Metrolinx in early stages of major overhaul of UP Express service

Metrolinx is planning an extensive overhaul to the UP Express, including relocating the platform and integrating the service with the GO train network, spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins confirms.

As first reported in the Toronto Star, a Metrolinx document dated Feb. 22, 2019 shows the agency is in the early planning stages of relocated the UP Express platform at Union Station, something that could require building a new pedestrian bridge with an estimated cost of around $80 million.

The document also outlines a plan to scrap the current fleet of UP trains and replace them with electric vehicles.

Aikins says the reason behind the overhaul is due to the popularity of the airport rail link. Despite a rocky start, UP has experienced a 69 per cent growth since it opened four years ago and the agency predicts the trains will be overcapacity by 2028.

“We know we’re going to reach capacity and be overcapacity before the decade runs out. So we’re planning ahead for that,” Aikins told CBC Toronto by phone.

The 36-page document says the UP Express platform will be moved from its current location, which will require a new pedestrian bridge, a plan that the agency admits could significantly worsen customer experience at Union Station.

As part of the plan, the UP platform — currently accessible from the station’s west wing and complete with its own coffee shop — will be moved further south, placing it in the middle of numerous platforms servicing several lines that run through the station.

The document says the route to the new platform will be extended with elevators, stairs and a bridge, which may cause more pedestrian congestion.

Metrolinx is also planning to scrap the existing 18 UP Express vehicles to install the same electrified GO trains the agency plans to use on the rest of its network.

The change would create a merged service between the UP and the GO transit network, meaning GO trains could service Pearson from stations on the Lakeshore East and Stouffville lines, in an attempt to service a wider range of commuters.

“You would have more options,” Aikins said. “It would be truly an integrated system in that more people from around the region would be able to access a fast airport service.”

The Metrolinx document is also planning on increasing the frequency of the airport trains from eight trains per hour, instead of four. Some of the trains would stop at additional stations, potentially increasing travel time. Metrolinx does, however, raise the prospect of express services between Pearson and Union.

Aikins says the plan is in its early stages and the projects outlined in the document have not been finalized.

“We’ve got a lot of work on our hands and we’re not quite ready to go to the board with it yet with a solid plan that will work,” she said. “We’re working on it.”

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