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VIA Rail

Bordercollie

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My suggestion years ago was for VIA to create some switchover tracks where the CN/CP lines meet at various points from Toronto to Kingston.

Then, if there was a freight delay on the CN line, the train could negotiate to use the CP line to bypass the stalled or slow freight train.

However it would require a lot of coordination and probably some kind of advanced center to coordinate things.

CP is also hesitant to allow VIA and other passenger service on their lines, but maybe they would be more forgiving if it was just seen as a backup to the CN service.
The issue would be that you would need to have crews trained for a situation that might happen once a year? Plus the maintenance of the platforms, snow clearing, etc. It would just make sense to Split the number of trains that use the track.

Plus that wouldn't work between Belleville and Smith Falls, since you would bi-pass Kingston and Brockville.
 

roger1818

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I think you have what I said backwards, but....If the three-sided option can't run in the black, it's a non-starter in current environment.

What I feel is, it's incumbent for Ottawa to put more money on the table, now, than the basic VIA HFR can justify within the CIB-bound constraints, in the interest of not confining HFR to the low-potential long term scenario. HFR should not become a stranded asset, which it will become if the next iteration requires a new route and another round of construction.

Ottawa doesn't feel that way, so my opinion won't buy a small coffee, but that doesn't mean Ottawa is taking the most far-sighted path through this.

HFR may seem near-sighted, but it is better than doing nothing, which is the only other realistic outcome.

I accept this point may be valid - but it cuts both ways. If 30 miles of new line is prohibitive, then so is any upgrading of the Havelock line, and so is any new HSR routing connecting the same points. It's 90 miles from Glen Tay to Havelock.... the amount of rock that will need to be blasted and moved just to ease curves would be of similar magnitude.

I guess it all depends how much they plan to straighten out the Havelock sub. My guess is they will make small improvements that result in significant benefits, but won't make any major changes.

While I'm a little more optimistic about the base case for Havelock, having digested the curvature thing a little more, that line is wound around two many rock outcrops and alongside (or through) too many marshes. To get greater speed/time savings, one would have to straighten a fair bit of it. There is little option to straighten much of it, and certainly not at low cost.

Which is why I don't think it will be the HSR route, if that ever happens.

The Top map is a bit friendlier south of Portland, although I agree it's no easy feat.

Are you sure about that? Below is a map of the former Canadian Northern Railway line with a section of the Kingston and Pembroke Railway and the CNR Kingston Sub added for fun (map data from "The Ontario Railway Map Collection"). There are lots of lakes in the way. it could follow Hwy 15 I guess, but if you have ever driven that section of it, it is full of twists and turns.

Portland-Kingston.png
Click to see in Google My Maps


The earlier HSR studies did seem to express a preference for the CP route. It could be expropriated today, in close to move-in condition suitable for base HFR, for a price that's likely within the range of what VIA will pay to rehab the Havelock line. So even if we decide Kingston is not to be served, my pay-me-now, pay-me-later challenge to Havelock being "less costly" remains. Any incremental cost is effectively "buying futures" in HSR.

By CP route, I assume you mean their Bellville Sub? Do you really think it could be expropriated "for a price that's likely within the range of what VIA will pay to rehab the Havelock line?" The value of the land alone would be likely be more than the entire HFR project.

Even so, the time to debark arriving Ottawa passengers and then board departing Toronto/Montreal passengers will not be insignificant. Is any in-car cleaning and grooming required?

Ottawa would be a major, midway stop like Kingston. Do they do any in-car cleaning and grooming there?

Will outgoing passengers be held in the main concourse until the arriving passengers have left the platform?

With the new, wider platforms with separate up and down escalators, that shouldn't be necessary.

I'm ena minimum 10 minute dwell in Ottawa, with 15 not unrealistic.

There currently is a 3 minute layover in Kingston. Ottawa might have more passengers boarding and alighting than Kingston, but I don't believe Kingston has high platforms like Ottawa does/will which will help compensate. I can't imagine the layover would need to be more than 5 minutes.

I can't imagine any scenario where the Havelock returns to being a freight line. Grades, for one thing - VIA will not need to level the line, but the slack action would destroy today's 14,000 foot land barges. And, as above, the curves will not have been smoothed. Even VIA's use of the line is predicated on banking, which freight can't tolerate. I'm also not sure that VIA will rehab to the same weight capacities as freight would demand.

Have you seen the grades in BC? They make the Havelock Sub seem like it is in Saskatchewan and yet the railways run trains as long if not longer out there. As for the banking, that could be undone relatively easily.

I agree that any scenario which constrains the freight throughput or velocity between the end points is unacceptable. It's a question of how much capacity there is today, and how long before it fills up, and who then pays to expand it. I'm not sure that the railways would object to a plan that monetizes some of their excess capacity today (beyond a prudent margin for growth). The case study for this is the west side of Montreal - regardless of scenario, all today's freight will fit on the existing trackage with enough room for all the passenger VIA intends to run, plus AMT.....provided we don't think of it as two separate two-track railways.

The thing is, CN might not mind working with CP to get VIA off of its tracks, but what would be in it for CP? They would want to be rewarded dearly for sharing a ROW.

I am not arguing for bringing all the investment needed for HSR forward to today. That clearly won't sell. I am arguing for a solution that might run $1B-$2B more than HFR, that would offer more options and clear a bit more of the HSR path. The business case would not be that much less favourable.

I guess we will have to agree to disagree regarding the cost of what you have in mind. I don't think it will be as affordable as you think.
 

jayme2016

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Ottawa has 2 stations the main one close to downtown and Barrheaven in the south end it might make sense to skip Barrheaven on some tripe to speed things up.
 

roger1818

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Ottawa has 2 stations the main one close to downtown and Barrheaven in the south end it might make sense to skip Barrheaven on some tripe to speed things up.

According to VIA Rail's 2018 Passenger Boarding and Deboarding stats, Fallowfield (in Barrhaven), was VIA's 8th busiest station (233,893 passengers), just behind Quebec City and Windsor (324,037 and 268,543 respectively), and ahead of Oshawa and Dorval (207,037 and 200,158 respectively).
 

crs1026

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I guess it all depends how much they plan to straighten out the Havelock sub. My guess is they will make small improvements that result in significant benefits, but won't make any major changes.

Well, there's the thing. If the improvement is small, it won't result in much benefit. Easing a single curve gives only a few seconds' time savings - the time saved in a single deceleration, short curve, and accelerate back is only a few seconds. Having looked at the line in some detail, with both my own and others' data, as previously discussed at length in this forum.... the curves are tightly spaced. Either VIA straightens whole stretches, or the ROI isn't worth straightening at all. And as I noted above, once the initial HFR infrastructure is built, other segments of the line will demonstrate higher ROI for later improvement. Hence my prediction the line will not see major physical changes in the first 15-20 years, at least.

Which is why I don't think it will be the HSR route, if that ever happens.

Nor do I. Is that not also reason to assume it will never be a freight line? But - to address the crazy idea of striking north from Kingston....

Are you sure about that? Below is a map of the former Canadian Northern Railway line with a section of the Kingston and Pembroke Railway and the CNR Kingston Sub added for fun (map data from "The Ontario Railway Map Collection"). There are lots of lakes in the way. it could follow Hwy 15 I guess, but if you have ever driven that section of it, it is full of twists and turns.

That's true, but the parallel-to-15 alignment is fairly level and solid terrain and has not too many swamps that can't be sidestepped. A couple of lakes in the way, certainly, and that will very much drive where the route might go. I acknowledge it's threading the needle, which is how all the lines through that area got built.

The inconsistency in all the arguments I am hearing is.... if the terrain between Kingston-Elgin is just too rough to construct a failry short leg at reasonable cost, then the cost of any other routing that might be built in any future scenario, freight or passenger, will be just that much costlier and tricky to plan as well.

That leaves VIA/HSR/future freight with only one other alternative..... the former Canadian Northern row from Napanee to Smiths Falls. It already exists (as a rail trail), it's actually pretty straight, and probably in no better or worse as-is condition than the Havelock line. So, again, leaving CP alone this time, it's reasonable to ask whether one could rehab that line east of Napanee, and find some accommodation with CP/CN west of there. Again, we may find that the cost is more than HFR's envelope.... but it won't be that much more. Is the difference a good investment as future-proofing?

By CP route, I assume you mean their Bellville Sub? Do you really think it could be expropriated "for a price that's likely within the range of what VIA will pay to rehab the Havelock line?" The value of the land alone would be likely be more than the entire HFR project.

Back of envelope
CP's Annual Report: Total market cap - $45.5B
Total route miles - 13,000 miles
Market cap of the Belleville/Winchester Subs, assuming 40% of market cap is track, valuing at 2x average and including the Winchester:

(650/13000) x (40% x $45.5B) = $910M

Even with a substantial margin of error, it may be comparable to what VIA will invest in the Havelock route. It just takes a more aggressive posture towards the freight railways.

Ottawa would be a major, midway stop like Kingston. Do they do any in-car cleaning and grooming there?

There currently is a 3 minute layover in Kingston. Ottawa might have more passengers boarding and alighting than Kingston, but I don't believe Kingston has high platforms like Ottawa does/will which will help compensate. I can't imagine the layover would need to be more than 5 minutes.

Let's say half the passengers per car turn over. How long does it take to have 40ish people file out, and another 40 file on?

As to grooming - sure, passengers at smaller intermediate stops often find someone was sitting in their seat before they got on. Litter, used cups, etc do happen. However, I can't believe VIA will allow that to be the customer experience for Toronto-Ottawa and Ottawa-Montreal market segments.... too many people, too important a revenue stream.

Have you seen the grades in BC? They make the Havelock Sub seem like it is in Saskatchewan and yet the railways run trains as long if not longer out there. As for the banking, that could be undone relatively easily.

The grades in BC are longer and steeper, sure, but they aren't sawbacks. I have seen the granular elevation data for the Havelock Sub. If you aren't going up, you are going down. Within one trainlength, one is often doing both.

My point about banking was, if the line is banked VIA doesn't need to ease the curves and one can expect they will remain. So if one handed the line back to freight, it would still have the curves.

If one is going to argue that freight railways won't accept expropriation, one has to also assume they will not accept this line in some future exchange.

The thing is, CN might not mind working with CP to get VIA off of its tracks, but what would be in it for CP? They would want to be rewarded dearly for sharing a ROW.

Neither railway will welcome coproduction, being either the host or the guest. If as a matter of public policy, the country desires two freight lines between Montreal and Toronto, and feels they should not be brought into the passenger plan, then I guess VIA is last in line. And HFR is the only logical alternative to move forward.

This whole discussion (and my returning to the Kingston bypass idea) started when someone (@niftz?) asked how much it would cost to just push CN aside. Even if you don't accept my opinions re cost, I would argue that legal expropriation of excess freight railway capacity, to achieve better VIA infrastructure sooner, is not an evil concept, and would also make next steps far easier and more economical

- Paul
 
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MisterF

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My suggestion years ago was for VIA to create some switchover tracks where the CN/CP lines meet at various points from Toronto to Kingston.

Then, if there was a freight delay on the CN line, the train could negotiate to use the CP line to bypass the stalled or slow freight train.

However it would require a lot of coordination and probably some kind of advanced center to coordinate things.

CP is also hesitant to allow VIA and other passenger service on their lines, but maybe they would be more forgiving if it was just seen as a backup to the CN service.
Then Via would have the privilege of paying rent to two companies instead of one! :D

Ultimately that wouldn't solve the issue even if CP agreed to it. It's not like Via didn't examine these kinds of options before developing the HFR plan.
 

dowlingm

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We can argue the micro implications of ownership etc. but ultimately, though not a lawyer, I do not see any reason why, if 20+ countries of the European Union could come up with a framework to separate infrastructure management and operations, and progressively widen the scope of open access arrangements, that similar arrangements could not be mandated for Canada.

I reject the idea that we cannot expect more from rail owners because "they own it". Like telecoms and hydro, these entities constitute public utilities and already regulated by Transport Canada - but we would need to apply a heavier touch than heretofore.

What that would require, however, is a rail strategy which actually considers both passenger rail and freight rail to be national priorities - and national means both Federal and Provincial, and priority means willing to share the needed investment from their respective treasuries.

We won't even put VIA on a statutory footing still less introduce a weaksauce arrangement like PRIIA. Our principal freight operators are American companies in all but name and the provinces have little interest - both QC and ON stood by and watched while both options to route Ottawa area freight direct to the west were dismantled rather than be purchased into public hands, and the Sault area railways seem to be perpetually stuck in a state of new collapse as the feds dribble in a little money to stave off complete closure in lieu of a revitalization strategy.

Neither of the two major parties in Ontario, which has the financial wherewithal, not to mention two provincially owned rail concerns, to seize the initiative as certain States in the US like Michigan, Illinois, Virginia, North Carolina, Maine have done, believe enough in regional rail to invest in it and in ensuring fullest use of existing and dismantled rail alignments.

Talk of seizing CN and CP alignments and enforcing coproduction, when we won't do stuff like tell BNSF to reroute away from White Rock BC where there is legal scope to do so, is just raising our collective blood pressures for no reward.
 

dowlingm

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I'm a few days behind the previous discussion about the VIA long distance fleet. I looked at the Winnipeg station and agree that the sheds there are likely an issue, and using the open bypass tracks would be a clear non-starter.

I do note that the sheds do not cover the current length of Canadian as the picture below shows. I am not a fan of the current clear glass transverse section at Toronto Union but it did occur to me that replacing the outer 1/3 of the sheds and substituting a longitudinal raised glass section as far as York Avenue might provide a greater degree of coverage while assuaging the heritage lobby. Clearly there would be an issue of cost, but perhaps it could be done in conjunction with intensification of nearby lands such as the car park shown on the left. But... that seems like a long shot. Pity. If VIA is going to be a prisoner of the host railroads and their 8 inch platforms it would be preferable to have equipment which serves it nearer to level boarding.

As I have said before I don't find the "but how do we maintain them" concerns to be meaningful. As I mentioned earlier, bilevel equipment is already maintained by other entities at either end of Canadian's route. If there would be money to buy the replacement long distance fleet VIA is pleading for then there is money to create the facilities needed to maintain them. If LDSLs are what are needed for Montreal/east service, either as a variant of the Siemens or by sourcing a version of Viewliner, so be it but I don't see why Western Canada needs to have high levels and traps enforced on them and more than it is on west-of-Chicago service to the south, should infrastructural obstacles be overcome as mentioned above, and especially if that operator is also looking to source such railcars. But then, Amtrak can't just operate high floor cars into low floor platforms without limit - while their ADA legislation allows for a lot of grandfathering, the required expansion of east-of-Chicago high level platforms in their network as stations are opened or updated is the stuff that would have caused VIA nightmares if their own projects had mandated platforms as it progressed, and not merely in Ottawa where it suits them to do it.

1608139338960.png
 

roger1818

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We can argue the micro implications of ownership etc. but ultimately, though not a lawyer, I do not see any reason why, if 20+ countries of the European Union could come up with a framework to separate infrastructure management and operations, and progressively widen the scope of open access arrangements, that similar arrangements could not be mandated for Canada.

I reject the idea that we cannot expect more from rail owners because "they own it". Like telecoms and hydro, these entities constitute public utilities and already regulated by Transport Canada - but we would need to apply a heavier touch than heretofore.

What that would require, however, is a rail strategy which actually considers both passenger rail and freight rail to be national priorities - and national means both Federal and Provincial, and priority means willing to share the needed investment from their respective treasuries.

We won't even put VIA on a statutory footing still less introduce a weaksauce arrangement like PRIIA. Our principal freight operators are American companies in all but name and the provinces have little interest - both QC and ON stood by and watched while both options to route Ottawa area freight direct to the west were dismantled rather than be purchased into public hands, and the Sault area railways seem to be perpetually stuck in a state of new collapse as the feds dribble in a little money to stave off complete closure in lieu of a revitalization strategy.

Neither of the two major parties in Ontario, which has the financial wherewithal, not to mention two provincially owned rail concerns, to seize the initiative as certain States in the US like Michigan, Illinois, Virginia, North Carolina, Maine have done, believe enough in regional rail to invest in it and in ensuring fullest use of existing and dismantled rail alignments.

Talk of seizing CN and CP alignments and enforcing coproduction, when we won't do stuff like tell BNSF to reroute away from White Rock BC where there is legal scope to do so, is just raising our collective blood pressures for no reward.

The problem is you are making the assumption that European Union is good at moving freight by rail. I'm not sure if I posted it here (or on SSP) but this is an excellent article on "Why is Europe so absurdly backward compared to the U.S. in rail freight transport" and is definitely well worth a read. The social and environmental consequences of forcing freight onto trucks are as bad if not worse than the consequences of forcing passengers into cars. This is especially true in here North America where our economies are more resource based than they are in Europe.

If we want better passenger rail, we need to bite the bullet and build a dedicated corridor for that, where it make sense. Taking corridors away from CN or CP for passenger rail is an exercise in robbing Peter to pay Paul.
 

dowlingm

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The problem is you are making the assumption that European Union is good at moving freight by rail. I'm not sure if I posted it here (or on SSP) but this is an excellent article on "Why is Europe so absurdly backward compared to the U.S. in rail freight transport" and is definitely well worth a read. The social and environmental consequences of forcing freight onto trucks are as bad if not worse than the consequences of forcing passengers into cars. This is especially true in here North America where our economies are more resource based than they are in Europe.

If we want better passenger rail, we need to bite the bullet and build a dedicated corridor for that, where it make sense. Taking corridors away from CN or CP for passenger rail is an exercise in robbing Peter to pay Paul.
I would take substantial issue with the linked article and its needlessly clickbaity headline, not least now that the observations about Asia-Europe demand have shifted substantially due to coronavirus impacts on air freight capacity, or that Europe necessarily must adopt the hostile American practice of not merely double stacking trains, making grade separation above lines more challenging, but also the ultra long trains which sever localities in half for tens of minutes at a time..

The more pertinent issue for this thread is the notion that, as you assert passenger rail needs a dedicated corridor as a condition of improved service, with the obvious implication that passenger rail must pay all of the absurdly inflated cost of modern construction while rail freight merely gets to keep and maintain what it owns, having been previously been relieved of the requirement to provide said service and only having to tolerate a public agency doing so.
 

Darwinkgo

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Open access assumes there is network capacity. There isn't. With a bunch of investment that will be needed over the next 30 years for freight capacity, a bunch of network capacity that isn't needed for freight will be created. And the rail roads won't be able to pay for it by themselves. That is the time to remake the arrangement - securing room for intercity rail in exchange for massive subsidy where the railways only pay for the extra capacity they use and in exchange must provide access to others on the same cost basis to their current network. It is the only way that will be compliant with our trade agreements, good for the country, and good for VIA. Now we just need to figure out how to get from today to there.
 

micheal_can

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The problem is you are making the assumption that European Union is good at moving freight by rail. I'm not sure if I posted it here (or on SSP) but this is an excellent article on "Why is Europe so absurdly backward compared to the U.S. in rail freight transport" and is definitely well worth a read. The social and environmental consequences of forcing freight onto trucks are as bad if not worse than the consequences of forcing passengers into cars. This is especially true in here North America where our economies are more resource based than they are in Europe.

If we want better passenger rail, we need to bite the bullet and build a dedicated corridor for that, where it make sense. Taking corridors away from CN or CP for passenger rail is an exercise in robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Open access assumes there is network capacity. There isn't. With a bunch of investment that will be needed over the next 30 years for freight capacity, a bunch of network capacity that isn't needed for freight will be created. And the rail roads won't be able to pay for it by themselves. That is the time to remake the arrangement - securing room for intercity rail in exchange for massive subsidy where the railways only pay for the extra capacity they use and in exchange must provide access to others on the same cost basis to their current network. It is the only way that will be compliant with our trade agreements, good for the country, and good for VIA. Now we just need to figure out how to get from today to there.

CN and CP had capacity. Then they decided to rip up track to ake more profit for their shareholders. Now, as freight climbs, there seems to be a lack of capacity. What did anyone expect to happen? If we had a government willing to play hardball with them, we might have trains that can stay on time and have capacity. They removed the capacity.. They should pay to get it back.
 

Darwinkgo

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CN and CP had capacity. Then they decided to rip up track to ake more profit for their shareholders. Now, as freight climbs, there seems to be a lack of capacity. What did anyone expect to happen? If we had a government willing to play hardball with them, we might have trains that can stay on time and have capacity. They removed the capacity.. They should pay to get it back.
Ripping up capacity where it wasn't needed, and creating it where it is. We as a country decided we did not want to subsidize unneeded capacity, and capacity that didn't go where it was needed. Now we are getting to the point where we will have to to continue economic growth. With decades in between.
 
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