GO Electrification & Air Rail Link Updates (Update 2)

Updated Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 5:10 pm: Metrolinx today announced that it will be ordering DMUs from Sumitomo, piggy backing on the Sonoma-Marin order.  The statement, which is available in full on the Metrolinx site, includes:

Metrolinx will be entering into formal negotiations with Sumitomo Corporation of America to exercise an option from the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (California) procurement contract to purchase up to eighteen (18) highly efficient Diesel Multiple Units (DMU’s). These vehicles will meet stringent Tier 4 emissions standards and will be convertible to electric for the Air Rail Link.

Updated Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 3:30 pm: Information on the proposed Sonoma-Marin “SMART” Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) acquisition has been linked from this article and the price per unit cited by me in the original text has been corrected.  See the section on the ARL for updates.

The original article (as amended) from November 12 follows below.

On Tuesday, November 16, the Metrolinx Board will receive updates on the GO Transit Electrification Study and on the status of the Air Rail Link to Pearson from Union Station.

The Electrification Study has been underway through 2010 and it has produced a number of background reports.  I will leave the truly keen readers to plough through all of this, but a few high points deserve mention.

  • Electric locomotives are the most cost-effective option for GO services
  • The most value-for-money comes from electrifying entire corridors

That electric operations are better for GO is no surprise to anyone who has watched the growth of electric railways worldwide.  Sadly, GO has decades of saying “no” to electrics on the grounds that investment in better service trumped investment in technology at the service levels then in effect.  With the proposals found in The Big Move, this position is no longer valid.

The study workshops have seen vigourous debate on the issue of locomotives vs a fleet of electric multiple units (EMUs).  It is cheaper to haul longer trains of coaches with one electric locomotive than to power each car in a train.  However, this places a limitation on acceleration and speed between stations because the locomotive must do all of the work.  (Only the locomotive’s wheels provide the power for acceleration, and there are limits to the forces that can be transmitted in this manner.)

The finding that full corridor electrification is most cost-effective comes from the high cost of dual-mode locomotives and the operational constraints that would probably exist if only some units had this capability.  Only trains with “off-wire” capability could be dispatched to outer, peak-only parts of corridors.  The study does not review a configuration with a mix of pure diesel-hauled trains with electric trains, although these would have effectively the same operational constraints.

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