Monday, August 22, 2011

Metrolinx ad on electrification called misleading

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Metrolinx, the Greater Toronto Area’s regional transportation agency, reportedly has been cited by Advertising Standards Canada of publishing misleading information on its proposed Air Rail Link and related rail projects.

Metrolinx last March published a newsletter headlined “Metrolinx Board approves electrification,” which was distributed to residents in Toronto’s northwest suburbs, near Lester B. Pearson International Airport and the proposed rail route leading to it. Text in the newsletter said, “This move follows approval by the Metrolinx Board of Directors of the staff recommendation to begin electrification of the Lakeshore and Georgetown GO Transit rail corridors, with the new Air Rail Link (ARL) as the first phase.”

But Metrolinx critics, including the Clean Train Coalition, say the newsletter failed to explain that the GO Transit train shuttle linking the airport with Union Station in downtown Toronto will use diesel engines, and not be an electrified route, when service begins in 2015. Electrification would follow at least seven years after that, critics charge.

metrolinx_logo.jpgMetrolinx subsequently issued a clarification saying its March newsletter “did not go on to specify timelines and that the engines used by the ARL service would not be electric when the service commences in 2015.”

But it added, “Metrolinx does not believe that our March 2011 quarterly newsletter gave residents a mistaken impression about electrification and the use of diesel trains on the ARL. Our quarterly newsletters and monthly emails have been an ongoing dialogue with Georgetown South corridor residents, and in that dialogue we have continuously stated that the ARL will begin in 2015 with diesel multiple-units [DMU].”

The Clean Train Coalition last Friday remained skeptical of Metrolinx’s motives.

“This is not the first time Metrolinx has attempted to make the public believe they have embraced this clean, modern form of rail service and are expediting its construction. The CTC believes Metrolinx is trying to delay or derail electrification and continue with its earlier plan to add more than 200 diesel trains to this densely-populated corridor,” the coalition said in a statement.

Separately, a source on Monday told Railway Age, “The Metrolinx objective is not to actually implement all the new transit services that [Ontario]Premier [Dalton] McGuinty is constantly announcing and re-announcing. It is closely controlled out of the premier’s office and its function is to make it look like something is being done, but then keep the improvements to a bare minimum for very good fiscal reasons.”