Toronto mayor receives $8 billion SmartTrack inspiration in London England visit

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STAFF WRITER – The GTA Construction Report Special Feature

Toronto Mayor John Tory has visited London, England and experienced a firsthand look at the British city’s Crossrail project, a massive $30 billion rail line cutting across the city and connecting it to outer boroughs.

As part of the experience, he was lowered by a construction crane into a shaft of the new system’s Canary Wharf station building site.

“The station, expected to increase capacity to 200,000, represents what Tory is hoping to achieve back home: Building a separate transit line, SmartTrack, in hopes of relieving congestion while developing potential for a new jobs sector in the East Don Lands and connections to the Mississauga Airport Corporate Centre,” the Toronto Star has reported. Tory’s proposed initiative, at $8 billion, will be much less expensive than the huge London project. However, his idea is still in its infancy, with Toronto city council beginning now to debate the merit of building it at all, the Star has reported.

“A city staff report and the provincial transit agency, Metrolinx, has called into question whether a separate line running mostly on existing GO tracks is even workable.”

Tory said after viewing the Canary Wharf station that he is open to ideas on how to make the proposed Smart- Track project possible. “To me it just underlines the fact that in Toronto, wherever it is we’re looking at having people work, and if the city is going to grow, they have to work somewhere, they have to live somewhere, we need to have the transportation,”

Tory said. “And you can’t sort of think of one 10 years later or 15 years later, you have to do it as an integrated package.”

He said he believes, based on his observations in London, that the private sector will contribute to the costs of the plan. London used what would be the equivalent of $4 billion in development charges – but the Star says it is unclear whether Tory’s plan to borrow against development will bring the same financing for his plan.

Crossrail will be 118 km long when it is completed, running largely on existing rail, but involving 42 km of new tunnels through Central London — which took eight borers to complete, the Star reported. Crossrail officials say the system will carry 72,000 people per hour when the line opens in 2018. That is nine years after major construction began in 2009.

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