MetroLinx Maps a Sustainable Air Rail Link
For anybody who hasn’t been following all the Big Moves being mapped out by the Ontario Governments public transit planning arm called Metrolinx, the projected Air Rail Link (ARL) is a bold initiative to finally connect Toronto’s Union Station with Pearson International Airport via a dedicated express train…All in time for the 2015 Pan American Games.
The objective behind the Air Rail Link is to ensure reliable travel times between the downtown core and the countries largest airport, while taking millions of car trips off the GTA’s already congested roadways in the process. The big challenge is to lay groundwork for a rail system that will be ‘Futureproof”, while still assuring that it can be up and running inside of the incredibly tight timeline for a project of this size.
Beyond the obvious need for re-establishing political unity and effective cost-controls at a time of enormous bureaucratic upheave in Toronto’s transit landscape (Thanks again, Rob Ford) the next biggest requirements for this project are the logistical challenges of assuring not just an environmentally responsible solution, but also a beneficial one that will set standards for clean transit systems for many decades to come…So what stands in the way of this progress?
The “Clean Train Coalition” is a group that has decided that only fullscale of electrification of the Georgetown rail corridor can be seen as an acceptable immediate course of action.
Metrolinx however, seems to have found a more realistic immediate solution that will assure the cleanest version of diesel technology in the short term, while assuring that the future implementation of an electrified rail corridor also remains possible. The process appears to be a remarkable combination of vision, business process, adn technology…but it’s not without it’s detractors as we can see from initial reactions…Hopefully this typically contentious resistance to anything that isn’t a naive solar-powered dream of the future won’t entirely derail the actual and practical steps being taken to genuinely assure the sustainable growth of cleaner rail traffic in the Georgetown corridor…as opposed to assuring the continued growth road traffic for the foreseeable future.
Since there has already been a great deal of PR and Public visibility on all the issues of running more trains in the busy Georgetown Corridor, we won’t revisit all the NIMBYism and negative Eco-PR that has permeated the mainstream coverage of this project, but rather try to take a more objective view of the plans being proposed by those who seek to advance the cause of clean transit, rather than those more suited to simply criticize, and publicize the loudest voices of detractors.
The primary areas that we can dig into are as follows…
The Metrolinx Procurement Processes:
Metrolinx will be entering into formal negotiations with Sumitomo Corporation of America to exercise an option from the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (California) procurement contract to purchase up to eighteen (18) highly efficient Diesel Multiple Units (DMU’s). These vehicles will meet stringent Tier 4 emissions standards and will be convertible to electric for the Air Rail Link. Following an open and competitive procurement process, Sumitomo Corporation is being considered for the award of a contract to produce DMU vehicles for Sonoma-Marin.
An option clause in the contract gives Metrolinx the ability to purchase additional vehicles from the winner of the Sonoma-Marin procurement process. Metrolinx wishes to use this option clause in the Sonoma-Marin contract in order to have vehicles delivered in time for public use of the Air Rail Link service, prior to the Pan Am Games in 2015. Metrolinx, with the unanimous support of its Board of Directors, concluded that entering the negotiation to exercise the option would obtain the best value for Ontario. If the negotiations are successful, Metrolinx will announce the details of the procurement when an agreement is reached.
Bruce McCuaig, President and CEO, Metrolinx? Gary McNeil, President, GO Transit and Acting President, Air Rail Link
Clean Diesel and Hybrid Electric Technology:
The “Tier 4” diesel locomotive technology that has been established as a requirement for this project is a largely unknown factor since protestors are clearly not promoting this aspect of the project, and the Press hasn’t really dug into the technicalities in it’s own coverage of the issues. There are currently no Canadian manufacturers of the required hybrid locomotive technology…but we will certainly be following this procurement process closely for all sorts of obvious reason