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