem to have nothing to do with “Clean trains” unless they have some other definition of clean trains.

    GO needs to focus on electrifying certain lines (not all) and enabling frequent service on other lines first.


  2. So long as such a study includes the principal benefit of such a study: decreased journey times, leading to increased ridership and hence revenue. One (rather old) study I saw didn’t take that into account, and thus found the financial case for electrification to be very poor.

    Fringe benefit of elctrification… GO could then purchase EMUs with the capability to be easily split into trains of four or six cars each. That way, GO could run shorter trains during off-peak periods (saving money). (Or more radically, have something like a Lakeshore East train spliting at Union, with one half going along the Lakeshore West line, and the other half going up to Pearson Airport.)


  3. Somehow I have a feeling Metrolinx is going to find a way to declare electrification would do more harm to the communities than diesel and that running 50 year old Budd RDC’s with new engines will create new jobs, and bring prosperity to the community.


  4. @Saurabh: I have spoken with a number of professional engineers on this issue. It’s the Province, rather than the engineers, that is trying avoid electrification. The Province doesn’t like the cost and time it takes to electrify, and they are ignoring the opinions of profesional engineers for those reasons. Professional Engineers have little vested in the current plans, they have been stating that electrification is the way to go, except for SNC-Lavalin’s engineers. Even Metrolinx engineers, to their credit, support electrification, if only the Province wasn’t getting in their way.


  5. Would CN or CP have to allow electrification of their lines that GO uses?

    Steve: Yes, and the railways have already been involved in previous studies of this proposal.


  6. It does remind me of the GO-ALRT project in the early 80’s (which i learn wasn’t suppose to use ICTS linear induction motor). At least we wouldn’t be here 25 years later only now thinking of electrifying the GO Trains.


  7. Playing devil’s advocate… whenever you are discussing a topic BOTH sides have to be discussed, the good and bad. One thing I see with the electrification issue… let’s take the Georgetown line (ALR/Blue 22) for now:

    Do we not have issues with running out of electricity and having to import far more expensive electricity from out of province? Electrifying will also add such a demand to the electrical network… what year was it that there was that huge blackout (the fault was in Ohio somewhere) it was in August, thank God I was in Europe.

    Steve: You have to get energy from somewhere, and this affects more than trains. The point is that in the long run it is better to develop more electrical generation and distribution capacity than to continue to rely on fossil fuels.

    Another thing is… what is going to happen to the current trains on the Georgetown/Lakeshore lines. I guess we can put them in the other lines… but outside the Lakeshore lines, the trains run inbound to Toronto AM rush and outbound from Toronto PM rush ONLY. There is going to be an awful lot of extra trains.

    Steve: Just look at the GO/Metrolinx plans for increase service over the next decade or so. We need a lot of new trains, and the older equipment can shift to other, non-electrified territory. Even on the Georgetown line, not all trains will be electrified because they will run beyond the end of the electrified section, wherever that ends.

    Ontarians will have to buy new trains, since it is a provincial agency… someone from Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Cochrane, Kenora and Timmins will also be paying for those trains that none of them will ever use them.

    Steve: Just like taxpayers in Toronto pay to support service such as school boards in northern Ontario where the tax base can’t do this locally.

    I am sure “electric” trains cost more than the current ones right now.

    I don’t want to have a blackout again with all these electrification… yes ELECTRICITY will be needed.


  8. There are two reasons to electrify:

    1. You are operating in an environment were fumes are either illegal, Grand Central Station, or dangerous, the Deux Montagnes tunnel.

    2. You run electric multiple unit equipment to gain a 25 to 30 % reduction in running time.

    Number 1 does not apply in Toronto so you need to run EMU’s. The marginal increase that could be obtained by running electric locomotives could be duplicated by using a locomotive at either end for a lot less money. The second locomotive does not need head end electrical power capabilities. Only service making a lot of closely spaced stops would benefit from it.

    The cost to electrify is not insignificant and has been mentioned here before. I will have to look it up again. The initial acceleration make is limited by Newton’s second Law, a = F/m. For a diesel hauled DC motored locomotive that is 25% of 288 000 pounds or 72 000 pounds of tractive effort. For AC motored locomotive it is about 32% of locomotive mass or about 92 000 pounds. Beyond a certain speed, the constant power speed, which varies with locomotive horsepower and train mass, acceleration varies as engine power divided by the product of speed and mass, a = P/(vm) with appropriate units. This simplification ignores the force of friction which would only lower the acceleration. EMU’s can accelerate about two times that which is comfortable to a human and their constant power speed is also higher. This is where the time savings associated with electrification comes from.

    I am afraid that Metrolinx would push electrification but would not be willing to pay for EMU’s and the extra maintenance that they would require with their 92 day inspection cycle. There are a hell of a lot better ways to spend $50 to $90 million than to string overhead for electric locomotives hauling coaches. We are not building “Le Train à Grande Vitesse” but a commuter line where initial acceleration, not final speed, will determine operating speeds. If you are not going to buy EMU’s then do NOT electrify. If you are going to buy EMU’s than by all means electrify.


  9. I’d like to see more on the trade-off. What can we get for the money that it would cost to electrify? I can see it being worthwhile for Lakeshore and probably Georgetown. But what happens when we want to run trains well beyond the electrified corridors? Are our potential savings going to diminish because we have to get hybrid locomotives?

    Also, can we still run mixed traffic? I presume that CN/CP cargo trains and some rush hour GO service in many of these electrified corridors would still use diesel. Would any of the power lines interfere in their operation?

    I support the idea in principle. I’d like to see some more detailed numbers; particularly about the opportunity cost.

    Steve: Yes, there will continue to be diesel hauled trains, including freights, running under the wires. It is likely that electrification will occur only on Lake Shore and Georgetown, and then only to the point where all-day service turns back. For example, if GO starts running all-day trains to Brampton, with peak service (or infrequent offpeak) to Georgetown or beyond, the electrification would end there, and the line would run with a mix of electric and diesel equipment.


  10. The problem with GO Electrification, is similar to nearly every other project, they will spend Billions on studies and 25 years from now when diesel fuel costs more per Litre then to build a kilometre of it today, they will simply commission another study to see if building it back in 2009 would have made sense! As they add more diesel trains to try and deal with the traffic.


  11. Karl Junkin wrote, “It’s the Province, rather than the engineers, that is trying avoid electrification.”

    For sure, this is the same province that would rather take our electricity and use it to make hydrogen that has to be stored in tanks, distributed (by both rail car and by truck), and burned in internal combustion engine-electric locomotives for GO Trains. Anyone recall McGuinty’s press conference on this technology?

    It’s just too simple to take that same electricity and send it over wires to connect with new wires over track that can be picked up by either electric locomotives or by EMU cars.

    Steve: A big problem with technology generally is that politicians are swayed more by hucksters with some new product or process to sell rather than simply using what’s already sitting there but badly understood. Remember ICTS? The magical system “intermediate” between buses and subways that the world would embrace while making Ontario rich? “There’s a sucker born every minute.”


  12. I’m glad to hear that GO is moving forward to electrification. It will be interesting to see how they work the electrification and EMU and bilevel trains all together and Im looking forward to seeing it happen.

    For those who might be interested … this is what happens when you move backwards from electrification because you do not have enough EMU trainsets operating.


    The smiley faced guy is the director of KTMB (Malaysian National Railway) standing on board a diesel loco that is pulling a set of dead KTM Komuter EMUs.

    At least if GO ever has to go that far backwards it won’t look so obvious.

    The director of KTMB was smiling but that sight sure made me want to cry.

    tw. twitter.com/transitmy


  13. Reasons to electrify Georgetown:

    Metrolinx is building the busiest diesel corridor on the planet, with nearly 500 trains per day at some spots. The pollution created is illegal, even in lax Ontario.

    The Air-Rail-Link will be the only diesel one in the top 100 cities in the world in terms of population (of which Toronto is 50), except for Dhaka, Bangladesh. So much for making us ‘world class’.

    There are more than 300,000 people within 1 km of the 15 km of these rails in Toronto, 30,000 of whom are children.

    GO needs to buy significant numbers of new vehicles to run the services being built. If Diesel, we have 50 more years of exposure to this stuff to look forward to.

    EMU’s, even FRA compliant, can be less expensive than diesel loco-hauled trains. SEPTA’s Silverliners were 2.6M each. Bi-Level coaches are $3M each. GO’s new Tier 2 locos are 5.5M each. Tier 3’s will be more. Therefore a 12 car set is 41.5M if diesel hauled bi-levels and 31.2 M if EMU’s.

    EMU’s can be interchangeable between Air-Link and GO. Locos cannot, as the grades into Pearson are too steep.

    The capital cost of catenary, sub-stations, etc. to Brampton is approx $150 M according to Metrolinx. The GSSE budget is $875M. Electrification is therefore a 17% cost increase.

    As others have noted, EMUS are much more flexible, and accelerate much better, allowing for more frequent stops.

    Steve: An important implication here is that the ARL will be electrified as it represents 140 trains per day in the corridor. At this point, electrification of that service including its stub into Pearson does not appear to be on the table. This removes a huge number of trains from the potential for conversion from diesel.

    Note, btw, that a two or three car train of Budd RDCs has a much different emission than a full-blown locomotive. Not all trains are equal for purposes of calculating total pollution effects.


  14. Any chance that Metrolinx would look at an Electro-Diesel Hybrid such as the Bombardier ALP 46 Dual Power? I think these trains would offer the best of both worlds, Electric power through to the airport split and then they could continue on diesel for the rest of the journey


  15. Metropolitan Dallas Fort Worth has more than 6 million people. DFW handles almost 60 million passengers, almost twice as many as YYZ. How did their airport service get started in about 10 years ago? Budd RDCs. What do they mainly use now? F59PH series + bilevels. (Although to be fair, DFW/Centreport is more like Woodbine Station or Malton GO in terms to proximity to the terminal)

    I don’t disagree with the notion of electrification at all. I think if Metrolinx were told that train movements in the corridor could not exceed certain amounts until electrification was put in place the public would find that reasonable, not least since to my mind we’ll be waiting a long time for the 460 movements to happen, even longer than to put 25kV into Union and 25kV substations and catenary into west and northwest Toronto.

    However, electrification can’t be a way of stopping or delaying this project. Mr. Sullivan’s organisation demanded a tunnel – they have gotten their way on that, albeit with pedestrianisation of John St. They demanded a full station and it looks like they are certainly going to see an improvement in service. They attempted to whip up anxiety about the Strachan separation but despite Metrolinx’ attempt to throw their weight around, an acceptable deal looks likely there too.

    Is it unfair that Weston bears this load? Perhaps. But Liberty Village will have all of that plus Milton and Lakeshore West to the south. Danforth has Stouffville and Lakeshore East and god willing more VIA. Rexdale and Malton have A380s landing over their heads as of this week. Etobicoke has the Gardiner, 427, Lakeshore and Milton. Electrification and Transit City is going to mean more requirement for electrical power when the Province is already having trouble imposing new generation on various GTA communities to maintain existing output while closing Nanticoke. This isn’t a drop-in fix and in the meantime we need to get started on holding the line on, and gradually increasing the modal shift to transit between Union and the northwest GTA.


  16. Some perspective needed- grossly over-inflated numbers like “the world’s busiest diesel operated (line)” is quite wrong. One need only look at London’s terminals (UK) to see the constant parade of 125’s, DMU’s, DEMU’s etc to know that ours would only be fractional at best. That being said, It seems electrification (overhead, AC) is by far the best way to go. As for the expenditure of “new” equipment, am I not right in believing that the lozenge shaped Go car trucks were designed to take traction motors, so the idea of EMU trains can’t be that far off. Further, the locomotive design which Via now has (Genesis) is the same as those used by Antrack, some of which are equipped (albeit with DC pickup like our subways) for use in the tunnels in New York. So, folk, chin up- the future isn’t so bad!!!


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