Monday, December 31, 2012

The Weston Corridor Is Not Full

Every decade or so, a new study of high-speed rail in the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor provides fascinating reading for people interested in transportation and infrastructure. Of course, such literature belongs firmly in the Fantasy section of the local library. The most recent report, titled “Ecotrain”, was produced in 2010 to update a more detailed 1995 study, making adjustments for changing circumstances and development. The earlier report recommended following international best practices by establishing seamless connections between high-speed rail and major international airports, permitting the replacement of short-haul flights with airline code-shares on trains. In order to access Pearson Airport from Union Station, high-speed trains would share the Weston corridor with other rail services. Unfortunately, the recent report indicates that informational meetings with Metrolinx resulted in the determination that the Weston corridor will be at capacity and would not be able to accommodate any high-speed services. (Deliverable 5, page 37)

This is particularly bizarre since Metrolinx is in the process of adding a pair of tracks for express trains from Union to Pearson Airport. At four trains per hour each way, it is quite disturbing to think that the agency might consider those tracks to be at capacity. By contrast, 28 trains per hour or more is normal in Europe, Asia, or even many parts of North America. One of the greatest assets of the airport shuttle project is the provision of two separate pairs of tracks for express and local services in the Weston corridor. Ultimately, one pair could be used for CityRail-style services while the other would be shared by the airport shuttle, regional express trains, and high-speed or intercity trains—essentially all trains skipping most stops between Union and Pearson. Certainly the addition of a handful of electric high-speed trains an hour would not be an undue burden on the neighbourhood. It would be an enormous waste of resources if a valuable pair of express tracks were reserved for the exclusive use of the airport shuttle when there is more than enough capacity for all conceivable express and intercity services.