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Metrolinx puts rail electrification through Guelph on hold

'No real benefit' because of CN ownership between Bramalea and Georgetown, Metrolinx rep said during Ward 3 town hall event
20210319 GO Train in Guelph 2
GO train at Guelph Central Station. GuelphToday file photo

Plans to electrify the rail line through Guelph, previously referred to as a key step in the delivery of two-way all-day GO train service, have been shelved, according to a Metrolinx representative.

“This blew my mind,” said Coun. Phil Allt, who learned during a Tuesday evening town hall-style meeting for Ward 3 that the project has been paused. “If that guy did not speak out of turn, this is Earth-shattering news for a lot of people.”

A spokesperson for Metrolinx who was participating in the meeting delivered the news.

"We are not able to electrify the full Kitchener corridor as a result of the CN ownership between the Bramalea and Georgetown GO station. As a result, there is no real benefit to electrifying to Guelph at this point until we solve that middle piece,” Metrolinx’s Benjamin Kwok told event participants.

“If electrification does come back on the table we would need to restart the environmental assessment process to look at some of the environmental impacts, and what impacts electrification would have on the community."

A Metrolinx media spokesperson confirmed the comment on Wednesday.

The provincial agency launched an environmental assessment of its electrification plan in 2020, initially identifying Margaret Green Park as its preferred location for a traction power substation needed for the plan.

In the face of public opposition, as well as a formal motion from city council, Metrolinx announced in January the station would not go in the park.

Kwok said Tuesday evening the environmental assessment process has been paused.

“If we really do believe that we have to address greenhouse gases and that we have to address global warming and climate change, electrification of rail throughout Canada is absolutely essential,” said Allt. “This is a future issue. We cannot continue to spew diesel fumes.”

In a 2020 blog post Metrolilnx noted electrification was a long-term plan with “many benefits.”

“There are no immediate plans to electrify this segment of the corridor. Metrolinx is planning on implementing two-way all-day service on this part of the corridor (Georgetown to Kitchener) using diesel – so there’s plenty of time to refine the technical proposal to account for the public feedback we have received,” the post states.

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