York South-Weston MP Mike Sullivan upped the ante in the Commons on Tuesday 19th when he pointed out that the World Health Organization has declared diesel exhaust to be as carcinogenic as asbestos, arsenic or mustard gas. He demanded that the Federal and Provincial governments get their acts together and electrify the Air Rail Link corridor that runs through the heart of Weston. Sullivan says the corridor,
will be the busiest diesel corridor on the planet and, given the new evidence, 300,000 local residents will be subjected to carcinogenic exhaust.
With the provincial Liberals mired in minority government status and dependent on either the PCs or NDP to pass legislation, it is possible that NDP Leader Andrea Horwath could be persuaded to make this a do-or-die project. Horwath has already successfully played hardball and modified aspects of Dwight Duncan’s budget. She may relish a further opportunity to make a healthy change for thousands of people.
We can only hope.
Incidentally, the environmental assessment process studying the effects of electrification of the whole GO network is proceeding slowly as planned. Those of us who are cynical think it’s a delaying tactic to distract from the unwavering plan to install diesel trains between Pearson and Union Station.
My grandfather went to work by electric train beginning in 1904. It was a wonder of the day with far less noise and pollution than steam trains. More than a century later, electric trains are even more efficient and are used in jurisdictions all over the world where clean, fast and quiet transportation is a priority. Quite simply, electric trains are quiet, efficient and far less polluting than any other mode of transportation except the bicycle. They are faster too, and can regenerate power when braking. Diesel is recognized to be noisier and more polluting although electrifying a rail line is an added cost.
More than 100 years later, Metrolinx is in the late stages of negotiations with a California counterpart (Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit) to purchase up to 18 Japanese built diesel powered locomotives for the route from Union Station to Pearson Airport scheduled for opening in 2015. This is in spite of a study forced on Metrolinx by politicians after a public outcry over plans to send dozens of noisy, polluting diesels through the heart of Weston every day. The electrification study report will be released in the middle of this month and Metrolinx will make a decision January 26th, for or against electrification based on the report’s findings.
Cynical souls like myself think that this is a done deal and that Metrolinx will claim that electrification will be too expensive, take too long (the two-week 2015 Pan-American Games again) and that their trains really aren’t that polluting. They might also do the right thing and electrify the airport link as a pilot study for the eventual conversion of the whole GO railway system (also under study). This is without even considering the thousands of jobs that could be created locally by Canadian manufacturing companies. We’ll see. In the meantime, the Clean Train Coalition is hoping that people will let the Premier and other elected representatives know how they feel. They have the support of local MPP Laura Albanese and recently delivered to the Ontario Legislature a petition with over ten-thousand names in support of electrification. The Clean Train Coalition is holding a general meeting this Thursday, January 6, between 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. at the Perth Davenport Neighbourhood Centre; 1900 Davenport Ave (at Symington Ave) and invite all interested people to attend. Refreshments will be served.
How is it that just about every jurisdiction in Europe can install and run electric locomotives but here in Toronto, it’s beyond our ability? The use of the Pan-Am games to justify diesel (Metrolinx claims electrification cannot be achieved by 2015) is either faulty reasoning or a flimsy excuse. The 16-day Pan-Am games will manage just fine without a rail link.
Politicians need to understand, people don’t want smelly, noisy diesel locomotives barreling through suburban neighbourhoods several times an hour.
Electric locomotives are cleaner, quicker, quieter and more efficient. People would support this project enthusiastically if electrification were the goal. Let’s not get stuck with a poor choice because of lack of determination on the part of politicians or Metrolinx officials.