Metrolinx has confirmed the track will have to be doubled on the Barrie corridor to accommodate all-day two-way GO express trains, pledged by Premier Kathleen Wynne in her speech in April to the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

She said:

“Over ten years, we aim to phase in electric train service every fifteen minutes on all GO lines that we own. Doing that would mean moving the most people for the least cost. And it would help to unclog highways across the GTHA. We just know that that is a reality. And it would do for the region what subways did for Toronto back to the 1950s.”

In a presentation to last week’s Metrolinx Board meeting, the President of GO Transit, Greg Percy, said:

“We know one new track will be required pretty much along the full length of the corridor because much of it is single track today. We need to double track that corridor and it also includes quite a few road and rail grade separations along the way.”

You can see the video here. Percy talks about the Barrie corridor 40 minutes 30 seconds into the presentation.

Every weekday, GO trains make 14 trips along the Barrie corridor, carrying 17,000 people.


Percy’s statement clears up earlier confusion about whether a second track would be required anywhere in Newmarket.

Paula Edwards, the Director of Customer Care at Metrolinx, replying on behalf of CEO Bruce McCuaig, told me on 24 June 2014 that:

“Our planned improvement of the Barrie corridor is not solely based on twin tracking. Although twin tracking may be required in some areas, it is doubtful if it will be needed for the entire route.”

GO rail station at Mulock Drive

In the same letter Edwards told me there are no plans for a new GO rail station at Mulock Drive even though one is pencilled in to Newmarket’s Secondary Plan (which goes up to York Region for approval early next year).

Clearly, there is still a huge amount of work to be done to hit Kathleen Wynne's 10 year target for all-day two-way GO trains.

It is impossible to listen to Greg Percy and not come away with the conclusion that Metrolinx is only now moving forward – and from a standing start. True, work on electrification options was done back in 2010 but it seems little has been done on how to accommodate the 340km of new second tracks that will be required across the system.

Percy told Board members that land acquisition would be required. This is not something that happens overnight.

Davis Drive

In Newmarket, road and rail separation will be required at Davis Drive and probably elsewhere given that trains will be whizzing past at speed every 15 minutes. Percy says the average cost of road rail separation is around $25m but it could fall anywhere within the range $15m - $80m depending on the complexities of the engineering.

The Metrolinx Board will be getting an update on the work programme at its next meeting on 11 December 2014. I would like to know what work has already been done on the Barrie corridor and what is outstanding. And those matters where it is too early to say.

Percy laid great stress in his presentation on keeping everyone informed. One of the four key elements in his Work Plan is “Engagement – identifying the work necessary to engage stakeholders that include the public, municipalities and elected officials.”

That’s what I like to hear.

My enthusiasm is, however, tempered by the fact that I am still waiting for answers to questions I put to Bruce McCuaig over four months ago.

I hope Chris Ballard – who made his first speech at Queen’s Park on the GO train service – is listening.