Toronto poised for air-rail link

24 Mar 2015 by Alex McWhirter

Toronto will soon join that select but small group of North American airports to boast a downtown rail link.

The Canadian commercial capital's somewhat oddly named UP Express train will open this spring.

A definite date has yet to be announced, but the train will run between Toronto Pearson airport and downtown Union station, hence the "UP" branding.

UP Express train

UP Express is estimated to cost C$456 million and is funded by the Ontario government.

Trains will run daily every 15 minutes, with the 25-kilometre journey lasting 25 minutes. After taking a new spur line from the airport, UP Express runs mainly over existing Canadian railroad tracks into Toromto city centre.

UP Express takes a leaf out of Heathrow Express' book as not only is the advertising slogan similar to that used when Heathrow Express was launched, but, at a one-way fare of C$27.50, it is also the most expensive air-rail link in North America.

But by European standards Toronto's air-rail link is a small scale affair. It reckons to carry just 5,000 passengers daily which is small beer compared to a similar link in Europe.

The Japanese-built trains are diesel powered (surface rail electrification is unknown in the Toronto commuter region). And, by European standards, they are not only short in length — most are just two or three-car units — but they have, to European eyes, a dull appearance.

Airport trains at this fare level should be swish and modern. But UP Express, although modern, has a rugged look about it which suggests it would be more at home in the Canadian wilderness rather than shuttling to and from the airport.

Alex McWhirter

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