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Ontario commits to massive overhaul of GO Transit, will launch procurement shortly

Converting the Toronto area's commuter-focused train service into a full-blown regional rail network comes with a $21.3 billion price tag

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The wide-ranging GO Transit expansion includes new trains, track and stations. PHOTO: Milan Suvajac/Wikimedia Commons

TORONTO—The procurement process for the largest rapid transit expansion in the country is about to get underway in Toronto.

Ontario Transportation Minister Kathryn McGarry stood on the rail platform of Union Station March 26 to announce the province will move forward with a plan to overhaul the sprawling GO Transit network that connects Canada’s largest city with its suburbs and other municipalities as far away as Kitchener and Waterloo, Ont.

The long-term project will transform what is today mainly a commuter train service into a Regional Express Rail (RER) system. Provincial transit agency Metrolinx has already made some progress on the initiative, but will now push ahead on the main phase of procurement.

“This is a momentous time as we get set to quadruple weekly train trips, electrify the network and connect the people of our region to where they want to go better, faster and easier, Phil Verster, Metrolinx president and CEO, said in a statement.

The overall RER project is expected to cost $21.3 billion—a figure that includes six new GO stations, upgrades at more than 20 existing rail hubs, 150 kilometres of new track, bridge and tunnel work, as well as the electrification of the network.

New trains, maintenance facilities, bus loops and digital signage in stations are among the long list of other items to be included in the procurement bonanza.

The province said it plans to launch a request for qualifications to design, build and maintain the RER system shortly, though it also intends to parcel out a number of the contracts, meaning one construction consortium will not be responsible for the entirety of the multibillion-dollar project.

Today, GO Transit runs approximately 1,500 rail trips each week. That number will quadruple to 6,000 under by the time the RER network is complete in 2025. It will also bring all-day, two-way service to certain regional lines that are currently built to ferry commuters in and out of Toronto.

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