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North Municipal Mainline Alliance Study

The North Mainline Municipal Alliance is a group of “Heads of Council” formed to lobby the federal government to fund improvements to the North Main Line. The cities represented include Halton Hills, Guelph, Kitchener, Waterloo, Waterloo Region, Stratford, St Marys, and London. This group was founded in 2003. This group commissioned a feasability study into the expansion of commuter services on the North Main Line.

The study was performed by a consulting firm, UMA/AECOM, at a cost of $40,000. The study considers the addition of 4 commuter-train departures per weekday, in addition to the existing VIA rail and freight traffic. The equipment considered to be used are Budd “RDC” cars, which are self-propelled diesel-powered passenger cars. These cars were typically found on the North Mainline through the 1970s and 1980s until their retirement in 1990. This equipment can be made readily available by IRSI in Moncton, New Brunswick, which has about three dozen of these units rebuilt and refurbished for sale at a resonable cost.

This study considers the expansion of service in three phases: (with cost)

  • Georgetown (Including Acton, Guelph) to Breslau (near Kitchener) (Cost: $19M)
  • Breslau (near Kitchener) to Stratford (Cost: $17M)
  • Stratford to London (Cost: $22M)

Improvements to the line would be required to make it possible, and these are included in the costs above.

  • Finishing the upgrade of the line from old 1950s rail to continuous welded rail for a smoother, faster ride.
  • Installation of Signals (Centralized Traffic Control). Presently the line is ‘dark territory’, control is done exclusively by radio, with no signaling.
  • Upgrade/Installation of passing tracks where required.
  • Upgrade public grade crossings (install gates/bell/lights as needed.)
  • Addition of third mainline between the Junction with the North Main Line (known colloquially as the Guelph subdivision) between the junction at Silver and Georgetown Station (on the CN Toronto-Chicago Mainline), a short distance.
  • Station/Platform mofidications at each point on the line, new stations where required.

Purchase of the RDC units will cost about $20 million, and operating costs are expected to be $3.5 million per year.

Revenue is expected to be from $5.4 million to $10.8 million per year, given ridership forecasts.

The study concludes that about 500,000 to 1 million riders per year will utilise the system throughout its service area.

The study mentions that in the end, negotiations with GO Transit would be required to ensure they can handle the extra passengers at their Georgetown station.

(Source: Guelph City Council minutes from July 17 2006, Report A-5 (Page 216-230))

Some questions and answers regarding the study, and challenges ahead for commuter service can be found in the section “challenges ahead for our councils”.