Metrolinx pauses plans to electrify rail through Guelph

Metrolinx has pressed pause on plans to electrify its rail line through Guelph, Ont.  The decision was made in part because CN owns a crucial section of Kitchener GO train line and because Metrolinx was unable to find a spot for a needed power substation.

Agency says crucial section of rail line owned by CN Rail

Riders board a GO Train in Acton on June 4, 2019. Metrolinx has temporarily paused plans to electrify the rail line through Guelph. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Metrolinx has pressed pause on plans to electrify its rail line through Guelph, Ont. 

The decision was made, in part, because the section of the Kitchener rail corridor from Bramalea through Georgetown is owned by CN Rail, Metrolinx said, and has to provide both freight and passenger train service. 

"Only diesel trains would be able to serve the area due to the lack of electrification in between Bramalea and Georgetown," Suniya Kukaswadia, a senior media and issues advisor for Metrolinx, said in an email. 

Another hurdle was that Metrolinx has been unable to find a site for a traction power substation, which is needed for electrification. 

The agency had previously planned to put a substation in Guelph's Margaret Greene Park, but the plan was nixed earlier this year following pushback from the community. Hydro One also had problems with the location. 

Kukaswadia said Metrolinx looked at nine different locations but couldn't find one that met technical requirements and that had minimal impacts to nearby communities. 

'Bombshell' news

Kukaswadia told CBC K-W Metrolinx announced the pause in January this year, through the agency's blog, newsletters and through Metrolinx Engage. 

But Guelph Coun. Phil Allt said he and many others only heard about this plan at a Tuesday night public information meeting. 

"The community and the city believed that electrification was going to occur," Allt said. "On Tuesday night, the bombshell was dropped that electrification was not."

Susan Watson, who lives near the rail tracks on Kent Street in Guelph, also described the news as a "bombshell." 

"If this project was going to be shelved, we should have been told," she said. "I know for a fact that there were at least two households who sold their houses on Kent Street and moved because they just didn't want to deal with this whole massive infrastructure project."

Allt said he's disappointed the project is now on hold, given the importance of electrifying transportation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"The community is supportive of electrification, it has so many positive elements," he said. 

For now, Kukaswadia said work on two-way, all-day GO trains between Kitchener and Toronto continues while Metrolinx works to "better understand electrification in the long term for the Kitchener corridor."

CBC K-W reached out to CN Rail about the situation but did not immediately hear back. 


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