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Rail: Ontario-Quebec High Speed Rail Study

facepalming_brooklynite

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Today's Globe and Mail has a piece about high-speed rail that compares projects in Germany and China to the state of Canadian railways.
It's illustrated with this drawing that shows the German high-speed train passing a level crossing on its way from Cologne to Frankfurt.
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Anyone who has taken a high-speed train in Germany knows that this does not happen. The high-speed train from Cologne to Frankfurt runs in a trench that permits it to travel as fast as 300 km/h. There are no level crossings.
I think it is highly ironic and symptomatic of the state of Canadian railways that even the futuristic imaginings of Globe&Mail illustrators are far behind the times.
 
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mdrejhon

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Today's Globe and Mail has a piece about high-speed rail that compares projects in Germany and China to the state of Canadian railways.
It's illustrated with this drawing that shows the German high-speed train passing a level crossing on its way from Cologne to Frankfurt.
View attachment 208796

Anyone who has taken a high-speed train in Germany knows that this does not happen. The high-speed train from Cologne to Frankfurt runs in a trench that permits it to travel as fast as 300 km/h. There are no level crossings.
I think it is highly ironic and symptomatic of the state of Canadian railways that even the futuristic imaginings of Globe&Mail illustrators are far behind the times.
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208888


'Nuff said.
 

Urban Sky

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Today's Globe and Mail has a piece about high-speed rail that compares projects in Germany and China to the state of Canadian railways.
It's illustrated with this drawing that shows the German high-speed train passing a level crossing on its way from Cologne to Frankfurt.
View attachment 208796

Anyone who has taken a high-speed train in Germany knows that this does not happen. The high-speed train from Cologne to Frankfurt runs in a trench that permits it to travel as fast as 300 km/h. There are no level crossings.
Except that it does happen, even though indeed not between Frankfurt and Cologne, but pretty much on any other HSR route connecting the 5 largest cities of Germany, you will still find level crossings, semaphore signals (like in Hanau) and sometimes even single-tracked segments (like Wolfsburg-Braunschweig).

I think it is highly ironic and symptomatic of the state of Canadian railways that even the futuristic imaginings of Globe&Mail illustrators are far behind the times.
I think it is more ironic and symptomatic that there is apparently no shortage of Canadians who experienced intercity rail in Germany and Canada and still completely missed that the main characteristic which sets the two networks apart is not travel speeds (expressed in the average travel speed resulting from the fastest scheduled travel time between the two countries' respective largest cities)...
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...but the number of frequencies offered per day:
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Both figures compiled from: official VIA timetables and Grahnert.de timetable database
Note: fastest travel speed and frequencies were determined by looking only in one direction (i.e. from the larger to the smaller city)

Canadians have been complaining about the slow speeds of their intercity trains (especially in comparison to European countries like France or Germany) eversince the bullet train age started. Nevertheless, when comparing the fastest travel speeds (i.e. distance-by-rail divided by the fastest travel time) on the 10 routes between the 5 largest cities in Germany (Berlin, Hamburg, München, Köln, Frankfurt) and the 3 routes between the 3 dominant cities in Eastern Canada (Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa), I would like to highlight the following observations:
  • Until 1990, Toronto-Montreal was faster than any of the top 10 HSR routes in Germany
  • Until 2004, Toronto-Montreal was faster than the median of the top 10 HSR routes in Germany
  • Until 2017, Toronto-Montreal was faster than at least one of Germany's top 10 HSR routes
  • Between 2012 and 2017, Toronto-Ottawa was also faster than one of Germany's top 10 HSR routes (Berlin-München)
  • The current median of the Germany's top 10 HSR routes is only insignificantly higher than Toronto-Montreal was between 1992 and 2004 (135.6 vs. 135.3 km/h)
Then looking at frequency, however, Germany's top 10 HSR routes are 2-2.5 times as frequent as the top 3 VIA routes (12-25 vs. 6-10 trains per day)
 
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IRT_BMT_IND

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Compared to some of it's European neighbors (*cough* France *cough*), Germany's ICE system is notoriously fragmented and did not really involve a lot of new construction. The initial phases were actually quite similar to VIAs HFR proposal. This is partly because of the nature of German federalism and how the German state is organized.

It's probably not a coincidence that the most infrastructure intensive HSR systems (the TGV and Shinkansen) were built in centralized unitary states where it's easier for a central government to build top-down capital intensive megaprojects deemed to be in the national interest. In this vein it's also worth noting that the HSR systems in Japan and France were also built partly for industrial policy and other long term economic planning reasons aside from simple transportation.
 

Urban Sky

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Compared to some of it's European neighbors (*cough* France *cough*), Germany's ICE system is notoriously fragmented and did not really involve a lot of new construction.
Of all the 9 neighboring countries of Germany, only France and Belgium have a denser HSR network than Germany (33 and 18 vs. 13 mm of dedicated HSR lines per capita), whereas Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands have a less dense HSR network (11, 8 and 5 mm per capita) and Denmark, Poland, Czechia and Luxembourg have no HSR network at all:
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The initial phases were actually quite similar to VIAs HFR proposal. This is partly because of the nature of German federalism and how the German state is organized.
You are right that Germany is quite an anomaly due to the division until 1990, which explains why connection from/to Berlin were significantly slower than those between the Western German metropolises of Hamburg, München, Köln and Frankfurt. However, its not just Germany's approach which is similar to VIAs HFR proposal: upgrading existing lines to increase capacity and only considering new infrastructure where capacity cannot be economically increased along the existing right-of-ways is the way how intercity networks developed all across Europe and progressively transitioned towards HSR.

It's probably not a coincidence that the most infrastructure intensive HSR systems (the TGV and Shinkansen) were built in centralized unitary states where it's easier for a central government to build top-down capital intensive megaprojects deemed to be in the national interest. In this vein it's also worth noting that the HSR systems in Japan and France were also built partly for industrial policy and other long term economic planning reasons aside from simple transportation.
You are also right that economic and industrial policies (and let's not forget: fostering national cohesion) played an important role in basically any HSR nation. However, the second big misconception of Canadians about HSR is that it is indispensable in making passenger rail a relevant mode, as a countries' relative length of its HSR network can only explain just over 10% of the variance in its rail ridership levels (note that France 2.5 times Germany's HSR network density, but only 13% more rail ridership, while Spain has almost 4 times Germany's HSR network density, but only half its rail ridership and Switzerland has slightly less than Germany's HSR network density, but more than twice its rail ridership):
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Compiled from: European Commission Statistical Yearbook 2018 and UIC "High Speed Rail Lines in The World" (inclusion criteria: 250+ km/h)

One final remark about Canada: With approximately 59 km traveled by rail per capita, this figure still lies ahead of the HSR nation Turkey (55km)...
 

WislaHD

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Countries like Switzerland, Denmark, Austria, Netherlands don't have the need for HSR the way Germany, France and Spain do. HSR is not some panacea. I believe that HSR ridership is even on the decline in the Netherlands, probably in no small part due to their effective use of land.

Comparing countries by the various HSR metrics feels somewhat anachronistic when what matters at the end of the day are the corridors in question, and their travel patterns. Not which flag flies above the rail station.
 

mdrejhon

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Canada should have HSR by year 2050-2100, in part because it’s the right thing it do for sustainability reasons.
HFR can still come before HSR.
 

Urban Sky

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By intercity rail I assume?
All rail (presumably including commuter&regional rail, but excluding urban rail like Metros/Subways or Trams/Streetcars/LRT):

Turkey (2016):
-population: 78.74 million [1]
-rail ridership: 4.325 billion p-km [2] or 54.9 p-km per capita

Canada (2016):
-population: 35,151,728 [3]
-rail ridership: 2.081 billion p-km (Commuter: 673 million [4] plus Intercity: 1,409 million [5]) or 59.2 p-km per capita

[1] EU Transport in Figures 2018, "pb 2018-general-data" file (Table 1), "population" tab
[2] EU Transport in Figures 2018, "pb 2018-section23" file (Table 2.3), "rail_pkm" tab
[3] Census 2016
[4] RAC "Rail Trends 2018", p.18
[5] RAC "Rail Trends 2018", p.19
 
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