train tracks with signal bridge

Improvements on track: how Metrolinx prepares for better service

Critical work is underway to maintain infrastructure that will get more people moving.

Apr 29, 2019

Travelling along the Lakeshore West and Barrie lines during upcoming weekends might be a little slower than usual.

Track replacement at Exhibition GO is scheduled for the weekends of May 4-5 and June 1-2, and 22-23. While the Barrie line train service will be replaced by some GO bus service on the weekends of June 1-2 and 15-16.

“Our vision is getting you there better, faster, and easier and that is exactly what this work is going to allow us to do,” explains Damien Whalan, who works with the Rail Corridor Access and Control team at Metrolinx.

During - pic 2

The work includes, but is not limited to, improvements on the tracks, signals and infrastructure.

Metrolinx’s Corridor Maintenance team is undertaking the largest concrete tie replacement program in its history in order to replace the tracks at Exhibition GO Station.  This vital work helps to maintain GO’s on time performance and improves passenger comfort.

New track infrastructure being installed near Newmarket GO station will now last longer and require less maintenance. That same work will also ensure a smoother road-rail crossing near East Gwillimbury GO Station.

In addition, there will be a new signal system at the Davenport Diamond to better help separate the Barrie line from freight traffic, so that trains can run more reliably and Metrolinx can deliver more service in the future.

It’s a lot to take on, but the work itself isn’t the hardest part.

“The biggest challenge we currently have, is ensuring that our customers’ needs are met while facilitating the construction works which may require a certain level of disruption,” says Whalan.

He adds, a lot of planning goes into making sure the work is scheduled with the least amount of impact on customer – making sure they have a way to commute is the number one priority.

“Track replacement work is thrilling – there is a lot of behind the scene planning to make sure that all the moving pieces on game day are executed properly,” says Whalan.

He and his team have to work fast and efficiently, especially since the work is being done on existing track that’s still being used.

“Track work has time restrictions which makes the adrenaline rush a little,” Whalan points out. “To make sure that the track is constructed to the highest standard, but in a very tight pocket of time to ensure we give the tracks back to operations so that we may service the customers.”

Despite this challenge, it’s an experience like none other.

“The comradery of the workers in the field is unique and only those who have been on site can fully understand, especially when it is down to the crunch and in the most unwanted weather conditions,” says Whalan.

Heavy machinery laying down new tracks at Exhibition GO during the rain.

There are also unique items they find when excavating in some of the older parts of the track. Out near Exhibition Station and Ontario Place, the crews discovered pieces of old gas mains that were made of wood materials as opposed to the plastic and steel we see today.

Once the work is complete, customers will benefit from smoother rides thanks to new infrastructure that requires less maintenance and that lasts longer.

by Nitish Bissonauth Metrolinx bilingual editorial content advisor