News   Feb 20, 2024
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Rail: Ontario-Quebec High Speed Rail Study

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.

I think a spur line to Hamilton/Niagara would have its benefits, too. With US pre-clearance facilities in Buffalo, we could also lobby for funding from Eliot Spitzer.


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).

Ha ha. Maybe I'm suffering from amnesia, but I don't remember coining the word 'cheapo', although I certainly feel that way about Anglo Saxon fiscal prudishness.

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.

Faith in libertarianism and a hatred for social welfare seems to be the binding thread of all English speaking power brokers, whether they are Oxbridge-educated elites or nouveau-riche hicks from Arkansas. There's no better rallying cry for neo-conservatives than the opportunity to bash passenger rail.

I'm really cynical about this. There are several excellent HSR proposals in NA, like California, that will probably just end up in the filing cabinet. As the need to develop HSR becomes more pressing, expect skeptics to resort to more childish and desperate attacks, including:

a) the all-Canadian 'we should spend that money on health care instead'
b) Bill O'Reilly mouthing off about how HSR was pioneered in Europe by those dastardly French
c) the usual rhetoric about lack of profitability and a need to constantly subsidize
d) Jeffrey Simpson's notorious hate-on for VIA rail, despite making pleas to do something about greenhouse gas emissions
e) An appeal by Thomas L. Friedmann to invest money in biofuels research as a way of securing our energy future.
 
I thought that when I posted this, there would be a lot of negativity about the idea, and I have been pleasantly surprised with the positive response.

I think that it is about time that this comes to fruition. They can wrap it up in the MoveOntario management and development program, and bill Quebec their true portion of the costs on a kilometre by kilometre basis. That is more than fair, and Ontario could give Quebec the necessary controls to make sure they do not get shafted. But from a planning perspective and in an attempt to be efficient, have the GTTA study, manage and implement it.

The Quebec City-Windsor Corridor is home to approximately 57% of Canadians, over 17 million people. It is home to three of the five largest Canadian cities. I think it's about time we get going on this. I'd be interested to know if any timelines were established. Maybe a press release?

Going to have a look.
 
Ha ha. I couldn't agree more, Hipster Duck. We have our own Bill O'Reillys, though, and they're the people with the huge hate-on for Bombardier. People in the United States are proud of Boeing, just like Europeans for Airbus, and let alone Brazilians for Embraer. Yet every time Bombardier is mentioned, a chorus of people erupt with disdain, obviously for no reason other than that it's French Canada's greatest company. Buy American requirements (60% or more!) for all government procurement is massively popular in the States, but any demand that Canadian tax dollars be used to buy from a world-class Canadian company is met with the usual eruptions. Bombardier's much bigger in Europe and even the States than it is in Canada.

I thought of Hamilton/Niagara, too. I'd say that it's probably more suitable for an upgraded line to 200 km/h or so, but either way it's a very strong market. I wouldn't be surprised if New York State would support any extension over the border.
 
This is where the population density is high enough to give high speed rail a chance to become popular, and the distances are short. It's not inconceivable like some kind of high speed rail link to Vancouver.

Above all, it's environmentally friendly. A great idea would have it link Toronto with Hamilton and Niagara Falls, as the QEW no longer has much room for expansion. I would love to get to Niagara Falls in half the time that it takes to get there by car, and since so many tourists who visit us see Niagara Falls, this would be a great option to skip the rental car or tour bus. Eventually, even American destinations could be added like NYC, Boston, and Washington DC. The potential is huge, but we shouldn't be hearing this only when the manufacturing sector is struggling. Even South Korea has a high speed railway these days.
 
I'd just like to say that I love Bombardier :)

And i love the idea of a HSR link between Montreal and Toronto. The two greatest cities in Canada should be easily accessible to each other.

Trains are much better for the environment than air or car. And I've always loved trains. If the HSR could be expanded after that, that'd be awesome too. Love to see Toronto to NYC in half the time.
 
The last study was done by the feds, right? The fact that this is being done by the provinces makes me a bit more optimistic than if it were a federal initiative. Sad that in this country it's left to the provinces to pick up the slack on something that's really a federal responsibility (interprovincial transportation).

Let's put this into perspective: southern Ontario has about the same population density as France, the pioneer of high speed rail in Europe. And it's denser than Spain and Turkey, both of which are building high speed rail. There really aren't any excuses to put this off.
 
^The fact that Turkey is building a high speed rail line (including a 13km tunnel under the Bosphorus) and we aren't just shows you where are priorities lie.
 
^The fact that Turkey is building a high speed rail line (including a 13km tunnel under the Bosphorus) and we aren't just shows you where are priorities lie.

Anyone find it interesting the correlation between have-not European Union countries and substantial infrastructure investments. You would almost think they get some kind of an incentive or assistance to do that kind of thing.
 
Anyone find it interesting the correlation between have-not European Union countries and substantial infrastructure investments.
I hadn't realised that the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Belgium were have-not European Union countries.

Nor do I see the relevence to this, given that neither Turkey nor South Korea have never been members of the European Union.
 
There's no question that the EU has provided funds for massive infra improvements in countries that could never otherwise afford them. There's a reason why the Irish, for example, have one of the highest approval rates for EU membership (no HSR, but huge other investments, all of them with the EU seal). Spain is another prime example. The gravy train rolls on, however; with eastward expansion a lot of that money is going to be shifted to places like Bulgaria.

The EU actually has a sub-fund within the S-C programme specifically for high-speed rail, though its name escapes me right now.

I think the bottom line is that practically every rich country in the world, except the English speaking ones, has managed to make HSR a priority, along with a number of not-so-rich places. Kind of makes you wonder why we're constantly told that such investments are out-of-sight expensive.

Edit: and it's not really fair to include the UK on the list of places with HSR--though the new link is impressive (I was on it for the first time two days ago) it's only about 40 miles, with exactly three stations.
 
Anyone find it interesting the correlation between have-not European Union countries and substantial infrastructure investments. You would almost think they get some kind of an incentive or assistance to do that kind of thing.

And yet here we are, a G8 state (which certainly qualifies us a "have" nation), without modern rail infrastructure capable of high speeds.
 
It's crazy, and it's simply because high-speed rail has no lobby. For everyone who thinks Bombardier is such an effective lobbyist, just have a look at the complete failure of any new rail investments in Canada. High-speed rail is fought hysterically by the airline and bus industries, and few are better lobbyists than Air Canada. It's also fought in any cabinet meeting by Westerners, who think it's just another east-only project. Any high speed rail project for Quebec-Windsor should be federal, and accompanied the whole way by an equivalent project for Edmonton-Calgary, another route very well-suited to high-speed rail.
 
Edit: and it's not really fair to include the UK on the list of places with HSR--though the new link is impressive (I was on it for the first time two days ago) it's only about 40 miles, with exactly three stations.

It's actually 67mi (103km) with 4 stations (3 currently in service), but point taken. The thumb-twiddling when it comes to HSR in the UK is embarrassing. The ongoing bit-by-bit upgrades of the West Coast Main Line (WCML) has turned into a boondoggle by this point. I would blame a dependence on the "free market" and privatisation for the situation in the UK, they've been too busy trying to have their trains show up and trying to keep their rails from falling apart to think too much about HSR. (Think of it as a warning of where we're fated to end up in Canada if we try to improve rail service without a proper, conclusive plan.)
 

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