Metrolinx Publishes Electrification Studies

Past studies of electrification together with information on the technology’s use in other cities and countries is now available on the Metrolinx website.

I will comment on this information once I have a chance to digest all of it.

13 thoughts on “Metrolinx Publishes Electrification Studies

  1. Ooh, fancy new website…. (Did that sound sarcastic?)

    The “around the world” page is very poor. The image linking to that page is subtitled “Different electrification systems in use throughout the world”. So, I was expecting a description of overhead vs. third (and fourth) rail systems, the different volatges used and the pros and cons of each, AC vs. DC, etc., and in particular how they might apply in the Greater Toronto area. That would have been useful. Instead, all we get is list of operators who run elctrified system, with links to their website – and then, not even a page that mentions electrifcation. Plus, the list is far from complete – there are at least ten British train companies that run most of their services with electric trains, and only three get mentioned.

    Interesting quote form the 2008 study (p19) “There are two service extensions (Bowmanville and St. Catharines) currently in the Preliminary Design / Environmental assessment process and these lines will likely be in service by 2015.” Bowmanville we know of – but does this mean regular weekday service to St. Catharines is in the works?


  2. My initial thoughts reading the most recent addendum and the FAQ:

    99% of operators use diesel. This just in – 100% of commuter rail operations use trains. The question is what percentage of SERVICE is electric, Metrolinx!

    The decision to count sets as 10 rather than 12 “so the forecast won’t be exceeded” seems weak to me. So does a decision to evaluate a 220km/h regional low entry 100 seat/car 2-3 unit EMU for performance purposes rather than a high floor North American commuter EMU. That said, if VIA wanted to get a few Coradia Duplexes for London-Kingston or Ottawa-Montreal I’d say giddy up.

    “We weren’t allowed ask CP/CN what they thought” – that’s inspiring. Why not?

    6 tracks from Mimico to Scarborough GO? I guess that means bye-bye to the advert-garden along the Gardiner then, hello retaining walls.

    The conversion process could split the network into express and local, with local electric terminating in Aldershot/Oshawa and MP40s doing the expresses and continuing out to Bowmanville/St. Catherines, given that the main reason the electric sets gain on the diesel is in acceleration out of stops. A system wide electrification plan might also position a new yard or yards differently.


  3. The latest report lets the genie out of the bottle on the looming capacity problems at Union Station that nobody seems to believe will be a problem. The report states that about 7 tracks (give or take a track) will be needed for the exclusive use of Lake Shore services. That’s half of Union Station occupied at peak from two corridors out of 7 (8 if you include Bolton), instantly. The pretending that this problem doesn’t exist needs to end. The Union resto. and reno. project doesn’t address track level vehicular capacity issues, only passenger capacity issues.

    It also stated that it was assumed that all trains will operate through Union Station in the same direction as they arrived (i.e. any train that enters from the west will leave to the east), which I have to wonder whether or not that is possible when it comes to non-revenue movements, which were not part of the study.

    I’d be particularly interested in a study on what the impacts would be of Union Station navigation if most GO traffic was EMU. The study clearly stated that they have a speed advantage in operations, but only measured it over longer distances. I’d be interested to see if that also applies for Union Station, considering that time savings are likely mostly coming from station service factors.


  4. Why don’t they use third rail technology for electrification? Although you would have to fence everything off, wouldn’t it still be cheaper then overheads. Plus it would be less of an visual intrusion then over heard wires, which looks messy and to honest … ugly. I would suggest they use subway like cars for the electrification project.

    This would be similar to San Francisco’s BART system.

    Steve: The rail corridors, unlike BART, are shared with the freight railways as well as VIA. Under a variety of circumstances, crews and even passengers need to be able to walk around on the tracks. Grade crossings would be a particular problem. BART was built as, in effect, a regional rapid transit system with its own corridors.


  5. Re third rail:

    From my understanding the cost savings are also at best marginal over catenary. My feeling is that problems with freight clearance and track level safety are entirely solvable, but that there is no good reason to go that way. Consider that overhead is the only thing approaching a standard for North American electrification, that third rail is much more vulnerable to weather and that all corridors seriously proposed for electrification are also candidates for high speed rail in the reasonably near future (which cannot use third rail).


  6. The requirement for 6-8 platforms at Union Station to handle AM peak Lakeshore traffic is clearly ridiculous. Once other GO services are included, this would leave no room at all in Union Station for VIA services. These are subway-like frequencies here and clearly the only solution is to dramatically reduce dwell time, and the interval between trains arriving at any given platform, to minimize the number of platforms required. I can’t see how this can be done in the existing Union Station given the very narrow width of the platforms and insufficient number of stairs and escalators to load and unload trains. At these kind of frequencies, I think that the only solution is to build a new station dedicated to regional express service with wide, subway-like platforms to minimize the dwell time necessary. Unfortunately this would probably have to be underground due to lack of space.


  7. Andrew MacKinnon I agree with your suggestion … probably something that you would see at Penn Station in NYC.


  8. K: The main problem with third rail, even if you can keep people off the tracks, is that it can only handle relatively low voltages before the electricity starts arcing over to the tracks. This means that substations have to be frequent, and there isn’t enough power to run fast or heavy trains. Plus, as NCarlson says, the third rail is more vulnerable to weather effects. No one uses third-rail power for serious new regional or intercity services.

    This became an issue when British Rail was privatised. Two of the franchises in the south-east went to a French company, who assumed that the third-rail electrification there was capable of everything that France’s overhead wiring system (which is also used on most electric railways north of London) could do. They promised to alleviate congestion by running longer trains, only to discover that there literally wasn’t enough power.

    If we’re going to go to the trouble of electrifying the main-line railways, we should definitely be using overhead wires – and hopefully we can use the same voltage as Montréal so as to allow for an eventual joined-up system.


  9. If third rail is so bad, why use it at all? Is it a space issue in subway tunnels?

    Steve: Third rail works fine for subways because, yes, it saves space (which is valuable when you’re building a tunnel), and because the lower voltage used for subways (550V DC in Toronto) requires much less insulation and clearance than the high voltage (25KV) used for rail corridors. Higher voltages allow substations to be further apart, and that’s important when you are running between urban areas. Each technology has its benefits and appropriate uses.


  10. Third rail is good up to about 1000 V DC and only needs about 10 to 15 cm of clearance. Its major problem is on rights of way with track level loading. The shoe on the platform side would be alive and if someone touched it, then it would be game over. There is also the problem with someone walking on to the track.

    With 25 000 volts AC you need 60 or 70 cm of clearance IIRC. It also has to be about 6.5 m above ground level for safety and to eliminate inductive and capacitive losses to ground. One advantage to having it high is that it is not likely to get snowed in and covered with ice from melting snow.

    I am going to have to do a detailed study of the numbers but I find their data contradictory. In one spot they list the electric locomotives as 92 tonnes with an acceleration of 1.11 m/s squared with a 10 car train. The tractive effort would only give an initial acceleration of 0.33 m/s2. Later they give it a weight of 142 tones which would give a 10 car train an initial acceleration of 0.43 m/s2. Their value of 1.11 m/s2 is the maximum that is comfortable to a standing passenger. They also use the same acceleration for an MP 40 and EMU’s.

    In one spot they list the horsepower of the ALR 46 as 7500 HP then in another as 4000 hp. I wonder if they have analyzed all their data and had a poof reader check the different sections for consistency. Since all their calculations are for 10 car trains it makes the whole report suspect.


  11. I have made it to the appendices, appendix G, and the Bombardier spec sheets list the locomotives mass as 92 tonnes, axle loading of 23 tonnes, and horse power of 7500, 5600 kW. Since they will have AC traction motors this will give an effective coefficient of friction higher than the DC motored diesel locomotives. Their tractive effort would give an initial acceleration of about 0.4 m/s2 or slightly higher than the MP 40’s. GO could get this same acceleration by switching to AC motored locomotives for a lot less money.

    Page 137 gives the ALP’s weight as 147.5 tonnes and its hp as 4000. It would seem to be a different locomotive than the one for NJ transit. It gives a hp/ton rating of 5.3 which is the same as for the current diesels.

    Of more interest is appendix H which compares EMU’s to locomotive hauled trains. The EMU’s have an 11 minute saving each way over the locomotive hauled trains between Union and Hamilton. This is two trains on a 10 minute headway plus crew costs. This could also result in a savings of 2 trains on the run to Oshawa/Bowmanville and two to Mt. pleasant. Six trains sets plus crew is a significant savings not to mention the time for commuters. Also all the calculations are for 10 car trains and running with 12 car trains will slow down the locomotive hauled trains as there is no extra tractive effort for initial acceleration even if they increase the power rating. A 12 car train would have an initial acceleration of about 0.34 m/s2.

    From the diagram of the Alstom cars on page 178 there is no reason that Bombardier could not build the bi-levels as EMU’s. If GO does go with EMU’s then I would humbly suggest that they change the name of the fare card from Presto to Ostrich to show a link to the faster EMU’s.


  12. Robert Wightman said: “If GO does go with EMU’s then I would humbly suggest that they change the name of the fare card from Presto to Ostrich to show a link to the faster EMU’s.”

    So if I stick my head in the sand (a la Metrolinx) will public transit and congestion dramatically improve? 😉


  13. Does anyone know what’s the cost saving by using third rail instead of overhead lines. In Europe I find the average price of installing 1 km of overhead line systems to be about Euro 200,000 (Not including substation costs); can someone give me an ideas as to what would be cost of electrifying 1km of third rail?

    Steve: An important issue is that third rail is not useful for routes where the right-of-way has grade crossings and other opportunities for people to get onto the track. Also, if the line is shared with freight traffic, there is the issue of safety for freight crews if they need to switch cars off onto sidings near electrified trackage.


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