Clean Train Coalition asks Prichard to come clean on air-rail plans
It seems that wherever Metrolinx CEO Rob Prichard goes these days, so go members of the Clean Train Coalition (CTC) pushing for electrification on the expanded Georgetown GO line that will also accomodate the air-rail link from Union station to Pearson.
This week the CTC's Rick Ciccarelli put Prichard on the record about the air-rail link and the electrification issue at both the Monday Board of Trade breakfast and the Metrolinx board meeting Wednesday.
The meeting was the one in which the delayed, scaled-down version of Transit City and York's Viva bus lanes were unanimously approved, although one board member admitted many people, possibly some of the board members themselves, are still fuzzy on the difference between the old downtown streetcar lines and the new Transit City LRT lines.
What Ciccarelli managed to extract from Prichard was already pretty well known. The public can expect to hear this June or July that the province, through Infrastructure Ontario, has negotiated a deal with SNC Lavalin to run the premium air-rail train for a period of about 40 years. Although any disclosure of the details will be up to the province, Prichard said that one condition is that Lavalin would have to comply with electrification if and when the province decided to go that route.
But even if the study currently underway to assess the cost of electrifying the GO system -- which could come in anywhere from $4 to $7 billion -- recommends the move, it won't happen immediately, he said.
"For every element of infrastructure, we're building in electrification capacity," said Prichard. "Every bridge will have enough height so that if it's to be electrified there's room to put the catenary underneath. But we are not expecting that the line will be electric on opening day. Instead, we expect it will be Tier 4 diesel, convertible to electric if and when a decision is taken to electrify the Georgetown line."
The same day Prichard was pitching his "Five in 10" plan to the board, the Board of Trade was trying to help Metrolinx move the discussion forward on how to pay for all the needed regional transit improvements. It released one of the best available outlines yet of possible revenue tools that could see Mayor David Miller's beloved Transit City lines built to completion.
But Prichard was clear that Toronto isn't the only municipality lining up to spend the tolls or taxes that politicians barely discuss, much less implement.
Electrification, said Prichard, is "another claim for the resources of the Investment Strategy as we go forward and it will take its place alongside the next phases of Transit City, the next phases of York Viva, the lines of Mississauga, the lines in Hamilton."