Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Metrolectric

Today, Metrolinx announced that they will be studying the costs and benefits of electrifying the GO Transit rail network, a move which could allow for faster and more frequent regional trains, as well as addressing the concerns of many people who live near rail lines which are expected to receive service expansions in the coming years. While most modern diesel electric locomotives max out at around 4000 horsepower, the most modern north american electric locomotives are pushing between 7000 and 8000 horsepower, allowing them to accelerate faster. This means faster trips or more stops in the same amount of time. In addition, electric locomotives have fewer moving parts and can last upwards of 75 years in service. The lowered local emissions are obvious.

When it comes to electrifying rail lines, my stance has always been to view tracks and wires as two separate projects that should not depend on each other. Of course I would prefer wires to be strung up sooner rather than later, but if there is an opportunity to expand service sooner using modern diesel equipment then we should seize that opportunity. Transport for London, one of the agencies everyone aspires for the TTC or Metrolinx to become, for example, will introduce new Bombardier Class 172 Turbostar diesel multiple unit (DMU) trains on the Gospel Oak - Barking Line (GOBLIN) next year. If they are doing it then I don't think it's a step backwards if we do so here. That being said, the start of this study is welcomed and the first step in better service across the region. You can't build a house without blueprints, just as you can't embark on a capital project without knowing the costs and benefits.

Since electrification and electric locomotives or electric multiple unit trains isn't exactly cheap in the initial investment, I anticipate that this study will set out the minimum number of trains per hour required to justify the cost. At the frequencies planned in the next 15 years I can only see the Georgetown and Lakeshore lines meeting this bar, but if there's no reason not to continue to add service to justify it on lines that don't quite make the cut. If four trains per hour is found to be the minimum but the Bradford line only warrants three then I doubt anyone will complain if the fourth train magically appears.

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