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Response to Research Findings on Air Quality in Some GO Trains

TORONTO: February 7, 2017 – Today, Metrolinx Chief Operating Officer Greg Percy issued the following statement:

“A recent study led by Dr. Greg Evans from the University of Toronto found that some GO train cars contained elevated levels of diesel exhaust emissions when they were being pulled by the locomotive. The study looked specifically at the presence of black carbon and ultrafine particulate, which were found to be the highest in the car directly behind the locomotive.

Because the health and safety of our customers and staff is our top priority, we worked with Dr. Evans’ research team throughout the study to help gather and analyze data. Since evidence is still emerging on the effects of these particles and this study is the first of its kind for commuter trains in Canada, we are conducting further tests in partnership with SNC Lavalin and the University of Toronto to better understand the issue. The study notes the diesel locomotives tested are similar to those used by other public transit agencies in cities such as Vancouver, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Boston, Los Angeles, and Seattle, so we’re hopeful this work will result in improvements that can be applied throughout the industry. It also notes that this is not an issue for trains that are being pushed by the locomotive from behind, which accounts for roughly half of our trips.

We’re already addressing all of the recommendations made in the report, which include installing improved air ventilation filters, using Tier 4 diesel locomotives with the highest emissions standards, and pursuing electrified service. After installing and testing new high-efficiency filters on select trains, we’ve found that they significantly improve onboard air quality. While further testing is needed, we are on track to have the new filters on all train cars by the end of March to ensure we see immediate improvements. We’re also already using Tier 4 diesel locomotives, which are the most emissions-friendly on the market. Our entire UP Express fleet is powered by the Tier 4 locomotive—the first rail service to use it in North America—and we have one Tier 4 GO locomotive running with another 16 on order for 2017-18. Going forward, any new diesel locomotives we add to our fleet will be Tier 4. We’re also moving forward with plans to electrify large sections of our rail network, meaning we’ll carry many passengers in vehicles that have no diesel emissions at all.

We don’t take these issues lightly, and we welcome any findings that can help us run a healthier, safer transit service. As Dr. Evans points out, the study is not meant to discourage customers from using GO trains. He has been commuting on GO trains for years, and so have I—15 years, to be exact, and I will continue to do so.

We want to assure everyone who relies on GO Transit every day that we place the highest priority on their health and safety and we will continue to monitor and report on air quality to ensure we see improvements."

– Greg Percy, Chief Operating Officer, Metrolinx