Transport Action Ontario has long supported the GO Expansion project (formerly Regional Express Rail). In fact, our 2013 report “Regional Rapid Rail” was an important precursor to the provincial project announced in 2014. As readers recall, GO Expansion proposes 15-minute all-day two-way service on core parts of 5 GO train corridors. The province has committed $13.5B for capital construction.
The province has now taken a major step towards procurement of this massive project. The procurement of this project has proceeded in 3 stages:
- A number of specific track, station and grade separation projects went to market in 2017/2018. Some of these, such as work on the Stouffville corridor, are under construction. Others are still in the tender process, or may be woven into the “On-Corridor” package described below.
- A second procurement package was released in early 2018 to construct 12 new stations, including 6 for Toronto’s Smart Track. However, in November, the province withdrew the tender and announced it would pursue a new Transit Oriented Development approach that would have the private sector fund station construction in exchange for development rights. Since then, two new stations (Mimico and Woodbine) have been announced under this approach.
- The third tender package is called “GO Rail Expansion On-Corridor Works”. Interestingly, it uses outcome based specifications where the winner is required to meet key performance specs such as x trains per day between points A and B, trip times, on-time performance, etc. It is up to the proponent to figure out how to achieve this most cost-effectively – whether to electrify or not, construct new track or not, use other innovations. As with all large transit contracts in Ontario, it is a Public Private Partnership (P3), where the winning bidder is responsible for Design-Build-Partial Finance- 30 years of Operation- 30 years of Maintenance. Media estimates of contract value is $18B ($9B capital + $9B op/main). On May 30, the province announced the 4 qualifying teams and issued a Request for Proposals (RFP).
Another interesting aspect of this “On-Corridor” tender is that the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) will finance up to $2B of the contract, only its second transit deal in Canada.
The release of the RFP and the CIB financing for the “On-Corridor” project are good news, as they signify solid government commitment to this massive and vitally important project.