Waiting for your train.

Ontario’s MetroLinx people came to Barrie the other day to talk about planning for the future of the GO Train commuter line to Toronto. The good news is that it is the intent to electrify and twin the line by 2025. The bad news is that it will take that long. And there are many decisions to be made as the work progresses.

As the Barrie line is just one of the lines feeding commuters daily into Toronto, it has to take its place among the planned priorities. Many of the questions though will impact planning for all the lines. These questions are critical to speed of the system, energy costs, noise levels and convenience for connections. If they are not made in the best interest of all concerned they will be very expensive to correct in the future.

The type of trains will be the first concern. They make many stops, need to be of uniform maximum length for the stations and usually have driver cabs on the first and last cars. These lighter trains with power to all wheels can accelerate faster, stop faster, are cheaper to maintain and use less energy. Some high-speed trains such as the InterContinental Express (ICE) in Germany and the Shinkansen in Japan are built on the same principle but the Train à Grand Vitesse (TGV) in France uses heavier electric locomotives for high-speed (300 km/h plus) trains going greater distances.

Another advantage to individually-powered cars for commuter lines is the use of regenerative braking. This means that when slowing down, the trains are generating power that can be providing the acceleration to another train. With the many stops of a commuter line, this provides substantial power savings and lower cost maintenance for the braking systems.

But before we get these new electric trains on the Barrie line we have to twin the line. Luckily the existing right-of-way provides the room for two sets of tracks but when most of the overpasses and underpasses were built, they were built for just the existing single track line. There is lots of construction ahead.

One thing we should not forget to mention is that the new electric service will not only be faster, more efficient and (in the long run) cheaper, but it will also be much quieter. Commuters might need to set a wake up call on their phones for the end of the shorter trip to the city and home.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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