Province of Ontario Moves to Electrify GO Rail Network

In order to support faster and more frequent service in the greater Toronto and Hamilton area, the province of Ontario is taking major steps to electrify the GO rail network, the largest commuter rail project in Canada.

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca visited the GO Transit Willowbrook facility last week to provide an update on Ontario’s work to implement GO Regional Express Rail (RER) and to announce that the province has commenced the GO Rail Network Electrification Transit Project Assessment Process.

As reported, the process builds on public consultations held last year and will assess the environmental impacts of converting core segments of the GO rail network, including the UP Express, from diesel to electric. According to the province, this is a critical step in beginning the procurement process to select a vendor to electrify the system.

In tandem with the assessment process, Ontario is also undertaking a feasibility study on the use of hydrogen fuel cells as an alternative technology for electrifying GO rail service and the UP Express.

Recent advances in the use of hydrogen fuel cells to power electric trains in other jurisdictions have encouraged Ontario to consider this clean electric technology as an alternative to conventional overhead wires. As part of the study, the province will bring together industry leaders in fuel cell technology for a symposium this fall to explore the potential application of hydrogen fuel cell technology to electrify the GO rail network.

As reported, Ontario is undertaking a C$21.3 billion transformation of the GO network. The province expects this investment will deliver faster and more frequent service, create thousands of jobs, and improve quality of life.

Currently, Ontario is on track to electrify and expand the rail network and bring more two-way, all-day service to commuters and families by increasing the number of weekly trips from about 1,500 to nearly 6,000 by 2025.

The province has committed C$13.5 billion to implement GO RER as part of the larger C$21.3 billion transformation of the GO network from commuter transit to a regional rapid transit system. As noted in the release, GO RER involves more than 500 separate projects across 40 municipalities. Improvements to more than 30 GO stations are currently in procurement, and planning work is under way with municipal partners on 12 new GO RER stations across the network.

“Our work on GO RER is about transforming transit in the GTHA by creating a sustainable, integrated, regional transit network that connects people and communities to jobs, services and activities in their everyday lives,” says Del Duca. “Electrified service as part of GO RER will allow us to run faster, more frequent rail service across core sections of the GO rail network while reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by removing diesel service where possible.

“Electrification is an important step forward for regional rail in Ontario,” he adds. “It is critical that we get it right.”

The Notice of Commencement and Public Meetings for the GO Rail Network Electrification Transit Project Assessment Process was issued June 14.

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