A long, bitter anti-diesel fight may soon be in a judge's hands.
More than one and a half years ago, the Clean Train Coalition (CTC) won some concessions from Metrolinx in their campaign to revise plans for the Georgetown rail corridor: the transit agency agreed in principle to eventually electrify Georgetown (the CTC wants electrification to take place before a planned increase in trains running through the corridor), but said they would in the meantime continue to run diesel trains. At a press conference earlier today, the resident-led group announced that they’ll be taking Metrolinx to court to press for further changes.
An application by the CTC to the Ontario Divisional Court [PDF] calls for a judicial review of Metrolinx’s decision to use diesel trains on a planned rail line that would link Union Station to Pearson Airport. The Air-Rail Link (ARL), as it’s known, is already under construction, and Metrolinx has already ordered diesel cars from Sumitomo Corporation, a Japanese company.
According to the CTC’s application, the group’s lawyers will argue, essentially, that in approving diesel trains for use on the ARL, Metrolinx was acting against its legal mandate to plan and implement high-quality regional transit in the GTA. The CTC is alleging that Metrolinx’s board members and upper management were acting contrary to the advice of their own staff members when they approved the diesel trains. The reason Metrolinx chose to ignore that advice, the CTC contends, is that the transit agency was more concerned with satisfying provincial politicians, who want the ARL running in time for Toronto’s 2015 Pan Am Games.
The CTC is asking, among other things, for Metrolinx’s decision to be set aside, and for the transit agency to be ordered to conduct a comparison of the environmental impacts of diesel and electric trains on the ARL corridor.
It’s another chapter in a longstanding dispute between the CTC, an activist group led by members of residents’ associations from along the Georgetown GO corridor, and Metrolinx. In January 2011, after a year and a half of anti-diesel protests, Metrolinx’s board agreed, in principle, to electrify the Georgetown GO corridor over the next 20 years. Meanwhile, at the same meeting, the Metrolinx board decided that the ARL, which would consist of a spur off of the Georgetown corridor, would use diesel trains initially so that it could be up and running by 2015. The plan, as approved at that meeting, was for the ARL to be the first part of the corridor to be electrified, but Metrolinx staff estimated that the retrofit couldn’t be completed until 2018 at the earliest. The province has approved an environmental assessment that is currently underway, and set to be completed in 2014, but hasn’t committed any other money to electrification yet.
The CTC argues that the additional diesel exhaust would be harmful to human health, and that the corridor should be electric from day one. Metrolinx says that the particular diesels that are supposed to be used on the ARL will meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “Tier 4” standards, meaning their impact on health should be minor.
You can read the CTC’s full application here: [PDF].
This post originally stated that the province had approved an environmental assessment that was to begin in 2014. This is incorrect; it is set to be completed in 2014. We apologize for the error.