THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED: The diesel air-rail Link (now renamed the Union-Pearson or UP Express) is coming, connecting Union Station to Pearson Airport along the rail line by Sorauren Park, and Metrolinx is looking for community members to advise on the 5-metre high noise and sight barrier it is planning to install in the park and elsewhere along the corridor.
Metrolinx says the wall is needed to dampen the din from the increase in diesel train traffic expected with the new UP Express, from existing GO Transit rail traffic, and from expected increases in GO Transit traffic over the years. The UP Express (already dubbed the UP Yours Express by some wags for the message Metrolinx is sending to communities along the corridor) is planned to be running in time for the Pan Am Games in 2015.
Although Metrolinx has not completed a business plan for the service, it has said the trains will leave the terminals every 15 minutes, meaning a train will pass every 7.5 minutes on average during operating hours.
Residents wishing to have input into the wall can connect with Metrolinx by visiting the GO Transit web site here. The provincial agency will be holding public consultations regarding the wall in 2013.
The wall has raised concerns about graffiti vandalism, community safety, spoiled sight lines and property values.
The non-profit Clean Train Coalition has been pushing for quieter electric trains which may not require the wall, though the Coalition’s main concern is diesel pollution along the corridor. Last June the World Health Organization re-classified diesel exhaust from a “probable” cause of cancer to a definite cause of cancer.
The Coalition lost its recent legal challenge against Metrolinx regarding the diesel train purchase. The court ordered the all-volunteer Coalition to pay $33,500 in costs to Metrolinx. The Coalition is considering an appeal.
Metrolinx and the Minister of Transportation have expressed a desire to convert the line to electric propulsion, possibly as early as 2017, but that won’t be in time for the Pan Am Games. The manufacturer of the diesel trains purchased by Metrolinx says the units can be converted to electric, though that has not been done previously.
A Metrolinx staff reported released in 2011 recommended electrification. The province has funded an environmental assessment to further study electrification, expected to be completed in 2014.
The Vancouver Canada Line from downtown to the Vancouver airport was also built in time for a major sporting event, the 2010 Winter Olympics. Here’s a comparison between Vancouver’s service and the Ontario government’s plan for the Toronto ARL: