Three months ago, Premier Kathleen Wynne told us that, as part of the Regional Express Rail Program, GO trains will be running every 15 minutes from Union Station to Aurora. But just north, here in Newmarket, a designated growth area with a forecast 33,000 population in Yonge/Davis, we are offered trains every half hour at peak times and every hour outside peak. Why are we getting a poorer service than Aurora?

This is a question I put to Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca at a Town Hall in Aurora earlier this week, organized by local MPP Chris Ballard.

The enhanced GO Train schedule on the Barrie Line is, of course, terrific news but it is not a 15 minute service.

The Minister talks about “service concepts” and tells me the 70 GO Trains per week on the Barrie Line will increase to 200 within five years. This is a huge increase but it dodges the question.

Definition of the “core area”

If the 15 minute service is for the “core area” where can I find the definition of “core area” in the context of Regional Express Rail? Is the core area linked to projected future demand for train travel or, as suggested by Chris Ballard, is it something to do with the cost and difficulty of grade separations in Newmarket? I don’t know. In April Ballard tweeted:

@lynngr Enhanced service coming to Newmarket. Need time to build a number of crossings in Newmarket before 15 min. service possible, though.

2.41PM – 17 Apr 2015

Del Duca tells the audience to expect details from Metrolinx on the location of grade separations by the end of the year or shortly thereafter. This is fast work given that an update on capital projects given to the Metrolinx Board on 25 June 2015 reported that work on identifying the key rail and road separations on the Barrie line hasn’t yet started.

Where are the grade separations?

We need to know asap if there are going to be grade separations at Mulock Drive or Davis Drive (to name but two). And what about Green Lane? This major arterial road connects Newmarket with the 404. It seems inconceivable to me that a level crossing can survive at such a busy location.

We know from reports to the Metrolinx Board that the entire 60km long Barrie line is to be electrified. Land will presumably have to be acquired to accommodate the second track and to straighten out the line where it snakes. This in itself is a huge undertaking.

Reports to last month’s Metrolix Board tell me that a system wide environmental assessment will be completed by 2017 and that design, procurement and construction will take place over the period 2015-2024. Detailed design work is being done on the Union Station – East Gwillimbury section of the Barrie line as I tap this out.

The Regional Express Rail program is the answer to the congestion and gridlock that is choking the GTA. It is decades overdue and should be enthusiastically welcomed.

So I see the glass half full rather than half empty. But I still want to know why Aurora gets a 15 minute service and we in Newmarket don’t.

Metrolinx will be giving a presentation to Newmarket councillors in the Fall. Perhaps we shall find out then.

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For the Metrolinx reports that went to the Board on 25 June, click on documents in the panel top left and navigate to Metrolinx and open.

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