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Rail: Ontario-Quebec High Speed Rail Study


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Dec 13, 2007
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From a Star article today:

"Sources told the Star last night that McGuinty and Charest will announce a feasibility study into a 1,000-kilometre high-speed rail link between Quebec City and Windsor. The project would provide an economic jolt to central Canada and could likely help such firms as Bombardier, which builds trains."
Can I Have Some Of What They Are Smoking

This proposal for a study of rail corridor from Windsor to Quebec City, via or with a spur to Ottawa, comes up every 5 to 10 years, on average. The current study will join a long list of others on a shelf somewhere in Queen's Park/Quebec City/Ottawa. Nothing will result from it other than a chance for provincial leaders to claim vision and foresight without having to spend more than a relative pittance.

The proposed link would serve only the manufacturers of rails and rolling stock. The construction of pyramids in Scarborough would be a preferable investment in terms of an economic jolt.

It is proposals like this, while exisitng infrastructure is collapsing and inadequate, that serve to make elected officials look like fools.

I disagree, I think the economic case for a HSR link is better now than it has been in the past. Ontario's economy is suffering mainly because we have been complacent in not adapting it to meet the nature of the global economy, clinging onto manufacturing that simply does not belong here anymore... if we had not been wasting billions of government money in bailing out these long-past-overdue sectors, and instead in R&D, we'd be in a completely different ball game.
That being said, a HSR link would provide two benefits, a transitional swan song for the manufacturers in developing the HSR, and then after, a sustainable transport system that would support the movement of people and ideas, which is what Southern Ontario is wealthy with.
Not wanting to rain on anyone's parade but just so I understand. The sustainable way to move the wealth of people and ideas out of Southern Ontario is a HSR connecting Windsor and Quebec City, with a spur to Ottawa?

Interesting, I look forward to the study report.

Until then, in comparison to the HSR, I'm still a pyramid person, or perhaps digging holes and filling them.

Actually, there are a few other ventures from the past that could work equally well. There was the era when we would be building nuclear powered submarines instead of buying the clapped out British rejects we actually did. Who could ever forget the world class ice-breakers we were going to build. Then there was the AVRO Arrow (that should arouse interest in a certain age cohort).

Maybe we could build a few helicopters to replace the Sea Kings.

Better we just do the study on HSR and shelve it.

Why not? In terms of knowledge wealth, we have one of the highest concentration of post secondary and research universities in the world along this corridor. New nodes of the tertiary and quatenary sectors of the economy are being formed throughout as well. Linking it with high speed rail is a very sustainable way of sharing ideas and wealth along this corridor in an age where air and car travel is going to become increasingly expensive and harmful to our environment.

It sounds wishy washy and all dreamy utopian, but it's true. And none of the above was a huge concern in previous studies.
Didn't the feds do a feasibility study a few years ago?

I recall it saying that such a service could even turn a profit.
do none of these knowledgeable people have drivers licences?

Too many have drivers licenses - the highways are full. Rail freight traffic has also been growing significantly in the past decade, so the rails are getting pretty full too. Since HSR is the most efficient means of moving masses of people in a corridor of this length*, let's get on with it!

*Air uses too much fuel, airports are typically slow to move through, and are typically located far beyond city centres where other transport hubs can filter people out across the city. Highways use far more land per person than rail, and the vehicles using them produce far more pollution.

For every type of trip there is an optimal mode of transport. If there are enough of us needing to make city-to-city trips within this corridor, HSR should be introduced into the mix of transport modes before continuing to expand other less optimal modes.

Good news, I'm glad this is still on people's radar. It makes so much sense and could really be the most important bit of infrastructure in Canada, the backbone of its economy.
I would love to see HSR in the corridor, especially because it would be a paradigm shift in people's perceptions, at least, of rail travel. However the reality is that travel speeds by rail could be vastly improved with simple improvements to signals, adding bypass tracks, etc.--all much, much cheaper than a brand-new, electrified corridor. It wouldn't be 186MPH, but even some of the diesel main lines in Britain have 120MPH service. No reason that couldn't be done easily in ON/QC.
I wonder how much this would cut into Porter's operations?

I agree that we've heard this before, but I get the feeling if there's ever been a time when this would actually occur, now would probably be it. Considering the recent studies revolving around the economic impact of increased traffic on our highways, the environment, and health care, I'd imagine that these talks (especially if this is a joint project with Quebec) might amount to something.

Based on previous studies, how far down the road would we see this system in place?
If Porter is still around a decade from now when this would be completed, then they are doing well! I think back in 1981 they were talking a 1989 opening, which seemed optimistic. The recent 100-km or so high-speed link in England is probably a better planning time-frame. It was just completed, and they started seriously planning it in 1996, though planning itself started in 1986. So 20 years?

Windsor to Quebec City was always simply to keep more politicians happy. The demain is from Toronto to Montreal (via Ottawa). That's what should be done first ... and then extensions considered on their own merits.
30 years too late – Porter airlines won’t be too happy. Or the maroons running the Toronto island airport.

But the infrastructure is still needed. Haven’t they done feasibility studies on this like every 8 years? I guess they need to update one / reward a political donor’s company before moving ahead.

You hear about how Harper made his economic assistance only good until the end of this budget year? It has to be renewed in the new budget in spring, so if the budget doesn’t get approved because the other parties want action on environment, Afghanistan, a real daycare programme, etc, he will be in a position to blame all the other parties for hurting Canada, etc, etc, yadda, yadda

The proposed link would serve only the manufacturers of rails and rolling stock. The construction of pyramids in Scarborough would be a preferable investment in terms of an economic jolt.

It is proposals like this, while exisitng infrastructure is collapsing and inadequate, that serve to make elected officials look like fools.

I think the idea is since infrustructure is crumbling, better to take the opportunity to upgrade it than make spot repairs or let it slide.

It’d have a huge benefit for moving freight around too.
Someone more knowledgeable might like to fill in more precisely, but I recall that the CPR had a right of way that ran roguhly parallel to Highway 7, but has been abandoned. That would make a great route, as it would make a proposed Ottawa spur smaller, and keep construction away from the very busy CN/CP lines along the lake and river, as well as away from the 401.
Absolutely fantastic, though it's definitely a long, long, long way from coming to pass. I hope they choose the approach recommended by the study in the mid-90s: 300+km/h trains on a separate right of way. The optimal routing is from Windsor to London on the existing CN line, with freight diverted to the busier CP route; from London to Kitchener on a new right-of-way; from Kitchener to Pearson on the existing right-of-way with a by-pass of Guelph; from Pearson to Union on the Weston Sub; from Union to about Oshawa on the Kingston Sub right-of-way; from Oshawa to Kingston on a new right-of-way north of the 401; from Kingston to Ottawa via a new route to Smiths Falls and the existing VIA-owned route north to Ottawa; from Ottawa to Montreal on the abandoned M&O Sub already owned by VIA for a potential high speed route; from Montreal to Quebec via Laval and Trois Rivieres on the existing former CP route. That's pretty much the route recommended in the mid-90s study.

High speed rail has enormous potential. It's absolutely bizarre how in countries all of the world, including all of Europe, high speed rail is considered economically and environmentally essential. The only places on earth where it's considered a frill are Anglo-Saxon countries. If nothing else, it will completely and forever eliminate the need to build a Pickering airport, saving billions of dollars and incalculable environmental impacts in the process. It would conveniently serve Trudeau and Pearson airports, allowing for convenient air-rail connections. High speed rail would serve many different markets. In addition to standard intercity travellers, the biggest traffic potential (as we have seen in Spain) comes from expanded commuting opportunities to big cities. If we build a real high-speed line, a huge amount of traffic will come from routes like Kitchener-Toronto and perhaps London-Toronto. It might even open up Ottawa-Montreal and Quebec-Montreal commuting.

It's absolutely insane that the home of the world's biggest manufacturer of high-speed trains doesn't have a single example of the type. The biggest danger is that Canada falls into the typical Anglo-Saxon trap of the "cheapo" solution (a term that Hipster Duck, I believe, coined a little while ago). It's absolutely hilarious to listen to people in England, for example, dismiss the notion of maglev trains because they're a new and unproven technology. Regardless of the problems and benefits of maglev, it's quite the contrast with their willingness to jump at completely unproven technologies like gas turbine engines and complex tilting systems. Risky new technologies are okay if the new technologies offer worse service than existing ones, but completely unacceptable if the service is potentially much better. Look at the disaster that is Acela Express, where the Americans tried to run a high-speed train on 1920s tracks and catenary. If we're going to build it, build it right. A 300km/h+ TGV-style technology that's been adopted all around the world. We should also at least look at Maglev, which anyone who's ever ridden it would say is extremely impressive, though with attendant risks.