News   Nov 29, 2023
 74     0 
News   Nov 29, 2023
 484     0 
News   Nov 29, 2023
 510     0 

Rail: Ontario-Quebec High Speed Rail Study

To route a rail line towards Pearson, the costs would be pretty enormous but well worth it I think. You get a double benefit by being able to create a full HSR corridor that both Go and VIA trains could use. Connecting the Airport straight into the Georgetown line would have huge benefits, and the Airport's basically a necessity for good HSR service.

I would personally love to see the massively bloated blue 22 proposal canned and a Newark AirTrain type service between Woodbine and Renforth put in its place. If people can check bags anywhere on the system, and stations are designed so users only have to walk across a platform to transfer, then I could see such a service being sufficient. Such a system would also be able to serve parking areas and terminal areas much more effectively with more local service than a heavy rail corridor. Keeping the high speed station and alignment on the Georgetown line would allow for better through service, as well as provide better regional and limited service for those coming from the west and not going to Pearson. Baggage handling service could easily be added to the stops at Woodbine and Renforth to further streamline the process, as well as as ticket agents for planes and trains.
 
Last edited:
To route a rail line towards Pearson, the costs would be pretty enormous but well worth it I think. You get a double benefit by being able to create a full HSR corridor that both Go and VIA trains could use. Connecting the Airport straight into the Georgetown line would have huge benefits, and the Airport's basically a necessity for good HSR service.

I think something interesting could be figured out with regional HSR stops. On top of the straight Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal route, there'd have to be a route serving smaller areas, like Toronto-Oshawa-Kingston-Ottawa. Maybe under that would be an even more local spacing, like Oshawa-Port Hope-Cobourg-Trenton-Belleville, etc. That would create a very strong rail network and get the best bang for your buck for HSR infrastructure. Express would compete mainly with the airline market that exists between Toronto Ottawa and Montreal, while regional and local would compete more with the highways and work to serve people in the smaller cities.

I agree that a on site station at Pearson would not be cheap, but well worth the money. Pearson is the most important and busiest airport in Canada by far and is hugely important to the GTA. To not create the most efficient HSR connection with Pearson would really be missing out on an opportunity to hugely improve the transportation network in the region. And I also think it should be fully accessible to GO as well, just as is the case with many other European airport stations (Schiphol and Frankfurt come to mind).

I think one good way of thinking about how to design the network is setting a limit on how much could be spent on it. I generally assume that the full Quebec-Windsor network would take 15 - 20 years to complete and that $1 billion/year would be an acceptable figure in the public eye to spend, giving a total cost of $15 - $20 billion. This is somewhat arbitrary but also based on general estimates that have been put out before.

So with that limit what are the most important aspects and where could trade offs in some areas be made to make improvements in others. One good example is the idea that line should go from Toronto to Ottawa and Montreal and completely skip a Lakeshore routing. Yes the total track length is less, but then you add an additional 70-80km to the total trip from Toronto to Montreal. And once you factor in slower speeds through some parts of Ottawa, this adds anywhere from 25 - 30 minutes to the total trip. Keeping a routing that is much like the existing VIA route means more money spent on infrastructure, but improves travel times between the two most important centres. And given that HSR would be built from scratch and should be about achieving the fastest possible travel times, it seems worthwhile to spend the money on what is really a small amount of extra infrastructure.

The same is true with making sure that smaller centers such as Belleville, Port Hope, Brockville, etc, retain their service and important nodes such as Pearson also have the most efficient connections. It will cost more money for passing track or new routings or spur lines, but it will also make the service available to more people. You can offset this with trade offs, such as not directly serving the Dorval terminal, offering some sort of connection for passengers that is quick and seamless, and leaving the Ottawa station where it is instead of spending massive sums on the tunnels that would be needed to serve the downtown area with an efficient station (and really to locate the station 3 or 4 kms closer).

And the good part about a well designed network is that service models can be easily changed allowing for as many or as little stops by as many or as little trains as is required. And if GO and AMT undertake electrification of even just their most important lines, that offers even more service possibilities to the HSR service providers.

One final aspect that I think is important but as far as I know has never been explored is consulting with cities such as Kingston, Brockville, Cornwall, Trois Riviere, etc to find out what they feel would be important from an HSR network and how local citizens feel about the idea. A lot of people see public consultation as getting in the way, but it is an inevitable step and working with them from the start should be done. Maybe some communities wouldn't mind a station on the outskirts with lots of parking, maybe some would prefer that local service be achieved by serving more central areas via a spur line. But no one really knows because its never really been discussed. Same is true of finding out how people in Richmond Hill or Laval feel about HSR and what they think would make the service useful. The answers would probably be interesting and revealing.
 
I thought I'd resurrect this thread because of this story out of Switzerland:

World's longest tunnel created in Switzerland

Last Updated: Friday, October 15, 2010 | 10:11 AM ET
The Associated Press

Swiss engineers have smashed through the last stretch of rock to create the longest tunnel in the world.

A gigantic drilling machine broke the remaining wall 2,500 metres below the imposing Piz Vatgira peak in the Gotthard massif several minutes ahead of schedule on Friday.

Miners, VIPs and journalists inside the tunnel cheered as Switzerland reclaimed the tunnel record from Japan's Seikan Tunnel.

The 57-kilometre Gotthard Base Tunnel is an important milestone in the creation of a high-speed rail network connecting all corners of Europe. It will allow millions of tonnes of goods currently transported through the Alps on heavy trucks to be shifted onto the rails.

http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2010/10/15/swiss-tunnel-breakthrough.html

Really puts things into perspective. Creating a through route through Pearson or blasting through the rock between Kingston and Smiths Falls is easy compared to what they're doing in other parts of the world.
 
The Gotthard base tunnel is a pretty amazing project and could have just as large an impact on rail travel in Europe as the Channel tunnel. It will interesting to see how this changes the network in that region.

As for Canada I don't think our lack of engineering skills has really hindered HSR. The more I think about it and talk to people about the idea of HSR it really seems the biggest set back is that there has just never been a good proposal put forward. I know the argument that setting up a network is no different than in Europe...but I really don't think that is the case. There are too many differences (from the the amount of sprawl to existing travel patterns and consumer preferences) at play. When a network is proposed that will allow someone in Vaughan or Mississauga to easily take a trip to Laval or Belleville as well as travel between major cities, then it is going to get off the ground.

And really that is a way easier task than a 57km tunnel, yet one that seems to be totally overlooked.
 
The Gotthard base tunnel is a pretty amazing project and could have just as large an impact on rail travel in Europe as the Channel tunnel. It will interesting to see how this changes the network in that region.

As for Canada I don't think our lack of engineering skills has really hindered HSR. The more I think about it and talk to people about the idea of HSR it really seems the biggest set back is that there has just never been a good proposal put forward. I know the argument that setting up a network is no different than in Europe...but I really don't think that is the case. There are too many differences (from the the amount of sprawl to existing travel patterns and consumer preferences) at play. When a network is proposed that will allow someone in Vaughan or Mississauga to easily take a trip to Laval or Belleville as well as travel between major cities, then it is going to get off the ground.

And really that is a way easier task than a 57km tunnel, yet one that seems to be totally overlooked.

I think the main problem is the lack of political will. HSR in Canada seems to be one of those vague election talking points, but it constantly sits on the backburner. What we need is someone in the political world to really champion this idea to help make it a reality.

HSR has the potential to transform not only inter-city travel, but also regional commutes. Think of the dynamic shift if GO was able to run HSR trains into Union station for commuters. Going from Hamilton or Oshawa to Toronto in under 20 minutes would fundamentally shift commuting patterns.
 
There wouldn't be high speed GO trains, not any higher speeds than are currently envisioned under the GO electrification plan. The amount of time you spend waiting for a faster train makes the normal speed ones just as fast under a certain distance.

The lack of political will isn't that - it is the insane cost for building a new right of way because our freight network is well used. If it was half the price for sure it would have been done.
 
There wouldn't be high speed GO trains, not any higher speeds than are currently envisioned under the GO electrification plan. The amount of time you spend waiting for a faster train makes the normal speed ones just as fast under a certain distance.
If HSR was constructed, I'd assume that someone would be operating high-speed regional service. If only because everywhere else I've been that has high-speed intercity, also has high-speed regional trains on the same track. Though significantly more expensive than regular commuter services.

Wouldn't necessarily be GO running it ...
 
Maybe there hasn't been enough political will but building HSR in Canada is a much larger and more expensive project. In Europe they can build in increments and open sections of high speed lines bit by bit running trains over classic lines while new lines are being built.

In Canada, everything has to be done for scratch. There are not even electrified lines in the major cities (which is why electrification of commuter lines in Toronto and Montreal will be so important). And in Europe they have extensive inner- and inter-city networks to build on. Again, in Canada, they has only just recently been investment back into these kinds of services.

That is why I say that for a plan to get off the ground it had better find a way to serve the most number of people in all, or most, of the major and mid-sized cities in the corridor and provide remarkably fast and efficient service. Simply connecting Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal with a few suburban stops thrown in will not be enough.

It wont be HSR that changes commuter rail, even in Europe I cant really think of any examples where there would be a high speed track running from the equivalent of Oshawa or Hamilton to Union (160km/h - 200km/h is somewhat common but nothing beyond that). What will change commuter rail is electrification, dedicated corridors, and advanced signalling systems (which is hopefully coming very soon).
 
The lack of political will isn't that - it is the insane cost for building a new right of way because our freight network is well used. If it was half the price for sure it would have been done.

This is nonsense. Every high speed rail line in Europe, Japan, and China was built with a new right of way. Besides, land acquisition costs in Canada will be a fraction of those in Europe and Japan given the lower land values. That comment is indicative of not just a lack of political will but a mentality of looking for excuses why something can't be done. Our can do attitude has become a can't do attitude.
 
True. There always seem to be excuses no matter what the cost. The VIAFast proposal would have used mostly existing tracks and apparently had buy in from the freight companies. It was a fraction of the cost of true HSR and even it never happened.
 
True. There always seem to be excuses no matter what the cost. The VIAFast proposal would have used mostly existing tracks and apparently had buy in from the freight companies. It was a fraction of the cost of true HSR and even it never happened.

It is still a regional project that is regulated at the federal level. So hard to get buy in.
 
This is nonsense. Every high speed rail line in Europe, Japan, and China was built with a new right of way. Besides, land acquisition costs in Canada will be a fraction of those in Europe and Japan given the lower land values. That comment is indicative of not just a lack of political will but a mentality of looking for excuses why something can't be done. Our can do attitude has become a can't do attitude.

One would have thought this would have been an ideal stimulus project. Long-term investment in infrastructure, spread across countless different ridings, and something the gov't could point to and say "we did this". But alas, the Cons decided to take the stimulus money and put an average of $590,000 more into Convervative ridings than non-Conservative ones.
 
One would have thought this would have been an ideal stimulus project. Long-term investment in infrastructure, spread across countless different ridings, and something the gov't could point to and say "we did this". But alas, the Cons decided to take the stimulus money and put an average of $590,000 more into Convervative ridings than non-Conservative ones.

Long-term specifically makes it a really lousy stimulus project.

Yes, lets build the infrastructure but lets build it because there is a good business case and we plan on setting up code-share agreements with the airlines (guaranteed passengers).
 
It is still a regional project that is regulated at the federal level. So hard to get buy in.
Sure, but you could make that argument about any federal project. Besides, HSR in the corridor would directly affect 20 million people - that's most of Canada's population. And recent polls have shown that HSR has broad support across Canada.

I think the problem is more that there are a lot of vested interests in the status quo. That and Canadians have a defeatist attitude when it comes to big projects. Even those supporting HSR seem to think we can't do it.
 
I like the VIAFast proposal, where both CN and CP would use one corridor and passenger trains would use the other. Apparently both freight companies were okay with the idea, as it would likely increase capacity for both and reduce reduncancy. It wouldn't give us real HSR, but would increase speeds considerably.

if you go that route, you also have the option of upping speeds incrementally. Modern diesel-powered trains can run regular speeds of up to 90 mph (150 km/h), assuming cab signals are installed and work is done to reduce the number of level crossings. Assuming they build the line to a high standard (heavyweight welded rail, concrete ties, strong ballast, wide turnouts and curves), one oculd at first run trains at 150 km/h with existing equipment, while one day buying equipment like Bombardier's JetTrain which would enable 200+ km/h services. Assuming that works, one could get up the political will eventually for electrification and go for true HSR speeds, 300 km/h or better. Going in stages, as it were. And the equipment you had used can be used in other places, too - perhaps a "Wildrose Express" between Calgary and Edmonton, for example.
 

Top