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Rail study on fast track
Published: April 11th 2009
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A study on the proposed Peterborough-Toronto commuter rail service will be completed by the fall, an official from the agency responsible for the study told The Examiner Thursday.

"We want to accelerate our progress," said John Howe, the general manager of investment strategy and projects at Metrolinx.

"In studying the potential for the Peterborough train, it's pedal to the metal. We're doing this as quickly as we can," he said.

Ontario and the federal Conservative government committed as much as $150 million each in the Building Canada Fund agreement toward the Peterborough commuter rail line in July.

The funding is contingent on the results of the Metrolinx study.

The study will include a set of options, including the cost and benefit of each option, Howe said.

"It will be left to the federal and provincial governments jointly to decide how to act or react to those options," he said. "Our mandate is to figure out how to bring the train back to Peterborough in a financially responsible manner."

The Building Canada agreement the province and federal government signed in July states the parties "agree to make best efforts to complete the study within one year."

In December, MP Dean Del Mastro told The Examiner the study should be done by the end of April or sooner. In August, he said the study was due by the end of March.

Metrolinx is targeting for a fall 2009 completion, Howe said.

"It's a target date that our federal and provincial government partners have also been anticipating," he said.

Howe said the report will be given simultaneously to federal Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Minister John Baird and provincial Transportation Minister Jim Bradley.

Metrolinx is looking at issues such as potential ridership, revenue, the best rail technology for the service, level of service, frequency of trains, current track conditions and the cost to build train stations, Howe said.

"We want to generate the total estimated capital and operating costs of future rail service to Peterborough offset against the estimated revenues," he said.

The transportation agency is reviewing recent feasibility and technical studies on the corridor as part of its report, Howe said.

"We are indeed building on the existing body of work," he said.

A feasibility study done for GO Transit in 2007 on a possible train service extension to Peterborough from Toronto estimated the rail line would have carried 193,960 passengers in 2006.

In a report released in 2007, Del Mastro estimated the service would start with 903 daily commuters, saving an annual 469,560 one-way car trips to and from the Greater Toronto Area.

Del Mastro updated his report in May, saying new information showed there would be 979 riders per day.

GO Transit bus service to Peterborough that's supposed to start by the fall will be complementary to the proposed rail service, Howe said.

"The GO bus link, if anything, will help to build and grow the market," he said.


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