Bloor West Villager
In opting for diesel trains instead of electric alternatives, Metrolinx ignored its statutory obligations to ensure sound, long-term transit planning, alleges the Clean Train Coalition (CTC), which has issued a legal challenge against a planned air rail link (ARL) to run between Union Station and Pearson International Airport.
The coalition said it has already filed an application in Ontario Divisional Court calling for a judicial review of the 2011 decision by the regional transportation planning agency not to electrify the ARL in time for the 2015 Pan American Games, a move, the group charges, was made due to political interference from the provincial government.
“Metrolinx was told by the Government of Ontario not to proceed with electrifying the air rail link and instead to move ahead with diesel trains in order to meet an imposed and arbitrary deadline of the Pan Am Games,” alleged CTC co-chair Rick Ciccarelli during a Wednesday, Aug. 8 morning press conference at the foot of the Wallace Avenue pedestrian bridge in the Junction, right beside where the link will run.
The coalition, which is made up of residents living along the Georgetown South rail corridor in the west end of the city, wants the courts to force Metrolinx to abandon its ongoing work on the project and instead focus on electrifying the ARL before it opens.
“We’ve been left with no choice but to seek a legal remedy to stop this dirty diesel plan,” said Ciccarelli.
CTC legal counsel Saba Ahmad said Metrolinx had unlawfully exceeded its mandate as an agency.
“We argue Metrolinx acted contrary to statutory requirements that long-term vision and goals guide its decision making,” said Ahmad.
She said the court challenge asked that Metrolinx set aside the diesel train project for the ARL and conduct a full analysis comparing electric and diesel technologies taking into account environmental and health impacts in addition to technical and economic considerations.
Ahmad also said the coalition’s application would also ask the courts to take into account a recent decision by the World Health Organization (WHO) to classify diesel exhaust as a cancer-causing carcinogen.
The 13-page court application has been made available on the Clean Train Coalition’s website at www.cleantrain.ca
Mark Ostler from Metrolinx wouldn’t comment directly on the case, but said the 18 diesel trains manufactured by the Japanese company Sumitomo that were approved for purchase in 2011 for the ARL exceed the WHO’s emissions requirements.
“These vehicles are fully convertible to electric, beat the WHO’s stringent emissions standards and reduce airborne particulate emissions by 90 per cent,” he said Tuesday afternoon in an email.
Ostler said the ARL was still on schedule to be completed by 2015.
Metrolinx is proceeding with its own study on the feasibility of electrifying the ARL. The study is scheduled for completion in 2014.
It will cost approximately $1 million per train car for electric conversion.