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VIA Rail

kEiThZ

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Biofuels (like biodiesel) are greenwashing. People use the argument that it has a lower carbon footprint because the carbon dioxide that is produced during burning is balanced by the carbon dioxide that is absorbed when growing the crops. The reality is regardless of the fuel source, you are taking carbon that is in captured form and releasing it into the atmosphere as CO2 along with other pollutants.

The greenwashing argument relies on the fact that it blends in fossil fuels and usually is sourced from agricultural output that used significant fossil fuel inputs to grow. Using carbon stored in a plant is not an issue. You and I literally do that everyday. It's releasing the carbon stored up underground that is the issue. Were we to come up with 100% biofuel that was somehow sourced only from farming that used electrified machinery it wouldn't be as much of a greenwashing argument. And to that end, sectors like aviation are working on sourcing such fuels. Would work for VIA's diesel trains, if there really is such concern. That said, I think the concern is ridiculously overblown in the context of the alternative which is driving and flying. Even a diesel train sips fuel at something like 0.5 - 1 L/100 pax-km. Amtrak at low occupancy and with lots of very old trains is over 71 pmpg (3.3 L/100 pax-km) network wide. Absent an electric train that is powered by almost 100% non-emitting electricity, diesel trains are some of the most efficient transportation systems we have.

I wouldn't want an argument of electrifying HFR to get in the way of its construction as there are environmental benefits of reducing the number of cars on the road even if the train is diesel powered, but I do feel it is important to electrify our transportation and the construction of a new line is a good opportunity to move the yardsticks in this direction.

It's really important to put the environmental and economic benefits in their proper context. Electrification early on will most likely come at the cost of network expansion which means more folks driving and flying. Moving new ridership onto the rail network does a lot more for the environment than electrification does. Consider someone driving a reasonable efficient vehicle doing say 7 L/100km. Compare that to a train doing about 1 L/100km. Even with double occupancy in the car, the train would be about 3.5x more fuel efficient. Those passengers using the train save 3.5x more fuel than electrifying their train would.

Cost wise, electrification would also be a poor proposition early on. A project built on borrowed money requires their investment to pay off. And the savings from not having diesel operations is going to a very long time to return the capital invested. On the other hand, investing that same capital in network expansion or enabling higher speeds attracts new passengers and boosts revenue.

Electrification is important. But it should be saved for a logical time, once the corridor is finished building. I would argue that electrification is better suited to a project in the 2040s when the corridor is finished Quebec City to Windsor, and the now 15+ yr old Chargers can be parted out economically, Demand will be up and VIA will probably be at semi-hourly service through the full day. At that point with costs rising from increasing demand and no ability to add customers through expansion, the obvious investment is electrification both to speed up the train (to add frequency) and to reduce operating costs. And in 15-20 years with cars having been substantially electrified, VIA will probably be at a point where they need electrification to compete with EVs. A corollary is that in 20 year battery tech may also be substantially developed that we won't need to spend money on installing catenary across the entire length of the corridor. So there might be opportunities for savings.
 
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micheal_can

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You seem to think there's no consequences to the economy or actual survival in some parts of the country, if we let our airlines fail. You may believe this. Most of the country, economists and politicians don't. And again, aviation brings in far more money to the government that whatever they have paid out in subsidies and bailouts, which is exactly why there's bipartisan consensus across the political spectrum on supporting the sector.

I know there will be massive consequences to our economy. Millions out of work, Millions not able to travel. Millions worried about rent.... oh, wait, those are the very same things we are experiencing now. People need to learn that their company is there to make money. All that "family" stuff is to make you think they are good.

The Great Depression did not teach us. The Great Recession didn't teach us. Maybe we should use this pandemic to teach us.

I don't think you understand what a strawman argument is. It is highly relevant that our two major freight operators move more cargo in a country of 38 million than all of the freight operators in the European Union (~446 million) COMBINED. And it's not even close. They move substantially more. And this is something that has a massive environmental benefit for this country. Moving that much freight by trucks as the Europeans do would be massively expensive and extremely polluting. As much as we fantasize about European passenger rail, they are desperately trying to build a freight rail network like ours, both to be economically competitive and to reduce emissions. We have a better shot of providing decent rail services in our dense population corridors than they will ever have of building freight rail networks like what we have.

Cop out? Excuse? In short, what they are doing is monopolizing their ownership. So, nope, not going to agree that what they are doing is right.

Source? Freight traffic is up substantially over the last few decades. Tracks have also been removed and lines decommissioned. So capacity utilization is most definitely higher than it has been in the past.

Why rip up tracks if freight is up? It sounds like you just proved that freight is down. If freight was up, they wouldn't be ripping up tracks. So, maybe traffic is not up overall, but they have created extreme capacity by removing links.

Which is exactly why we should build a rail network exclusively for passengers. So we don't have to rely on CN and CP to move passengers. As a bonus we get rail corridors that are actually designed for faster passenger operations instead of the carnival ride that is most freight rail corridors. Trying to run trains on freight rails is always going to be a compromise solution, that where possible we should avoid.

People need to understand that moving cargo by rail is far more profitable, economically vital and environmentally friendly than moving people by rail. In no small part because there's no need to move freight quickly. As such, there is no government (of any party) in power that is going to start demanding that CN and CP take massive financial hits to facilitate VIA. We will have to spend more money to pay for the track we need for passengers. In dedicated passenger rail corridors, or in CN and CP's corridors. It's just that simple. And once everyone finally gets around to accepting this reality, we can get around to building more dedicated passenger rail corridors where it makes economic sense, finally leaving sharing freight rail corridors to tourist trains and infrequent regional services.

As I have asked before: Why pay for something 3 times? We did it to get a line across Canada in the 1880s. We did it with CN in the 90s. So, now we have to build it a 3rd time? That makes no sense on a taxpayer basis.

That is the business they are in; to move the product of their customers on their own property, and turn a profit. VIA is a tenant when operating on their property. This condition will exist unless some legislation changes that, and it would be interesting how any hypothetical legislation would square prioritizing (or increasing the priority) of passenger over their core business without subsidy. Dragging up the argument that they were built with public money or backing 150 years ago won't carry much weight. We got our money back in settlement and economic activity years ago.

Hopefully politicians will consider changing the legislation.
 

sacred

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Why rip up tracks if freight is up? It sounds like you just proved that freight is down. If freight was up, they wouldn't be ripping up tracks. So, maybe traffic is not up overall, but they have created extreme capacity by removing links.
Tracks get ripped up so the freight companies have less to maintain, to streamline their operations. If you one day choose to consider facts, freight is up.
In terms of being at capacity, if you reduce the maximum capacity by ripping up track, you will be at a higher utilization rate.
 

kEiThZ

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I know there will be massive consequences to our economy. Millions out of work, Millions not able to travel. Millions worried about rent.... oh, wait, those are the very same things we are experiencing now. People need to learn that their company is there to make money. All that "family" stuff is to make you think they are good.

The Great Depression did not teach us. The Great Recession didn't teach us. Maybe we should use this pandemic to teach us.

You assume that any government intent on letting air carriers fail would also be supportive of VIA and broader investment in intercity rail. If our history is a guide, any government that was willing to let Air Canada and Westjet fail, is probably going to shutter VIA too. Be careful what you wish for, as they say....

what they are doing is monopolizing their ownership.

You apparently don't get what a monopoly is. They aren't monopolizing a thing. If you show up with enough money, they will absolutely let you use their network and even build on it. Look at the sidings that VIA has built along the Lakeshore for example. It's just that it's neither economical nor efficient or effective to keep doing this in corridors where we want to run a substantial amount of service.

Why rip up tracks if freight is up?

Because it costs money to maintain tracks that aren't used. And because there are legal obligations that go along with owning track whether it is used or not. We're always changing what is dug up or manufactured where and where it is shipped to. The freight companies adjust to that. In the past, when costs were lower they might have just left a low traffic line or branch remain. Less incentive to do that if it's expensive.

Why pay for something 3 times?

We shouldn't. And haven't. Repeating something doesn't make it true.

Hopefully politicians will consider changing the legislation.

They can change legislation all they want. But they'll quickly discover that the kind of uncompensated asset seizure or control you are suggesting to be found unconstitutional by the courts.

Again, the freight companies aren't really all that un-cooperative. Their business is freight. They prioritize it. If transport agencies show up with needs that impact the freight companies business, they'll cooperate if there's adequate compensation for it. I'd rather just have VIA build and own its own tracks where financially feasible. Other than the Corridor, all the long distance trains are daily or less. The amount pax impacted is a rounding error for VIA. Leave that to using the freight rail networks.
 

micheal_can

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Tracks get ripped up so the freight companies have less to maintain, to streamline their operations. If you one day choose to consider facts, freight is up.
In terms of being at capacity, if you reduce the maximum capacity by ripping up track, you will be at a higher utilization rate.

Yes. I actually understand that, but may have not said it well. It is just like if we rip up the 407, traffic on the 401 will go up. That does not mean overall traffic is up. It just means that it seems up.

You assume that any government intent on letting air carriers fail would also be supportive of VIA and broader investment in intercity rail. If our history is a guide, any government that was willing to let Air Canada and Westjet fail, is probably going to shutter VIA too. Be careful what you wish for, as they say....

Well, no, but it would be nice. I think all politicians are horrible and are much like a baby's diaper, and should be changed often, and for the very same reason.

You apparently don't get what a monopoly is. They aren't monopolizing a thing. If you show up with enough money, they will absolutely let you use their network and even build on it. Look at the sidings that VIA has built along the Lakeshore for example. It's just that it's neither economical nor efficient or effective to keep doing this in corridors where we want to run a substantial amount of service.

Via should not have had to build anything. CP/CN owns the tracks, they should be the ones footing the bill. It would be the same as if your landlord decided to build a new deck and then gave you the bill. That would get thrown out of court quite quickly.

Because it costs money to maintain tracks that aren't used. And because there are legal obligations that go along with owning track whether it is used or not. We're always changing what is dug up or manufactured where and where it is shipped to. The freight companies adjust to that. In the past, when costs were lower they might have just left a low traffic line or branch remain. Less incentive to do that if it's expensive.

Yup. So, in other words, freight traffic is down, not up.

I think it was the Beachburg sub that CN had from North Bay to Ottawa that part of it was abandoned so that the OVR couldn't run trains to bypass Toronto. Sounds liek more monopolizing there.

We shouldn't. And haven't. Repeating something doesn't make it true.

We have. Did the Canadian government pay for the first transcontinental line? Did the Canadian government buy up failing lines and create CN? Now we are building HFR. Sounds to me like we are paying for the same thing, 3 different times,.

They can change legislation all they want. But they'll quickly discover that the kind of uncompensated asset seizure or control you are suggesting to be found unconstitutional by the courts.

Again, the freight companies aren't really all that un-cooperative. Their business is freight. They prioritize it. If transport agencies show up with needs that impact the freight companies business, they'll cooperate if there's adequate compensation for it. I'd rather just have VIA build and own its own tracks where financially feasible. Other than the Corridor, all the long distance trains are daily or less. The amount pax impacted is a rounding error for VIA. Leave that to using the freight rail networks.

That makes sense between Toronto and Montreal. Outside of that, there isn't much that can be taken over.
 

kEiThZ

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Via should not have had to build anything. CP/CN owns the tracks, they should be the ones footing the bill.

That is absurd logic. Especially given that we live in a country with a capitalist economy with private enterprise. Just because they own tracks, they should pay for new tracks for VIA?

It would be the same as if your landlord decided to build a new deck and then gave you the bill. That would get thrown out of court quite quickly.

No, it would be like insisting your landlord pay for a new house for you. And that kind of a demand would get laughed out of court.

Yup. So, in other words, freight traffic is down, not up.

No. Freight is up. It's just in different places, increasing demand on some lines and branches and reducing it on others. And utilization is up too.

Stats Canada: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/190408/dq190408b-eng.htm

Also freight traffic correlates with economic activity. It's down during recessions and up during global booms. It's why investors and economists actually use rail freight as an economic indicator.

I think it was the Beachburg sub that CN had from North Bay to Ottawa that part of it was abandoned so that the OVR couldn't run trains to bypass Toronto. Sounds liek more monopolizing there.

You really don't understand what a monopoly is. Owning an asset is not an economic monopoly. Your logic is akin to saying you have a monopoly on driving because you own a car. There is nothing stopping anybody from building a competing rail line. If they had a monopoly that wouldn't be true.

We have. Did the Canadian government pay for the first transcontinental line? Did the Canadian government buy up failing lines and create CN? Now we are building HFR. Sounds to me like we are paying for the same thing, 3 different times,.

Did you forget about the money made when the government privatized those corporations and sold their shares? So no we haven't paid for it three times. Heck, the government didn't even entirely fund the first transcontinental railroad entirely. There was private investment in the project too. If the government wants to use an asset, they shouldn't privatize it.

That makes sense between Toronto and Montreal. Outside of that, there isn't much that can be taken over.

And outside of the Corridor there really isn't much of relevance in rail travel anyway. At best, something can be built in Southern Alberta and the Maritimes. The rest of the network exists to meet minimal obligations on servicing remote communities. So no investment is needed beyond rolling stock. Leave the track maintenance to CN and CP.

And not just because it's Urban Toronto, but I genuinely don't give a damn about anything but service in our population corridors. For anything outside that, let people take the bus or move. Infrastructure needs to prioritize the bulk of the population and taxpayers first. I'm tired of cities getting milked to subsidize rural areas. And this concern for some "national" rail network is just another excuse to leech the productivity of our urban centres. Not one "national" or "regional" service should be expanded before there is hourly service from Quebec City to Windsor, Calgary to Edmonton, Moncton to Halifax and Vancouver to Chilliwack.

Personally, I wouldn't give a damn if the Canadian got cancelled. Or the Ocean. They aren't economically impactful at all. And the vast, vast majority of Canadians will have never used them in their lifetimes.
 
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Urban Sky

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Let's try to resist the attempts of one compulsive spammer to have his ever-same dubious claims monopolize our discussion and instead move back to comments from people who actually bother to consider facts and acknowledge reality before writing here:

^@nfitz That’s a good start to how to look at things. I have the back of an envelope handy.

Let’s assume that 40% of that CN capitalization is in the track - the rest pertains to locomotives, railcars, yards, and other things that VIA doesn’t encroach on. CN has 19,500 route miles. The Kingston Sub is double track and high quality, so give its capitalization a factor of 2x the average per-route mile value. On that back of envelope basis, the market value of the Kingston Sub is about 3% (600/19,500) of CN’s market value for track of $39.8B (40%x $99.5B). or roughly $1.22 B.

If one assumes that expropriating CN (and presumably) forcing it onto CP will not hurt CN’s ability to attract customers and earn an equal return, then there is no need to compensate CN for loss of future opportunity. And so long as we assume that the Kingston line will always be a railway, and has no potential growth in property value,, the loss of the land itself has no opportunity cost. So it would be reasonable to guesstimate that expropriating the 300 miles of the Kingston Sub, in its current condition, would cost Ottawa $1.22B.

That leaves two issues. One is how much CP would expect to share its line with CN. We could do a similar per-mile market assessment of CP’s assets and determine what it would cost CN to become a 50% partner with CP between Oshawa and Dorval. CN would likely come out ahead. We would have to pay to enlarge sidings on the Belleville Sub to assure CP of no adverse operational impact and assure CN of roughly equal freight throughput and velocity. Let’s assume that is 50 miles of new sidings at $10M per mile - $0.5B Having made that gift to CP and CN, we have effectively made them whole and provided wVIA with a high quality, freight-free right of way that is vastly superior to the Havelock Sub.

The second issue is, what should we do about the potential for the shared freight line to fill up and require a second freight line.... say, in 40-50 years. In theory one would force that issue into local land planning today, before land is developed in other ways, dealing with any property owners’ claims for harm now while their land remains relatively cheap.( Let’s call that initiative “Pickering Airport 2.0”). To be conservative, let’s budget $1B for that new ROW. There are two options - the new route becomes HSR some day, and CN gets the Kingston Sub back, or the new ROW becomes a super-quality freight line perhaps with totally different technology in 40 years.

This scenario does not offend any principle that I hold dear, and it is not an intrusion into free enterprise or capitalism as generally practised in Canada. I don’t believe CN’s shareholders would claim hardship (although they might perceive the imposition of greater risk, due to CP’s involvement....railways are not that good at cooperating) The only obstacle I can see is that the legal work to declare the expropriation, haggle with CN over final price, and then to haggle with CP over its compensation, would take a JPO full of lawyers and force a decade of delays.

So yes, I think the cost is roughly comparable to HFR, and would deliver a higher-performing infrastructure to VIA without harming freight railways.....it is a more rational and economical solution. Unfortunately there is no public appetite for this, and no political will. So VIA’s HFR strategy is the only option we have that has a realistic chance of success. So I’m learning to love it.

-Paul
I'm not sure why you consider CP to be more resistant against co-production than CN. When you consider the two areas where they already share tracks (Parry Sound to Sudbury and Ashcroft to Mission City), both railroads had a single-tracked line and co-production allowed three very tangible benefits:
  1. Decreased track maintenance costs by reducing the number of sidings.
  2. Increased fluidity by gaining the benefits of double-tracking without the actual expense of double-tracking.
  3. Increased operational stability in case of an interruption (e.g. landslide) on the railroad's own line by having a diversion route nearby.
When looking at CP, they stand to win in points 2) and 3) by having the taxpayer pay for double-tracking and presumably obtaining running rights on the Kingston Sub in the case of disruptions on the Belleville Sub, but in case of CN, its only point 3), as they already own a multiple-tracked rail corridor on which they can dispatch the passenger trains in a way which keeps their adverse effects on its own freight operations at a minimum. If CN was so eager to relinquish control of the Kingston Sub in return for financial advantages, why don't they approach the federal government and offer them to allow frequent passenger service with dispatching priority in return for giving them an amount which is just less than HFR's price tag?


Cost wise, electrification would also be a poor proposition early on. A project built on borrowed money requires their investment to pay off. And the savings from not having diesel operations is going to a very long time to return the capital invested. On the other hand, investing that same capital in network expansion or enabling higher speeds attracts new passengers and boosts revenue.

Electrification is important. But it should be saved for a logical time, once the corridor is finished building. I would argue that electrification is better suited to a project in the 2040s when the corridor is finished Quebec City to Windsor, and the now 15+ yr old Chargers can be parted out economically, Demand will be up and VIA will probably be at semi-hourly service through the full day. At that point with costs rising from increasing demand and no ability to add customers through expansion, the obvious investment is electrification both to speed up the train (to add frequency) and to reduce operating costs. And in 15-20 years with cars having been substantially electrified, VIA will probably be at a point where they need electrification to compete with EVs. A corollary is that in 20 year battery tech may also be substantially developed that we won't need to spend money on installing catenary across the entire length of the corridor. So there might be opportunities for savings.
Once you electrify a rail corridor in Canada, you will be eternally stuck with it (as it is so visible as a "sunk investment" if you choose to abandon any stretch of it). Better to wait with electrification until there we are building HSR segments (which are almost by definition future-proof)...
 
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tmlittle

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Once you electrify a rail corridor in Canada, you will be eternally stuck with it (as it is so visible as a "sunk investment" if you choose to abandon any stretch of it). Better to wait with electrification until there we are building HSR segments (which are almost by definition future-proof)...
Better to wait forever, then. The Metrolinx approach of slowly electrifying shorter regional lines seems like the obvious approach that gets the ball rolling. We can slowly push electrification to places like Kitchener and fully electrify the high-traffic commuter lines while GO shifts toward an electric fleet. By then Via will hopefully be in its next purchasing cycle and we can talk about partial Corridor electrification, especially if more "midrange" type services arise like Peterborough to Toronto, London to Toronto, etc.
 

crs1026

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I'm not sure why you consider CP to be more resistant against co-production than CN. When you consider the two areas where they already share tracks (Parry Sound to Sudbury and Ashcroft to Mission City), both railroads had a single-tracked line and co-production allowed three very tangible benefits:

I don’t see CP as more problemmatic, and if I implied that I wrote poorly. While the railways have adopted co-production where their was sufficient mutual interest, they apparently don’t see the value on the London-Toronto-Montreal segment. A nudge might help..

What I was trying to say is, if CP is the line where the freight ends up, and if CP sees CN being incented to shift to CP, they will want an equal share of the incentive and the opportunity. I see that as likely a fierce and lawyer-intense negotiation. If anything, one would expect the railways to suddenly find new common ground: ie how to jointly extract the most money from Ottawa.

That’s one reason why I positioned the deal as expropriation. Ottawa would have to seize the CP line (for compensation), share control of that line between the two railways (which might imply giving each a 50% equity share, or in some other manner), then make the railways whole in terms of making the line as operable as what each has today, and then seize the CN line, again for compensation.

This country’s laws do allow government to seize private assets, over the objections of the owner, for public works - subject to making the owners whole for fair market value. This is an adversarial transaction, but neither CN nor CP would get the sun and the moon.... they get what the law allows as determined by a third party (or, more commonly, negotiated among the parties as safer alternative to putting this to a court).

If CN was so eager to relinquish control of the Kingston Sub in return for financial advantages, why don't they approach the federal government and offer them to allow frequent passenger service with dispatching priority in return for giving them an amount which is just less than HFR's price tag?

That’s a very good question, and as a minor CN shareholder I would expect that someone at CN has crunched those numbers!

Obviously I’m guessing, but it’s likely a combination of several things

a) VIA represents long term risk. What if they need half hourly headways some day? What if they do insist on electrification? What if VIA can’t answer these questions today, because they don’t know their needs and/or don’t know what Ottawa will fund a decade from now? As we have seen with Metrolinx’ master P3 procurement, the problem may be in being unable to write the service agreement to anybody’s satisfaction, given it has to be a multi decade deal with huge unknowns.
b) A general principle of private enterprise is, don’t let somebody else take control.
c) Someone (or many somebodies throughout the food chain) in Ottawa has told them, don’t bother, this will never sell, and we aren’t interested anyways
d) Their lawyers (and maybe the investment community) may have told them, hold out for more. (When Peterboro HFR first surfaced I honestly thought it was VIA’s BATNA to a negotiation with CN.... how do you bring down CN’s asking price if you don’t know the price of your other options? If Peterboro was just a bluff, it somehow got called)
e) CP would not sit idle and watch a private deal between VIA and CN that cuts them out of the opportunity and reward. That might tip the scales towards a sudden interest in coproduction. CN would need to partner with CP before it could pitch to VIA.... but we are back to the aggressive negotiating thing.
f) At the end of the day, Peterboro HFR is a more barebones asset.... so comparing price alone HFR would be Ottawa’s choice.
g)(PS) CN’s investors expect a rate of return well above what VIA’s bank (the CIB) is offering....

I maintain that the CN line is the optimal solution, and the best value for money for the country.... but it’s more ambitious, more complex, and would need far more backbone than Ottawa can muster. HFR for all its complexity is a simpler and more sellable project. Less risk, but less return.

- Paul
 
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roger1818

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I maintain that the CN line is the optimal solution, and the best value for money for the country.... but it’s more ambitious, more complex, and would need far more backbone than Ottawa can muster. HFR for all its complexity is a simpler and more sellable project. Less risk, but less return.

I am curious, in your "optimal solution," how would you deal with trains between Toronto and Ottawa? Using the Brockville Sub creates a significant detour, not only for Ottawa-Toronto but also for Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto, if you want to boost frequencies by sharing trains.
 

crs1026

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I am curious, in your "optimal solution," how would you deal with trains between Toronto and Ottawa? Using the Brockville Sub creates a significant detour, not only for Ottawa-Toronto but also for Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto, if you want to boost frequencies by sharing trains.

Assuming the Kingston line could be modestly upgraded, and freight can be cleared off, I would tolerate whatever improved trip times could be extracted, for the moment, using the Brockville route. I would keep the express Montreal service on the existing route rather than detouring through Ottawa.

I would like to see a Phase II that builds a new line to HSR standards from Kingston to Smiths Falls, using as much of the abandoned Canadian Northern right of way eastwards from Elgin or Portland. If we are going to build HSR some day, we should not bypass Kingston. The length of new line I am suggesting is pretty modest. This segment would be the logical "first step" towards HSR.

- Paul
 

Catenary

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The provinces would love that sentiment I am sure. 😆



East of Belleville, the CP corridor would be good for freight (at least as far as Saint-Polycarpe). Through Belleville, the Belleville sub cuts through the middle of town at grade, isolating parts of town from emergency services when a train is passing through. It wouldn't be so bad with VIA trains as they are shorter and wouldn't cause as much of a delay (though it would be slower for VIA).

East of Saint-Polycarpe I would like to see trains not bound for Montreal as a final destination use the Alexandria and Valleyfield Subs to cross over onto the south shore, removing unnecessary rail traffic from the island.



That would be one option. Another would be to rebuild CP's Ottawa Valley line (from Smiths Falls to Coniston, just east of Sudbury), to bypass Toronto.


CP only removed the tracks from Smiths Falls to Mattawa. The OVR still runs the line from Mattawa (and up to Temiscaming) over to Sudbury.
 

kEiThZ

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I maintain that the CN line is the optimal solution, and the best value for money for the country.... but it’s more ambitious, more complex, and would need far more backbone than Ottawa can muster. HFR for all its complexity is a simpler and more sellable project. Less risk, but less return.

Disagree. A line designed for freight and owned by freight operators will never be ideal. While the Havelock corridor is a repurposed freight line, VIA's control and ownership of it means VIA can steadily improve it in a manner suited to VIA (electrification, straightening, grade separations) And more importantly, VIA can use most of the capacity offered.

Even a swapped line is a compromise. The Lakeshore is so much more populated. That makes it so much more challenging to do straightening. It means a lot more grade separations eventually. And all kinds of other costs and restrictions.

If we are going to build HSR some day, we should not bypass Kingston.

Why? To be honest, I just don't see it as essential for any future HSR to serve Kingston. The primary value of HSR would be connecting the major metros. The cost of serving Kingston is always going to exceed whatever ridership it would benefit.

Let's be honest here. Presuming HFR is built on the Havelock sub, the most obvious plan going forward is progressive upgrading of that corridor to Class 7 (125 mph) and Class 8 (160 mph). Building a whole new corridor to Kingston in addition to this would be insanely expensive. A better solution would be upgrading the Brockville sub and working to do the same with the track from Smiths Falls to Ottawa to enable traffic from Kingston to access the higher speed corridor.
 
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Urban Sky

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I am curious, in your "optimal solution," how would you deal with trains between Toronto and Ottawa? Using the Brockville Sub creates a significant detour, not only for Ottawa-Toronto but also for Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto, if you want to boost frequencies by sharing trains.
Assuming the Kingston line could be modestly upgraded, and freight can be cleared off, I would tolerate whatever improved trip times could be extracted, for the moment, using the Brockville route. I would keep the express Montreal service on the existing route rather than detouring through Ottawa.
Let's compare both approaches and assume that HFR means 15 frequencies (i.e. round-trips) per day on all primary markets (i.e. MTRL-OTTW, MTRL-TRTO and OTTW-TRTO), as suggested by this graphic released by the Globe and Mail:

1607827734273.png

Source: Globe and Mail (2019)


In the case of operating one single HFR route, operating 15 MTRL-OTTW-TRTO round trips to serve the end-to-end markets (refer to the “HFR (A)” column) has virtually the same train-mileage as the Status Quo (i.e. 6 round trips each MTRL-OTTW and MTRL-TRTO and 10 round-trips OTTW-TRTO). Conversely, operating 15 round trips each on all sides of the triangle (refer to the “HFR (B)” column) exactly doubles your daily train mileage. Granted, you would still have to operate some Local services with the "single HFR corridor" approach, but even if you operated all the current Lakeshore frequencies (i.e. in addition to the actual HFR services), your train-mileage would still be slightly lower than with the "HFR on all sides of the triangle" approach:

1607829318181.png



Maybe the above explains why I have such a hard time imagining how HFR over the Kingston Sub could possibly be more viable than over the Havelock Sub (and how any such proposal could be made acceptable to CN)... ;)
 
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