Why unlocking future GO service means interrupting service today

Metrolinx News explains how today’s work will lead to more service.

Construction-related service interruptions are occasionally necessary to make time for work that’s necessary for future improvements.

Metrolinx News readers know that GO Expansion will deliver faster rides with electric trains and service so frequent you won’t bother with a schedule. Over $11 billion of early works and off-corridor projects are already underway, and that means construction.

Sometimes construction leads to service reductions. That means train service going down to once-an-hour, or with buses replacing trains for an evening or a whole weekend.

Metrolinx understands that, while absolutely necessary, these decisions can present an inconvenience, so they are not taken lightly.

Work crews are replacing track and signal infrastructure on the Lakeshore West line
Work crews replacing track and signal infrastructure on the Lakeshore West line during a past project. (Metrolinx photo)

It’s all about balance, said Patricia Henriques, the senior manager for rail corridor access control (RCAC) at Metrolinx.

While some work is done during regular service, crews must stop frequently to let trains pass. This takes between five and 10 minutes each time, depending on the location and the size of the work zone.

“To do work between trains running both ways on 15-minute service, would mean stopping every seven-and-a-half minutes for a train, so productivity is really low when trains are on the corridors,” Henriques said.

While weekend-long interruptions get the most attention, Henriques and her team look at all options to see if work can be done safely while keeping some tracks open, even if it means less frequent service for a short time.

Work to add a fourth track along the Lakeshore East GO Line provides a good example. A temporary move to once-an-hour service means going from three tracks to two.

A new signal bridge is installed over the tracks
Some GO Train service will be impacted by ongoing work. Shown is a file photo of past construction. (Metrolinx photo)

“Metrolinx can run service on two tracks, and we can use the third track as a buffer to provide protection between the workers and moving trains,” Henriques said.

Less disruptive work, like site walks and surveying can take place without track closures.

Full closure vs temporary closure

The most difficult decision for Henriques and her team involves work that requires all train service to be cancelled on a particular GO line for a whole weekend.

“That’s when you have major construction,” Henriques said.

For example, construction of a station pedestrian tunnel that crosses multiple tracks is done as an open cut. This involves removing the tracks, digging a hole and installing the tunnel, before re-installing the soil, ballast and tracks. That takes a whole weekend to be done properly and safely.

Construction crews working on the Rouge River bridge during a major project done in 2021. (Metrolinx photo)

These decisions are typically made months in advance.

This allows Metrolinx to get the word out to sports teams, concert promoters and other event planners. Internally, it provides time to schedule replacement buses and prepare customer notifications.

Upcoming construction-related service impacts

A wide variety of tasks will be accomplished during a shutdown of the Lakeshore East and Stouffville GO Lines during the weekend of Sept. 24.

This construction-related service disruption centres around the need for the Metrolinx Rail Corridors Team to replace three aging switches that are used by CN freight trains to move from one track to another.

Making sure that switches are fully functional is one way to reduce delays throughout the year.

A major project that was completed along the Lakeshore West Line in 2020. (Metrolinx photo)

Some work for the new Ontario Line subway project, in the stretch where it will run alongside GO Trains – across the Don River, through Riverside, towards Leslieville – will be done that weekend. As well as improvements to Eglinton GO Station.

Work on the Barrie Line will take place on the weekends of Sept. 10, Oct. 29, and Dec. 17.

The Dec. 17 weekend will see an important milestone in the work towards two-way, all-day service on the Barrie Line through the Davenport Diamond project.

On that weekend, test GO trains are scheduled to run for the first time.

Of course, schedules may be adjusted due to weather conditions.

Henriques understands that construction-related service disruptions can present a challenge to GO customers.

“We appreciate the customer,” she said.

“We understand that this is not ideal for people who planned to go watch a game that weekend and they need to find a different way to get to the game, but we hope they can see that we are building for them, to provide a better service, that is faster and more frequent.”

“I do not do this alone, I have an amazing team with me that works hard to ensure we reach a common goal”, Henriques said.

Keep reading Metrolinx News and make sure to check the GO Transit website for more information on service adjustments.

Story by Mike Winterburn, Metrolinx News senior writer