As a child, the electric trams of the Speed River Railway were a fascinating experience. At one time, that electrified railway ran from Port Dover on Lake Erie, up through what is now Cambridge and on to Kitchener/Waterloo. The system was fast, non-polluting and on-time, serving Ontario citizens and their packages on a regular basis. Today, GO Transit, owned by the Ontario government, runs slow and polluting diesel engines in a vain attempt to provide a similar people moving function.
GO does not get there. GO is slow. A diesel train engine, weighing about 100 tonnes, takes a long time to get up to speed and a long time to stop. And that is why it takes almost two hours for a one-hour trip from Babel to Toronto’s Union Station. That is why people are not lined up ten deep to take the GO Train from Babel to Toronto.
Admittedly, it would cost a great deal of money to build and maintain overhead electrical connections for GO trains. You have to compare that cost with the ongoing health costs to Ontario because of the pollution caused by diesel. You also have to consider the cost of maintaining tracks for 100-tonne locomotives versus self-propelled electric cars at about a fifth the weight.
People can argue both sides of the question. Electricity costs are rising, they will tell you. Have you checked the cost of diesel fuel recently? Electric train cars cost more. With an electric system, you do not need a diesel engine.
It all boils down to the pollution concern. Diesel engines put nitrogen oxides and soot into our air. That is not worrying the farmers around Bradford yet but if a diesel engine keeps going into Toronto, when there is one of those atmospheric inversions over the city, that diesel pollution helps kill people.
In the United States, diesel engines are believed to cause about 50 per cent of the total harmful airborne emissions. There are no comparable statistics for Canada. GO (which stands for Government of Ontario) Transit continues to pollute.
Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry
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