New GO Expansion agreement with ONxpress Transportation Partners ushers in exciting future of faster, greener, more frequent GO Train service

GO Expansion is moving forward to the next stage of development and will transform the region in ways greater than previously imagined. GO Expansion will include infrastructure and operational plans that reduce journey times even more, add more capacity, improve on-time performance, and customer satisfaction. Get all the details below.

The biggest transformation in Canadian transit history is getting even better.

After reaching an agreement with ONxpress, new details are emerging on GO service levels that will change the way people see transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area.

ONxpress’ international team has far surpassed the reference concept service levels outlined in the GO Expansion Full Business Case published in 2018. The ONxpress proposal can deliver three times more trips than the 3,500 weekly trips Metrolinx ran in 2019.

What is GO Expansion? Read this primer on the program.

On Metrolinx’s busiest routes, between eight and 18 trains per hour will run, meaning customers can arrive at a station and be on a train within minutes.

Metrolinx and ONxpress will now start working through a proposed timetable, and associated required infrastructure, that could ultimately see train service stopping at stations like Exhibition, Bloor and East Harbour GO stations as frequently as every three minutes in the future and stations like Burlington and Pickering GO every five minutes.

On evenings and weekends, services to most stations could be as frequent as between every six to 15 minutes, meaning customers no longer need to worry about missing a train.

GO Expansion will reduce commuter times by an average of 10 minutes per trip and as much as 20 to 30 minutes for other trips. Some key stations on high density routes will get services that can be up to 40 per cent faster, such as Bramalea, Pickering, Unionville and Oakville GO Stations.

How is that possible?

New electric GO trains will run faster between stations and be able to accelerate and decelerate quicker at stations, so that for most journeys, regardless of traffic conditions, the train will be a more compelling choice than the car.

This will be achieved by introducing new, high-performance electric locomotives, shortening most GO trains, and upgrading tracks and signalling to support higher speeds.

rendering of an electric GO train behind a retaining wall
New high-performance electric locomotives will be able to achieve higher top speeds more quickly than their diesel counterparts. (Metrolinx image)

While current GO trains can go up to 140km/h, they generally travel about 95km/h on average. This is due to track limitations and the speed at which diesels and accelerate and decelerate between stations. Upgraded tracks and signals combined with the new electric locomotives will mean GO trains will travel up to 140km/h more often, significantly shortening trips.

Combined with more frequent trains, these shorter journey times have the potential to change the geography of the region:

  • Destinations within Toronto like Bloor-Dundas or Mimico GO are proposed to be about as quick and easy to reach from Union Station by GO Train as St. Patrick or Bloor-Yonge are by subway today

  • Destinations a short distance beyond Toronto like Bramalea or Port Credit GO are proposed to be about as quick and easy to reach from Union Station by GO Train as Broadview or Ossington are by subway today

  • Destinations in the heart of the ‘905’ like Oakville and Pickering GO are proposed to be about as quick and easy to reach from Union Station by GO Train as York Mills or High Park are by subway today.

  • Destinations further from Toronto, like Hamilton and Barrie, are proposed to be about as quick and easy to reach from Union Station by GO Train as making a non-stop highway journey with no traffic — something increasingly difficult to do

The GO Expansion project also includes a re-design of Union Station platforms, upgraded track and signal technology, plus new quieter, cleaner electric locomotives that will improve the passenger experience.

By redesigning the platforms at Union Station and the tracks leading into the station on either side, Metrolinx can solve the network’s main bottleneck. That is a key ingredient to allow the introduction of high frequency GO train service.

With shorter journey times and more capacity, the economic benefits can be as much as 50% more than originally stated in the GO Expansion Full Business Case (2018).

Metrolinx and its new partners will now spend the next two years on final design and a future operating plan.

Who makes up ONxpress Transportation Partners?

Metrolinx is partnering with ONxpress Transportation Partners to improve the GO rail system to be best in class. The winning team is led by Aecon, FCC Construcción S.A., (FCC), Deutsche Bahn, and Alstom, all leaders in their respective fields.

  • Aecon, a made-in-Canada success story, is an industry leader in the development and construction of infrastructure. Aecon is successfully executing some of the world’s most complex infrastructure projects both in Canada and abroad

  • FCC is a Spanish engineering and construction company and one of the leading companies in its field in Europe. FCC has built over 2,600km of railway around the world

  • Deutsche Bahn is the world’s second largest transport company, operating Europe’s largest rail network – moving nearly five billion passengers and millions ton of goods per year

  • Alstom SA is a French rail transport company and one of the largest rolling stock manufacturers in the world. Alstom’s best-known products including the AGV, TGV, Eurostar, Pendolino high-speed trains, metro trains, and Citadis trams

This plan is all about more. More trains, more stations, more speed, more options, and more connections giving customers more time doing the things they love.

Next steps for GO Expansion

The GO Expansion – On-Corridor Works project is being delivered as a progressive design, bid, build, operate (DBOM) model, where Metrolinx, as project owner, will work collaboratively with the successful proponent team to further develop the design, risks, and responsibilities to deliver the project.

Now that Metrolinx has entered into the contract with ONxpress, a multi-stage design process – called a development phase – begins prior to the start of construction.

During the development phase, Metrolinx and ONxpress will finalize project scope, risk allocation, and target pricing. This allows for greater collaboration between Metrolinx, ONxpress, project partners, and communities, and allows for some early enabling construction to begin.

rendering of an electric GO train on new tracks with overhead wires
Shorter journey times and more frequent service will make GO Transit the best option to get around the region. (Metrolinx image)

Metrolinx expects some construction to start in 2023, and there will be incremental improvements to service as work phases unlock opportunities to add service starting in approximately 2025-2026.

When complete, the GO Expansion program is projected to deliver 200 additional kilometres of track, with annual ridership of over 200 million (by 2055).

This is a generational change to transit that has never been done in North America – one that will transform Canada’s largest metropolitan area, for the better.  

Story by Patricia Pytel, Metrolinx capital communications manager