Metrolinx Mum on Ontario Line Details

A recent Metrolinx blog post extols the virtues of the Ontario Line and the advantages of staying out of underground alignments.

Well, I thought, maybe they are further along in the design and can actually answer some questions about details that have troubled me, among others, for months. I wrote them an email on May 14:


In your recent blog post “The upside of Ontario Line’s upside – How Metrolinx experts are looking to design a Toronto subway that isn’t just confined to dark tunnels” you talk about an elevated alignment on the northern portion of the line through Thorncliffe/Flemingdon, but you state:

“In Leslieville and the Don Lands, the line will run at-grade alongside the existing GO rail corridor, helping to reduce construction impacts.”

One of the issues about this portion of the line has been the question of whether the new trackage would run at the same level as the GO trains, or above them on an elevated structure. This is particularly tricky for the proposed station at Queen Street that requires not just room for the tracks but also for platforms and vertical access to the street below.

Assuming you are still planning to straddle the GO corridor with OL tracks for across-the-platform transfers at East Harbour, this means that there will have to be flyovers/unders where the lines diverge south of Gerrard Station and at the curve north at Corktown.

Here are my questions (some of this is a holdover from the consultation round back when we could still have hundreds of people in a room together):

1. Please confirm whether the OL trackage will be at the same elevation as the GO trackage in the segment between the Don River/East Harbour and the point where the lines diverge at Gerrard Station.

2. How do you plan to handle the need for the eastbound OL track to cross the GO tracks at Gerrard and at Corktown, assuming that you are still planning to have the OL straddle the GO right-of-way? Will the OL eastbound go over or under the GO trackage?

3. How will you handle the station at Queen Street where space is required for platforms and access structures, not just the new OL rails, plus (possibly) one more mainline rail track?

4. Has the requirement for trackage for a possible high speed VIA service leaving Union via Lake Shore East and then the Stouffville corridor been factored into the track requirements yet, and if so, what is the effect?

5. Are there conflicts between a possible GO/Smart Track station at Gerrard and the planned OL structures/station?

6. Has the issue of lateral separation between mainline rail operations and the “lighter” OL vehicles been sorted out? What is the minimum spacing allowed between the two types of service?

Today, May 19, I received the following reply from Nitish Bissonauth, a Media Relations & Issues Specialist at Metrolinx:

Hi Steve,

We have nothing else to provide at this point in time as the project details are still being finalized and the preliminary design business case has yet to be released.

Remember, this is the same Metrolinx that originally expected to have a request for expressions of interest on the street already and a request for proposals in the fall. But they cannot, or rather refuse to answer basic questions that should have been settled long ago. This process has been delayed both by covid-19 and by the reticence of the construction industry to take on the level of risk Metrolinx so fervently wishes to push off of its books.

How people are supposed to intelligently comment with any hope of actual “participation” in the design process is beyond me. This is an organization devoid of any sense of public responsibility answering only to their bosses at Queen’s Park. Fearless Leader doesn’t want surface transit in his Etobicoke bailiwick, but it’s just fine for the folks elsewhere.

It will be amusing to see the pretzel-shaped logic that will appear in the “preliminary design business case” and whether, indeed, it bothers to address the technical challenges of the proposed route. Or will we simply get a line drawn on a map without regard to the local terrain and geography, much like a consultant now working for Metrolinx once did for SmartTrack?

17 thoughts on “Metrolinx Mum on Ontario Line Details

  1. I doubt they have taken into consideration whether or not enough space for mainline rail tracks is being left. Looks like when the Ontario Line plan was decreed by the Premier any consideration of barriers to the project was swept aside.

    Even just two years ago Guildwood station was rebuilt with room for four tracks, if four tracks will be needed there then how can only four be enough through Leslieville? I do also recall seeing past reports and plans for GO electrification anticipating at least six through Leslieville. The shortsightedness with the Ontario Line will bottleneck rail service all the way to Ottawa and Montreal


  2. As I was reading your email list of excellent questions, I was thinking ‘They must hate you!’ for asking such pertinent and obvious queries.

    And then I wondered how they could possibly answer any of them without resorting to [what they said, quote deleted by Steve].

    The Metrolinx gearbox: Any imaginary gear you could ever wish for going forward (reality no object)…but Metrolinx can’t find the gear they really need:


    This was all a fantasy built on an imaginary P3 platform to begin with (and I actually believe in P3, when conducted by adults), and any hope of private investment in a system that’s haemorrhaging turns the fantasy into a auditor’s nightmare.

    Steve: I really look forward to the next time the Provincial Auditor combs through Metrolinx’ books, preferably under a government that will want to know the truth about their schemes, not a lot of flim flam.


  3. How can Metrolinx answer your long laundry list of questions when Metrolinx experts have been asked to self-isolate at home? COVID-19 has pushed back all major transit projects for which shovels are not already under the ground by at least 5 years (at least one year from the lockdown itself and at least 4 years while the economy and the government balance books recover). Transit ridership is also not there to justify any major new transit expansion.

    Steve: If their experts are passing their time anything like me, they should have lots of time to answer the basic questions. As for timelines, if projects are to be delayed, it’s about time we knew what’s good and bad about the designs. That sort of thing can go on isolation or no.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Matt writes:

    COVID-19 has pushed back all major transit projects for which shovels are not already under the ground by at least 5 years (at least one year from the lockdown itself and at least 4 years while the economy and the government balance books recover). Transit ridership is also not there to justify any major new transit expansion.

    Then why didn’t Metrolinx state that in their answer to Steve? IIRC, Metrolinx indicated going ahead on a number of projects. I’ve done a cursory Google, and will try again later in depth, but for now, this doesn’t jibe at all with your statement.

    Work on Scarborough subway extension continues through COVID-19 crisis
    Metrolinx expects to seek tunnelling contract proposals this summer

    Metrolinx, the province’s transit agency, says work on development of the Scarborough subway extension continues, though with some alterations, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “Transit construction projects were considered an essential service by the province, and construction has moved forward on all projects and ensuring the work is done with the health and safety of workers as a priority,” Metrolinx said via email from spokesperson Scott Money.

    Though some timelines have been extended, the agency expects to seek requests for proposals (RFP) for tunnelling by this summer as it had originally planned.

    Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario had issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) for tunnelling back on March 10. The RFQ process is used to whittle down the field of prospective contractors to those that are most suitable for the job. Under original timelines, the RFQ deadline would have closed by now, but has been extended by six weeks until May 29.

    Matt wrote: “Transit ridership is also not there to justify any major new transit expansion”.

    Then I challenge you to produce the ‘business case’ for the SSE *even before the Covid calamity*!

    Steve’s answer to me on “an audit” resonates on many levels. The business case, both in ridership and *willingness for investors to participate* for P3 was in serious question months before present events.

    TorStar reported Jan 20, virtually four months to the day ago:

    GO Expansion plans facing uncertainty as companies raise concerns over P3 procurement model, documents warn

    […][According to documents obtained by the Star, last fall Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario were forced to reconsider the procurement process for the massive expansion, under which Metrolinx planned to dramatically increase GO service across the GTA and deploy electric trains on core parts of the network.

    The GO Expansion plan would effectively transform GO from a commuter railway into an all-day, two-way transit network, with service every 15 minutes or better on core parts of the network. It would enable projected annual GO ridership to reach more than 200 million by 2055, and is seen as crucial to meeting future transportation needs of the rapidly growing region.

    The documents obtained by the Star, which include portions of an internal assessment of Metrolinx capital projects from last fall, show the regional transit agency and Infrastructure Ontario (IO) had to rethink the procurement in response to private sector bidders’ objections about how much financial risk they were being asked to take on through the public-private partnership (P3) being used to deliver it. The documents warned that changing course could delay procurement for the expansion.

    And yet Metrolinx is whistling Dixie on finishing the SSE. Where is the logic?

    Steve: Logic has nothing to do with it. It’s all politics and spin.

    As for risk, that concern predated Covid and the economic meltdown. I think that Metrolinx is on very, very shaky ground now for all of their dreams of private sector financing unless they are willing to pay a huge premium.


  5. When Doug Ford announced the Ontario Line he promised it would be cheaper per kilometre to build than the DRL, and would be completed earlier. I am sure most of us were skeptical that the OL could be both cheaper and completed earlier.

    Here we are, over a year after the announcement, and those key decisions on how and where to add tracks to the existing rail corridor haven’t been made? Does this confirm the project has already slipped from being completed prior to the projected completion date of the old DRL?

    I am reminded of the old engineering joke where the designer tells the client the three things you want in a project (1) cheap to build; (2) completed on time; (3) lasting quality, only to say “Okay, now pick two”.

    Given the opacity of the planning process, so far, I am skeptical as to whether the OL will meet even one of the goals of economy, timeliness or quality.

    Am I correct there has still been no concrete details on the super rolling stock that will carry the same number of passengers per hour as heavy rail, using lighter vehicles, and shorter train-sets?

    Steve: No details yet on anything even though Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario have RFIs out on the street for portions of the work.


  6. I do hope some year there are fiscal conservatives around who really are concerned about value for the tax millions, or billions, as this OL and other follies will become. But an error in Steve’s comment back to Stephen Saines’ – it’s not a ‘they are willing to pay a huge premium’, it’s ‘us’ or the taxpayers. Those who are embarking us upon the billions do not have a single cent of their own $$ in any of the outcomes, not really. So should anyone voting in favour of anything over a billion be obliged to cough up a million of personal wealth in case of over-run? As for more background on the ‘why’ of everything being so costly, (though we do need to spend on transit), this RCCAO report is worthwhile, thanks.

    It also seems really unwise (stupid being another word) to have such big-scale planning when there’s now such a crisis in ridership and thus presumably in revenues with this pandemic, with a set of issues resulting. We very well may need a triage of surface auxiliary routes – not just like a Bloor/Danforth bikeway, but also dusting off older plans for surface-ish transit usage in the Don Valley up to Thorncliffe then Eglinton, but also within the Gatineau corridor. Yes, a pair of routes I’ve been advocating for for maybe 6 years, hoping for sub-regional transit, faster built (and a bit agnostic about mode, but likely clean buses for Gatineau and at least an LRT for any rail in Don Valley, using O-Train eg in Ottawa even). We need relief function in as much new network as possible; Keep It Substantially Surface might be wiser/cheaper, and avoiding the existing rail corridor altogether likely smarter as well. What demand is being served??

    We do have to reduce our GHGs, especially of transit, but we’re not even counting concrete.

    Cyclone Amphan Make Landfall


  7. Several people have referred to this topic since covid-19 began, but I haven’t seen a detailed look at the post covid ramifications. Granted, I’ve been, like many people, distracted by day to day problems, so I may have missed something.

    If not, there needs to be a discussion of the effects on the TTC and Metrolinx, if even 10% of the office workers in the GTA work from home 3 or 4 days a week when this is over. Company executives and workers have both expressed a desire to continue with this arrangement, when feasible.

    The GTA is one of the most expensive cities in North America when it comes to office space, and one of the worst commutes, no matter which ‘alternative’ one uses. This change will be great for the environment, but not for public transit.

    Future planning, at the moment, seems superfluous, when we have no idea of the number of GTA commuters a year from now.

    Steve: There are a few points you raise, and they are intertwined.

    We cannot look at a shift to work-from-home across the entire GTHA because the proportion of office-bound trips transit handles varies from one place to another. Ten percent off the King & Bay daytime population has a bigger effect because over 80 percent of them were transit riders. Fewer at Bloor & Yonge and the proportion drops the further north one goes. And that’s in a major transit corridor, never mind some place like Don Mills.

    There is also the academic population which brings considerable demand to various nodes although again the transit component varies.

    The “worst commute” number is bandied around a lot and I would dispute it again on area-by-area grounds. Some of the worst congestion is on the highway network, notably the 401 which, despite its ever growing size, is packed with vehicles most of the day. These are not core-area commuter trips for the most part, and to the degree that any of them shift to WFH this will not affect the transit system (and probably have little effect on the highways given the latent demand).

    There is also a productivity issue for WFH that is glossed over now because we are in a global emergency, but I cannot see employers accepting part-time focus from home workers who are juggling competing demands. A single person living in their own space might be able to stay focused, but in a family situation, that is much harder.

    At this point it is too soon to know how this will all shake out, and I suspect much depends on the point when there is a reliable vaccine and people can stop worrying about any stranger, or even a close friend, who comes within two metres. People will get by somehow in the meantime, and the question then will be whether there is a transit system for them to return to.


  8. Some good questions posed.

    I think the main basis for the Ontario Line is the flawed belief that the cross-platform transfer is the key.

    Ask yourself, if you are taking GO to City Hall, would you transfer at East Harbour (or Exhibition), or would you transfer at Union. Union is a zoo, with long walk to get from train to subway – so everyone would answer they would avoid Union.

    Now assume the transfers at East Harbour and Exhibition were made super-easy with cross-platform transfer. It would make no difference – people still transfer here and not Union.

    Now assume you are heading to Queen’s Park, would you transfer at East Harbour (or Exhibition), and then again onto Line 1 – or would you make 1 transfer at Union. Everyone would chose 1 transfer over two.

    Now assume the transfers at East Harbour and Exhibition were made super-easy with cross-platform transfer. It would make no difference – people still prefer the 1 transfer.

    The savings from 2.5km of at-grade or elevated transit cannot be much compared to the cost of having portals and additional TBM extraction sites and expropriating land and having fly-over ramps to achieve the cross-platform transfer. If they want to save money, Tunnel from Garrison Common to East Harbour (under 6km). West of there, cut-and-cover roughly under Manitoba Drive. East and North, cut-and-cover across Eastern to Pape, and north to the Don Valley – and then go elevated from there.

    Steve: I suspect that your cure is worse than the disease. Cut and cover construction via Eastern and Pape would be hugely disruptive.


  9. The situation is strange indeed. More than a year since the OL route was first announced, and Metrolinx is still unable to confirm that the line is constructable as planned.

    Two guesses come to mind. One is that they expect to (or hope to) find a private contractor who will do the magic for them, and design a way to thread OL through the area while adhering to all the construction codes.

    Another possibility: they already realized that the consultant sold them one big lemon in 2018/2019, but can’t admit it now since that would make the provincial government look silly. If this is the case, then they will be tempted to drag their feet on OL and Yonge North till mid 2022. Instead they might focus on SSE and Eglinton West, to have some new transit construction in progress in time for the elections. And then even if Ford wins again in 2022, they will quietly change the course and switch to something more similar to the previous Relief Line than to OL, and pretend that’s not a big deal.


  10. I see cut-and-cover as the great equitable solution.

    Look at Eglinton. Those at major intersection suffer greatly for 5 years for excavation and construction of the stations. Those in between areas suffer nothing. Also interesting to note that “stations” make up close to 20% of the line – with spacing of 700m.

    What does cut-and-cover do – it spreads the pain. Now station construction is reduced to maybe 3 years, because stations are so much shallower. Stations are still constructed basically the same way they are on Eglinton. Shore walls (sheet pile or soldier pile with lagging), excavate, put decking above, construct station. Station construction is still a lengthy enough process that traffic must be allowed to flow above during construction. The stations are also not repetitive like the linear tunnels, so all concrete would be cast-in-place.

    In between, there will be some disruption – but still nowhere near as bad as the areas near stations get. Let’s look at a 500′ (150m) section. The road is closed. Sheet piles are driven on either side of the twin tunnels (15 days construction). Earth is excavated to required depth (10 days). Bedding for tunnel is laid (5 days). Precast tunnel segments are installed (5 days). Adjacent segments grouted together (5 days). Tunnels are waterproofed (5 days). Tunnels are back-filled (5 days). Roadway is paved (5 days). This give a time of about 55 days. In reality, activities can overlap (i.e. can start excavating as soon as sheet piles are driven, and don’t have to wait for it to finish) so let’s call it a conservative 50 days. Although, the reality is that this would be more like a moving operation – moving 150m every 50 days, or 20m/week.

    So this means it would take 4.5 years to do the 5 km from East Harbour to the Leaside bridge. Another great advantage of cut-and-cover is that the required equipment is common, and Contractors can easily mobilize. So one crew can start at Pape Station and head north, while another crew could go south from here, cutting the time in half. Also, with TBM, the spoils (removed dirt) must be sent through the tunnels to the ends. This means that station construction cannot begin until the entire tunneling is done. With cut-and-cover, stations can be worked on at any time.

    As the RCCAO Report (referenced above) states – “One sample-case study done for that report found cut-and-cover to be about 60% less expensive overall.” The other benefit of cut-and-cover is the convenience to the rider, as it is built much shallower so the time from street to platform is much less – help with connections and transfers.

    Steve: You assume there are no utilities under the road and one can just drive piles and start digging. In practice there is a lot that has to be carefully dug around and shifted to permit construction (just look at any of the Eglinton station excavations for examples). There is also the question of access to properties (houses) while this is happening. On Yonge Street downtown, the businesses had access via parallel streets/lanes. Things are not that simple along the OL’s proposed route.


  11. I’m glad for the fora and comments; thanks Steve and all. And for finding ‘equitable solutions’ as Walter has in mind, we are of course missing the obvious surface solutions up to Thorncliffe and Eglinton. Yes, an existing transport corridor or corridors, like the Don Valley Excessway – a rather wide, publicly owned to core RoWay, but carving off two lanes for transit??? Not even in this greenhouse century would such an option be seriously considered in Carontop, Ontcario, even though outside-to-North Americar consultants probably could figure out a way to only spend $400 M or less, maybe waaaay less, for some surface transitway, though yes, truly robust transit likely needs heavy rails/infra to be built. But if not the DVP, the spur line beside it, or Bayview, and bypass Riverdale and let them ride bikes as it’s pretty close to the core. And with fairly good connections/bike lanes, though not yet as good as it could be and needs to be.

    Of course, it may not be that simple apart from the carrupt politricks: as Steve rightly observed, just because a road looks clear on surface or on a map, totally disguises the degrees to which all of them contain all sorts of utilities. Somewhere on an old computer, I have an image of dug-out Front St. by Union Station with a total tangle of this/that everywhere, Though a shame when it was dug out, we didn’t actually manage to put in a transit corridor, which would require advance planning/thinking, and yes, all this Ontario Line stuff was in a plan, a 1957 plan, not in 60s, and yes, where is Relief West?

    The TTC had updated their thinking on that E/W line as recently as about 2010 to urge King St. for robust transit – smart, as Queen is too far north for all that demand, or was, as we are all likely fluxed up significantly from this C-19 stuff, except of course it hasn’t really percolated through to some parts of officialdumb, though being smart on the transit file isn’t good for a career, right?

    Steve: Once upon a time, Front Street as you know was to be part of the feeder/distributor road network linking the Gardiner to the core. Even after this scheme was officially dead, when Streetcars for Toronto proposed an LRT corridor on Front for the Union Station connection of the Waterfront Line, there was opposition from the Roads folks at City Hall who had something else in mind.


  12. Serendipity is more than just a pretty singer.

    You’ll note from the aforementioned RCCAO study:

    4 “Canada’s soaring subway construction costs need to get back on track,” Jonathan English and Alon Levy, The Globe and Mail, August 9, 2019. ]

    And that very article is listed as “Related” reference at the end of presently trending Globe articles at this time.

    Both English and Levy are integral with the RCCAO study as well as being authors of the Globe piece, extract as follows:


    In contrast, the median urban subway around the world costs less than $300-million per kilometre. This includes complex projects such as Grand Paris Express, an automated network bored under dense inner suburbs including the office tower cluster at La Défense business district. And Paris is just the median: In cheaper cities such as Seoul, Stockholm and Madrid, urban subways under historic city centres or waterways cost $100-million to $150-million a kilometre. Even the new Ontario Line plan – a transit line in Toronto proposed by the provincial government and meant to cost less than the Relief Line proposal – is still expected to cost $735-million per kilometre, and much of it isn’t even underground.


    Whether this is indicative of hope for change when the Globe as well as TorStar are promoting change remains to be seen. I remain a cynic.

    On an up note, at this time, this is the number one trending article at the Globe.

    Many reader comments aren’t particularly encouraging.

    For the Ontario Line, I’d be just as glad that this Regime drops it altogether, not that it isn’t needed, my thought is much more is needed, this was a half arsed approach to begin with, but from all angles, almost unanimously, we agree that *as is* this is doomed.

    So why can’t Metrolinx et al just admit that, and stop the charade? There wasn’t the money or P3 interest prior Covid, there sure isn’t now.

    I’d stated months prior that I saw some hope in the Cdn InfraBank underwriting a private consortium that would involve VIA and at least one Very Big vertically integrated engineering builder and lender with a German accent using off-the-shelf already developed and proven rolling stock…but some clever foot-work on BBD’s failing railway division might be needed to assemble said stock in Canada.

    So far, the budget for the Infrastructure Bank remains virtually intact. You can bet your bottom booty said Very Big Corp would have nothing to do directly with Metrolinx or the Province after this:


    The German government and multinational companies have taken note of Premier Doug Ford’s decision to pull the plug on wpd AG’s White Pines wind project in Prince Edward County, as well as the bill now before the legislature that will allow the province to set limits on what compensation is provided, Ms. Sparwasser said in a telephone interview.

    “Obviously, every incoming government has the right to change policy direction,” she said. “But to have a unilateral cancellation pushed through by law that way is unsettling for the company, but is also something that will unsettle other potential investors.”


    Ms Sparwasser was and still is the German Ambassador to Canada. Meantime, a parallel case:

    Ontario court quashes government cancellation of eastern Ontario wind farm

    Let’s be honest for anyone clinging to the thought that neurotic castles can be lived in by real people: The OL is dead. Rather than lamenting that, or trying to forage through the imaginary embers, it’s time to look to someone who has the muscle, the pockets and the authority to do this right.

    How would the the TTC and City of Toronto feel about this? lol…how did they feel when Ford and Metrolinx thought uploading the subway was ‘not difficult at all’? This will evoke howls of happiness instead of rage.

    The Feds have already pledged $B to the provinces. On the ‘ledger’! They’re now looking to do same with municipalities.

    What an excellent way to allay some of that funding by assuming aspects of heavy rail building as itemized under Section 93 of the Constitution, and by involving the idling Infrastructure Bank, put leveraged assets to work of an idle Cdn rail building empire either permanently, or under contract.

    Steve: Money for future infrastructure is not money that can help out cities today. We can all sit bankrupt at Queen and Bay with a sheaf of promissory notes from Ford and Trudeau, and they won’t buy coffee.

    Metrolinx admit that a project is off the rails? Never! They are all about good news, and they hitched their star to making the Premier look good. And besides they are still “studying” the line and cannot comment. Their arrogance about how easy it would be to take over the TTC was breathtaking, and I can just imagine how little service would be left running today if that gang were running it.

    If we are going to have a restart on the Ontario Line, this needs to be in the context of a coherent, definite plan for GO Transit’s role for travel within Toronto, and with a review of the need for the wandering spaghetti route the OL (and the predecessor DRL) takes through downtown.


  13. Steve: I am posting this comment “as is”, but with a caveat. I really don’t want to turn this site into a home for fantasy transit maps (there is plenty of room for that elsewhere). There are many problems with this proposal (as there are with Hamish’s scheme, a topic on which we agree to disagree). So please, folks, don’t respond to this or propose your own alternatives. I will delete your comments.

    Hamish Wilson has mentioned the Gatineau hydro corridor and Don Valley above. I have plans for these, although more as an alternative to the B-D subway extension. Let’s call it the Scarborough Line (SL), but there is a connection to the Ontario Line.
    The SL line starts at UTSC, then hits Centennial College and STC (although this can be a later phase of construction. From STC, it either a) follows Ellesmere to Vic Park to Gatineau, or b) Ellesmere to Midland to Gatineau. It would interchange with ECLRT at/near Bermondsay. It follows Gatineau across the Don Valley, through St. Dennis to the “new” Ontario Line (OL) train yard in Leaside and then to Thorncliffe. Here, it acts as a branch of the OL, with the real OL going more on its traditional route along Overlee to Don Mills. Here it becomes obvious that the SL and OL would share trains, which I see as 120m long. Some minor stations would be only 80m to reduce costs and visual pollution. With 120m trains, this branched OL should have the capacity to 2040 or 2050.
    In the next phase, the SL is de-coupled from the OL (which heads down Pape) at Thorncliffe (that stays an interchange station – and possibly a 2 platform, 4 track station with cross-platform transfers). It follows the Don Valley southwards and there are no stations here – just the fastest and cheapest way to get downtown. It would curve into Rosedale valley with an interchange station at Castle Frank. It would finally go underground and continue down Parliament to King. There would be some type of interchange with OL again – albeit a bit of an awkward one. It would continue west on King, having another OL interchange at King/Bathurst. From there, who knows, maybe up Dufferin?
    Anyway, what we get is an elevated line through Scarborough as a branch of the OL. That’s about 16km (@$200M/km) or about $3.2B. Add a 5km extension to UTSC for another Billion. Then add an extension from Thorncliffe to Castle Frank – another Billion. Finally, the expensive part of going through downtown – but at least this has been taken off the critical path because the interlining would serve for a few decades.


  14. Steve writes: If we are going to have a restart on the Ontario Line, this needs to be in the context of a coherent, definite plan for GO Transit’s role for travel within Toronto, and with a review of the need for the wandering spaghetti route the OL (and the predecessor DRL) takes through downtown.

    Excellent comments, btw. The above is crucial, and ‘logic’ (which as we all cynically agree, may not apply here) indicates that the fantasy must come crashing to earth, by fiscal forces alone.

    I think many of us are right on the edge with baited breath to see what conditions the Feds do attach to any forthcoming transit help. The Feds have a very real opportunity to push their own agenda, and compared to the Province, it could never be as bad…well…lol…one should hope.

    At a time when the Province has less than zilch in the coffers available, and unable to contribute their ‘share’ of funding, and the City has been so badly treated, the Feds would be wasting a golden opportunity not to use the powers they have Constitutionally to go with funding that can offer either directly, or through the InfraBank. I favour the latter, as it will enable them to advance more to Toronto than others, with the cover that: “Proportionately, Toronto gets the same per-capita share as other cities. It’s the leveraged funding, roughly 4:1 from the InfraBank led investment consortium, that allows Toronto to multiply our direct investment”.

    If played and phrased properly, the Province is given an ‘out’ on this. That part I can see as how it could be done. The next point, dealing directly with the City, will stick in the QP craw and rip flesh…as well it should.

    I say ‘play hard ball on this, but in a diplomatic way’. Let’s flip this over for the sake of argument: Why *shouldn’t* the Feds, or a federal agency, take the lead on this if it attracts private capital, but the Feds have both business and operational control?

    The Fed money talks…and the province squawks. It would be very interesting to hear the thoughts of ‘insiders’ at City Hall on this, or associates of Adam Vaughan, who has long been pulling for greater City autonomy.

    Steve: I do not entirely trust the feds either. There are technology charlatans who are capable of playing that level of government too, not to mention the inevitable [insert municipality here] deserves [insert desired technology here] politics.


  15. Steve writes: I do not entirely trust the feds either. There are technology charlatans who are capable of playing that level of government too, not to mention the inevitable [insert municipality here] deserves [insert desired technology here] politics.

    Inevitably it will get ‘played’…and I see that happening more at the supply end with a failing BBD Transportation Division that *in some form and/or ownership* can’t be allowed to fail in Canada. Their (mostly) German operations appear to be doing well

    In fairness to BBD, they are in the process of bringing back their workforce from Covid furlough.

    I did a cursory Google check on their corporate outlook and could find nothing of note to add here right now to contest their divestment of Cdn operations. The need for the Feds to favour domestic suppliers is a given, for better or worse. Those operations might well be ‘under new management’.

    Btw: I failed to note in mentioning “Section 92 (10)” in a prior post that it applies only to railways, not transit in general. And that actually gives the Feds even more reason to fixate on leveraging investment into the OL as being “for the general advantage of Canada” via the InfraBank. It would follow that for a number of reasons, it would then be standard gauge, and onwardly connected to the national rail network, and thus able to ‘lease’ overhead operations to GO Transit, or by law, any operator who is approved by CTA. Needless to say that includes VIA HFR when electrified.

    So if the Feds are the ones to fund the OL, it’s much in their interest, in many ways, not least public relations, that they build it to a much more robust and more widely usable scale.

    Assuming the downtown section is in tunnel, there’s real irony in that the tunnel specs the TTC initially spec’d for “The Relief Line” are slightly larger than some being used in London, UK right now to run mainline compatible stock. The Class 717 are specifically optimized to run in over one hundred year old tunnelling in London. I use that class to make a case. In the event, there are models built by BBD (Class 700) that run in newer tunnels only slightly larger than what the TTC had spec’d for the Relief Line, and able to do over 100 mph on the mainline. These run on 25kVAC overhead catenary, and would be compatible in loading gauge and technical specs with VIA’s proposed HFR.

    The Feds have the opportunity to ‘stone many birds with one kill’ by ‘assuming’ the Ontario Line. The route would ostensibly connect to the present Bala sub in the north, and retain much of the previously proposed Relief Line route in the south. VIA HFR would switch to the Lakeshore Line at the Don River crossing, but the route details, as Steve mentioned prior, are another discussion.


  16. This is embarrassing, but: BBD won the Crossrail contract for their Class 345, (for all intents and purposes technically the same for the OL argument) and they lost *badly* for Thameslink as detailed above.

    There is a lesson in this more than just my bumbling. Here’s why BBD lost, and this pertains to their present corporate situation:

    UK Telegraph
    07 Jul 2011
    (Article predates the Telegraph’s paywall, entire article at link)

    The Canadian train maker, which on Tuesday axed 1,400 jobs at its Derby plant, was at a competitive disadvantage worth hundreds of millions of pounds because of the way the previous Labour government structured the contract.

    The tender called for bidders to build, maintain and, crucially, finance 1,200 new carriages over 30 years for the London commuter service.

    The financing element gave Siemens of Germany a big advantage over the three other bidders because of its higher credit rating – one vastly superior to Bombardier’s, which is below investment grade.

    Siemens’ debt is rated A+ by credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s – six notches above Bombardier’s BB+. The other two bidders, Alstom and Hitachi, are respectively rated BBB and BBB+.

    Investment bankers familiar with deals similar to Thameslink trains said that each notch of difference equated to at least 0.25 of a percentage point on any debt-funded deal.

    That would leave Bombardier having to pay extra interest of at least 1.5pc a year to finance the deal. Over a 30-year contract that could amount to £700m.

    “The way the contract was structured, it wasn’t just about building the trains but financing them,” said the source. “On that basis it was very hard to compete with Siemens.”

    For those following the P3 discussion, IO’s and QP’s inept bumbling and legal (perhaps illegal, as per court decision) offense to potential investors, this story barks volumes.

    This is yet one more reason for financing of the OL to be handled by the Canada Infrastructure Bank.

    Steve: This also shows the folly of P3s where a risk (the financing) is pushed out the door resulting in higher costs and with technical decisions about a product/service taking a back seat to financing.


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