We don’t have to sign up; we’re already there!

There’s no need for Toronto‘s Pearson International Airport to work toward becoming an aerotropolis.

It already is one.

That’s the word from Toby Lennox, the airport’s vice president, strategy development and stakeholder relations.

He says Pearson, Canada’s busiest airport, has already spawned the thick bands of industrial and commercial development that characterize the modern aerotropolis.

“Just drive around the area and you’ll see it’s chockablock with what you’d normally find in an aerotropolis,” says Mr. Lennox of the freight forwarders, cargo terminals and  logistics outfits that now rim the airport.

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Unlike Pearson, the much smaller airport at nearby Hamilton, Ont., has officially embraced the aerotropolis concept.

Yet, this only makes sense, says Mr. Lennox, given Hamilton’s dearth of industrial development.

“It’s just a whole different model from what we have at Pearson,” he explains.

But what happens when there’s no more room left near Pearson for industrial development?

You locate an industry in Mississauga, the booming city (pop. 713,000) on Toronto‘s western flank.

“I wouldn’t necessarily be looking to see a manufacturer locate next to the airport,” says Mr. Lennox. “I may want to put it in Mississauga.”

In fact, Pearson already works closely with that city’s economic development office.

If an aerotropolis is defined by the industrial development to which it’s given rise, Pearson likely ranks with the best.

But if it’s also defined by easy access to rapid transit and high speed rail, Pearson has some catching up to do.

Still, to be fair, the airport is scheduled to be connected to downtown Toronto in 2015 by a custom-built express train.

Nonetheless, Mr. Lennox admits that to make it easier for people from across the greater Toronto area to get to jobs at Pearson, rapid transit will have to be steadily upgraded.

He says this will be particularly important as the airport’s payroll grows to keep pace with an expected boom in passenger traffic.
Now handling 36 million people a year, Pearson is expected to move 24 million more during the next 20-30 years, while its workforce, now 40,000, could hit 60,000 over the next two decades, Mr. Lennox says.

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Europe-Asia rail connection at Istanbul promises to be great…

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A centuries-old dream fulfilled. A vital link between east and west. A new land bridge between Asia and Europe.

Turkey‘s new Marmaray tunnel under the Bosporus lends itself to superlatives. And all of them are justified. For starters, the tunnel is epochal, being history’s first permanent rail link at this storied frontier.

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Moreover, the tunnel is an engineering marvel. Not only is it long — 8.5 miles — it’s also deep, running almost 200 feet beneath the seabed. Not surprisingly, Marmaray cost a bundle — US$ billion, to be precise.

Initially, the tunnel, opened by Turkish State Railways, will handle commuter traffic, whisking up to 75,000 passengers an hour between East and West Istanbul. But it will also be expanded to handle long-distance passenger trains, becoming the first standard-gauge rail link between Europe and Asia.

But will it really be a seamless connection? Maybe. But first, some other links will also have to be forged. For one thing, Turkey, as well as interested parties, will have to complete the rail connection between Kars, on the country’s eastern frontier, and Achalkalaki in Georgia.

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Then, a route will have to be set aside between Achalkalaki and Beijing, using the Trans-Siberian Railway and, after that, the Trans-Mongolian line through Ulan Bator to China.

Moreover, through traffic will be hobbled by differences in track gauges between China, Russia and Turkey. In both China and Turkey, railways, like those in the rest of Europe except Spain, are standard gauge. But in Russia, Georgia and Mongolia, they’re broad gauge.

So, freight cars rolling from, say, Beijing, to Paris will have to be changed: from standard to broad gauge wheels and back to standard ones — an expensive and time-consuming process.

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Changing the wheels from Mongolian to Chinese gauge at the border.

Moreover, Central Asia, through which the route must pass, is chronically unstable, racked as it is by civil war, as well as tribal and ethnic violence.

Then, too, such a route will have to compete with Russia’s own plan to move cargo from China and the Far East to Europe via the Trans-Siberian. So, will the new Marmaray railway tunnel live up to its billing? Stay tuned!