With all the kerfuffle about the Eglinton LRT, a small note tucked at the end of an article almost slipped my notice: Metrolinx has quietly said they’re cutting GO train service to Weston. The full day commuter GO train service they promised will be reduced because of the Air Rail Link. The number of tracks on the line will be reduced, from four to three, and they announced that all-day service will not be coming until sometime after 2015.
In short, it’s starting to look like we will be getting an expensive airport link and not the improved GO service we were promised.
When the Weston Community Coalition got wind of this plan, they wrote a letter to Laura Albanese. They ask Albanese, sensibly,
can you please find out who is responsible for the change in plan and why it has been changed? … The communities should not be subjected to another 3 years of construction only to find they don’t have anything to show for it from a public transportation perspective. If most residents cannot afford the ARL or cannot get to it and also will not have more GO trains running, then everything else is just window dressing.
Albanese, in turn, wrote to Mike Sullivan, asking for federal money for electrification:
Electrification of the ARL will cost $450 Million. I am most concerned that to date there are no funds being put forth by the federal government and that our representatives in Ottawa have not made this a priority for federal funding in the up-coming budget.
In my view, the federal government should cover closer to half of these costs and therefore I would expect you to take all measures to secure these funds for future electrification.
As an MP, I see it as your responsibility to deliver these federal investments, especially related to funding the costs of electrification.
Oh boy. That was a mistake. You can feel the heat coming off his reply:
The Air-Rail Link is a Government of Ontario project, managed by your Government through its agency Metrolinx. The Federal Government is already providing significant funding contributions to this project. It was your Government that has decided not to proceed with electrification of this rail line, despite the pleas of the community….
You suggest that the electrification of the Air-Rail Link would cost $450 million. Metrolinx has stated that it will need $400 million to put in a 4th rail in this corridor to move trains to another track while electrification takes place following the implementation of the Air-Rail Link service. It would make so much sense to use this $400 million to electrify first and avoid the costs of converting the trains from diesel to electric after they are purchased.
You suggest that it is my responsibility as Member of Parliament to “deliver these federal investments, especially related to funding the costs of electrification”. This would be done if the NDP formed the Government of Canada, but in Opposition I can only ask (as I have done). However, you are a member of the Government of Ontario whose project this is, and so it is incumbent on you, as our Provincial representative, to deliver the requisite provincial investment in electrifying the Air-Rail Link in order to better protect our community. I would be happy to support such an initiative.
It would be easy to split the difference and say that they both need to take a time out, but, frankly, Mike Sullivan has shown his clean train bona fides more than anyone in town. Frances Nunziata, too, has done her part this week to shame the Liberal government into improving transit in York South Weston.
Metrolinx’s plans to reduce GO service—and all the new residents and businesses that will bring—cannot be allowed to pass, and certainly not without opposition.
Laura Albanese should work with her co-representatives and against her own party if necessary to make sure this does not happen.