After years of delays and cost overruns, Union Station renovations have finished

·3 min read
A view of the new Bay Concourse at Union Station opening on Tuesday. It's one of the final pieces of a city renovation project that has taken more than a decade to complete.  (Anne Marie Aikins/Metrolinx - image credit)
A view of the new Bay Concourse at Union Station opening on Tuesday. It's one of the final pieces of a city renovation project that has taken more than a decade to complete. (Anne Marie Aikins/Metrolinx - image credit)

After a decade of construction work that has seen delays and increasing costs, renovations to Union Station are finally complete, Toronto Mayor John Tory says.

"The Union Station revitalization is now, at last, complete," Tory said at a press conference and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday morning. He added that the new Bay Concourse area, which was also under construction, is now open to the public.

The final cost for the project, which started in 2010, was $824 million — an increase from the original budget of $640 million.

The project is meant to not only restore Union Station — a national historic site that opened in 1927 — but also triple the size of the GO transit space and make the station a shopping attraction. The renovations include a new food court under the York Concourse, expanded retail shopping spaces, a renovated VIA Concourse and Panorama Lounge, and two new bike parking stations.

Tory acknowledged that the project has "caused frustrations and delays" due to the complexity of the renovations.

"The bottom line is that we kept the building open, we kept the transit running and we completed an incredibly complex renovation on a historic building where we had to maintain, and are proud to maintain, the heritage and history of the building."

The most significant work was an excavation several metres below the floor of the station to free up space for two new transit areas and a lower-level retail area that is now available to the public.

Delays and overruns were in part due to the challenges of making changes to structures while they support trains running on them, according to Tory.

"In the end, if you look at the return this will pay in terms of transportation, economic activity and so on, I think it will be a good investment," Tory said.

"It's a bigger investment than we had thought, but a lot of people out there who have tried to renovate heritage buildings, and live in them at the same time, will understand the challenge of getting these things done."

A city report released in 2020 said that delays were due to conditions in the building as well as "performance issues" with the general contractor and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still work to be done at the platform level: Metrolinx

Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster said there is still work to be done at the platform level. They're got a program for the next eight to 10 years to allow for a doubling of the number of trains to flow through the station, according to Verster.

"Our capacity is not really how many trains we can get through Union Station, but how many people we can get off of platforms, into the concourses, and out to the city, and out to the TTC and out to VIA," he said.

Eventually, the 12 platforms will become seven broad platforms that allow more passengers to get on and off the trains, he added. The larger GO expansion plan is set to raise the number of trains running per week in the whole system from about 2,000 before the COVID-19 pandemic to 6,000 in a decade, according to Verster.

"I don't want people to be alarmed by the fact that we have more work to do — but we have more work to do," he said.

Tory also said at the press conference that ridership on the TTC is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels and that assistance from the provincial and federal governments will likely be required.

"We will probably need continued help for a number of years ahead as ridership continues to recover," he said.

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