Airport rail link may fly - Toronto SunThe Toronto Sun is reporting that discussions are currently underway between the Province and SNC-Lavalin about moving forward on the controversial Union-Pearson Rail Link. Those in favour of the project believe that it will decrease the amount of traffic between the airport to the downtown core, and make Toronto a better place to do business. Some also contend that it will decrease the need to maintain the Toronto City Centre Airport. Those opposed to the project contend that it will bypass many of the under-served communities along the way, and even cause some existing railway crossings to close due to unsafe conditions caused by express trains.
I believe that there is a place for SNC-Lavalin to participate in the Union-Pearson Rail Link, but I do not believe it is as the operator of an exclusive express service. Further, I do not believe that a good solution for connecting Pearson to the city can be reached by looking at the narrow objective of moving people from Pearson to Toronto. We must look at the transportation needs of the entire corridor.
I believe we should operate a GO-branded regional rail line operating along the Weston Corridor. Trains would leave Union Station every 10 minutes and make all stops to Etobicoke North where the line would split. One branch would leave the main line to provide 20 minute frequencies to the airport, while the other branch would provide 20 minute frequencies to Brampton & Georgetown. With additional stops in Parkdale and Mount Dennis, the airport could be reached in 30 minutes for GO fare. Commuter & intercity trains would also use the corridor to reach Guelph, Kitchener and London, in addition to providing extra capacity during the peak hours, and express trains could also operate on the airport branch if needed. SNC-Lavalin could participate as a contract operator of this service.
Toronto needs a train service to connect Union Station and Peason Airport, but it should take a back seat to improvements that will benefit everyone. As for the island airport issue, eliminating the long drive is only one reason Pearson is something to be avoided. The swift, stress-free experience associated with the city centre airport will remain, and will likely only be toppled by high-speed rail in the Windsor to Quebec corridor.