At the recent Metrolinx Board meeting, staff presented an overview of planning now underway for the future of Union Station. One background report addressed the future levels of GO, VIA and other services at Union and the surrounding rail corridors. This report makes interesting, if unsurprising, reading because it confirms what anyone with even a modest understanding of railway operations already knows: there are severe capacity constraints at Union as it is now configured and operated. Too much discussion focuses on a bright future of frequent service without considering how we will fit all the trains and passengers through the hub of the network.
The full report is not online at Metrolinx, but I have obtained a copy. Due to its size, I will not link the entire document here. If you just want the highlights, read the Executive Summary. For more details including a description of the evolving simulations of various levels of service, read the main report.
The study considered various scenarios corresponding to stages in the growth of GO and other services over coming decades:
- Base Case: The existing service at Union, including a reservation of two tracks out of service for the reconstruction project. This was used to calibrate the model.
- 2015: Construction at the train shed is completed giving two more tracks for service. The only new peak hour service beyond the base case would be a few VIA trains and the Air Rail Link.
- Electrification study base case: This configuration was used as a starting point for the recent electrification study, and it assumes two-way service on all corridors. Three variants of this were tested to refine operations and remove constraints triggered by service at a much higher level than today.
- Maximum capacity: This configuration attempted to maximise service on all corridors.
The study concludes that significant changes will be required both in the physical plant (track, signals) and in train operations which will have to be managed considerably more tightly than today.