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Union-Pearson Express

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Overview

This is Toronto's newest rail service, which opened on 2015-06-06. Trains follow the existing CN tracks (also used by GO trains to Kitchener and VIA trains to Kitchener and London) from Union Station as far as a few junction where they branch onto a double-track elevated line leading to Terminal 1 of Toronto Pearson International Airport.

The service runs every 15 minutes and is operated by 2-car diesel multiple-unit trains, on which you can hear when the transmission shifts gears. At Union Station it uses a new pair of platforms inconveniently located west of York St. and of the main station, requiring passengers arriving by subway to walk about 800 feet horizontally and ascend three levels. (There are escalators and elevators for the first rise but only ramps for the other two.)

Both terminal stations have platform-edge doors, making it hard to photograph the trains there. There are two intermediate stops, at the Bloor and Weston GO stations. (They advertise Bloor as a connection with the Bloor subway at Dundas West, but this also involves a walk of several hundred feet.)

The service received some bad publicity when it was announced that the basic one-way fare would be $27.50 (about $22 US), roughly equal to the taxi fare if two people are traveling together. (It's cheaper for regular users or for those with the Presto fare card.)

The use of French as well as English on signs (and onboard announcements) is relatively unusual in Toronto, except where the federal government is involved, in which case both languages get equal treatment. Airports fall in the federal-government category but the train doesn't, so it was a bit surprising to see French there.

Location Notes

The Dundas St. bridge is located about 1/2 mile southeast of the Bloor station. The two tracks on the outside of the curve (i.e. on the right when going toward Union) belong to the Canadian Pacific Railway and have been used for the GO train service to Milton ever since it started. The other two tracks belong to the Canadian National Railway and are for VIA Rail (previously CN) services on the Toronto - Brampton - Georgetown - Guelph - Kitchener - London route, and have also been used for the GO train service to Georgetown -- later extended to Kitchener -- ever since that started.

The Bloor GO station was built when the Georgetown route opened and was therefore given platform faces only on the CN tracks. With the Milton route opened, it was considered that the trains did not need to serve Bloor station since they had a connection with the Bloor subway at Kipling. However, since I saw the UP Express using the two middle tracks of the four, evidently at least one new platform face has been added at Bloor.

Historically there was also a fifth track, on the inside of the curve, which was also a CP track, used for local access to industrial sidings. The reason for the peculiar layout is that this track was originally owned by a different railway before both companies were bought by CP. This track was closed in 1996 and has been converted to a pedestrian and cycle path, the West Toronto Railpath.

The CN and CP tracks swap sides about a mile on the other side of Bloor station, where they cross another CP track, and diverge a few miles farther on. The trains to Milton turn left onto those other CP tracks, and presumably all UP Express trains use the CN tracks from there to the airport branch.

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