A drone shot of Union Station tracks.

What’s next for the future of Toronto’s Union Station – Iconic Canadian rail station prepares for more improvements as important procurement deal signed

Union Station, arguably the nation’s most historic and revered transit hub, has seen a number of advances and upgrades – even during these COVID days. And the changes continue with the announcement of a procurement deal officially signed today. Here’s what else is coming down the tracks.

Advancement and upgrades at Union Station continue, as today (Jan. 31), Metrolinx announced the signing of the procurement for the Union Station Enhancement Project.

That signals the next official phase of the massive renovation project.

More on that a bit lower in this story. For now, it’s important to set the stage for the future of Canada’s best-known transit hub.

While it seems upgrading, retrofitting and improvements mean sometimes the station seems to be a never-ending construction zone, its many projects are part of a larger transit vision – whether to modernize the hub, make way for additional work on adjacent rail, or make way for a plan to increase service for the entire region.

Image shows the inside of Union Station
Artist’s rendering of Union Station changes. Final designs are subject to change, and this doesn’t show the current mask and social distancing rules on platforms. (Metrolinx image)

Here’s how historic Union Station has changed, and, more importantly, what comes next.

It started with Union Station Revitalization Project, from 2010 to 2021, which was necessary to bring the station up to modern standards. Not an easy feat for a more than 90-year-old station, the busiest transit building in Canada that serves more than 250,000 GO customers each day. The York Concourse was transformed from a former parking garage and opened in advance of the Pan Am Games. The new state-of-the-art Union Station Bus Terminal was opened last year, as was the new Bay Concourse.

Want to know more about the project? Then just go here.

The Union Station Enhancement Project (USEP) is being delivered in various packages of work, including the glass atrium, removing heritage steel, installing overhead lighting, a new south concourse, widening platforms, increasing stair and elevator access, and upgrades to passenger communications systems. Construction is expected to begin early this year and to be completed in late 2025.

Image shows platforms.
An artist rendering of the Union Station platforms. (Metrolinx image)

Platform 20/21

Previously used exclusively as a VIA platform, work to convert platform 20/21 to a shared space with GO Transit was a necessary next step.  The converted platform will better enable GO train service to use it while other platforms are taken out of service to be widened during future phases of the Union Station Enhancement Project (USEP).

Once complete in early 2022, platform 20/21 improvements will include:

  • A new shared platform for VIA and GO Transit customers to board and exit trains.
  • Three new stairways to make it easier and more convenient for VIA and GO Transit customers to get to and from platform 20/21.
  • New customer communications systems with trip information.
  • Several new PRESTO devices at the bottom of the escalators and stairs to platform 20/21.

Next up, starting Feb. 16, GO trains will start to use this platform to board customers and the south platforms (24/25 and 26/27) will be decommissioned to make way for USEP. This project will realize the construction of the transit infrastructure and upgrades at the southernmost part of Union Station, including:

  • Construction of two new platforms.
  • New stairs and elevators.
  • A new continuous south concourse connecting the York, Bay and VIA concourses, Union Square and Scotiabank Galleria.
  • Creation of two new south tracks.

All will accommodate GO rail service increases, improve customer experience, and enable the planned GO Expansion program.

“We are very glad to see this project moving into major construction in February,” notes Trevor Anderson, Program Sponsor for Union Station. “This project will enhance access and connectivity at the station, providing great benefit to our customers, our stakeholders, and  all users of Union Station.”

A drone shot of Union Station tracks.
A drone view looking down on the Union Station tracks. (Metrolinx image)

This work will require boarding adjustments that may affect how customers get to their trains. For details visit the Union Station Improvements page.

On Jan. 10, platform 3 was reopened after extensive historic conservation and restoration work, which will help offset the south platform closure.

New Deal Signed

The Union Station Enhancement Project was procured as an ‘alliance’ contract. USEP is the first major project in Canada to be procured using this model — an innovative procurement and delivery method recognized for delivering successful initiatives in Australia in the past 20 years. In November 2020, the Union Station Enhancement Project entered the Alliance Development Agreement (ADA) phase to develop the design, schedule, and cost of the project. As a result of this collaborative process, today (Jan. 31), the Project Alliance Agreement (PAA), the next official phase of the procurement side of this project, was signed, awarding the project to ONTrack Alliance and positioning them to break ground.

The ONTrack Alliance team includes:

  • Constructors:  Kiewit – Alberici Union General Partnership
  • Designers: WSP Canada Inc.
  • Signalling Work: Mass. Electric Construction Canada Co.

Why an Alliance?

It was determined that given the increased complexity of Union Station, the nature of the risks involved in this project were difficult to define. Therefore, the Alliance Contracting Model was chosen as it is much better equipped to address risk constructively and collaboratively. Other benefits of the alliance model include greater transparency and cooperative decision-making.

Additionally, the alliance model encourages partners to work collaboratively, engage in joint decision-making, and fosters a cooperative culture of finding the “best for project” solutions.

And, back to sequencing of projects in and around the station, USEP is scheduled to take place now, in advance of and in preparation for the On-Corridor Works project which will reconstruct and widen platforms within the existing trainshed.

While in people years, Union Station is a senior citizen, it’s still a pup compared to other iconic buildings around the world. Getting it ready for the future, one step at a time, is always a priority.

Story by Stacey Kenny, Metrolinx senior advisor, Communications and Stakeholder Relations.