Electrifying Toronto

Performing an Electrification Feasibility Study for rolling stock, operations, and traction power systems

Metrolinx | Toronto, Ontario, Canada | 2012

On average, 215,500 commuters ride the train daily

Electric trains emit up to 35% less carbon than diesel trains

Electric trains offer better energy efficiency


  • Metrolinx operates a network of GO Transit commuter rail lines on seven corridors, using conventional diesel-electric locomotives and non-powered, bi-level coaches in push-pull configuration.
  • Union Station in Toronto (the system hub and the City’s primary downtown station) supports run-through trains instead of a traditional terminal for almost all its services.
  • There were significant system capacity constraints at Union Station, including long dwell times, narrow platforms, and almost complete passenger turnover on through-rated trains.
  • Metrolinx set a goal to determine which express rail and regional rail services at speeds and frequencies could be enhanced by system electrification.
  • To achieve this goal, Metrolinx needed a comprehensive electrification feasibility study.


  • Leveraged our traction power and rail vehicle experts to assess the benefits and challenges of a full range of technology options, including ac and dc powered systems and alternative system technologies and enhancements.
  • Recommended multiple electrification system technologies for Metrolinx’ consideration. These included dc, ac at commercial and non-commercial frequency or a combination of ac and dc, as well as alternative system enhancements such as wayside storage and wayside hydrogen fuel-cell power generation.
  • Utilized our proprietary TrainOps® simulation software to determine required substation spacing and system performance, outlining three technologies to best satisfy the evaluation criteria:
    • Direct-fed system operating at 1x25 kV ac electrification voltage at commercial frequency (60 Hz)
    • Autotransformer-fed system operating at 2x25 kV ac electrification voltage at commercial frequency (60 Hz)
    • Direct-fed system operating at 1x50 kV ac electrification voltage at commercial frequency (60 Hz).
  • Developed capital and operating cost estimates of the electrification system, including rolling stock and the traction power (comprising substations, autotransformer stations, switching stations, and the overhead contact system).


  • Recommended the autotransformer-fed system operating at 2x25 kV ac as the most cost-effective technology after identifying low clearance on a considerable number of bridges. This made the 1x50 kV system cost prohibitive due to necessary and frequent track lowering or bridge raising.
  • Ruled out 1x25 kV technology and successfully mitigated undue system risk after identifying insufficient capacity in Toronto’s high voltage network, resulting in traction power substations placed at a considerable distance from Union Station.
  • Proactively recommended development of the Toronto Airport (Pearson) Rail Link before its opening in June 2015, based on early consideration of the existing GO Transit network and other proposed network extensions in a study finalized in 2010.

Project numbers

327 miles of total system route (526 kilometers)
949 coaches, the largest fleet of bi-level passenger coaches in North America
4 other rail carriers that share the track – VIA Rail Canada (intercity rail service), Union Pearson Express (airport shuttle), Canadian Pacific (freight) and Canadian National (freight)

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