News   Feb 23, 2024
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VIA Rail

Not really. But governments that have decision paralysis will eventually lose because they alienate all but the most partisan. Holding power for the sake of holding power is not a good look. Reminds me of the last term of Harper. No real agenda. Just in office to keep the other team out. That plan always fails.
Until the concervatives come up with a real plan and elect a real leader we will have a liberal government until further notice.

And even if they manage to get their crap together they may not get elected.

Pierre needs to do more than hammer Justin's head multiple times with a sledge hammer during question period. He needs an actual platform and real people to execute it.

Plus he's a bit too off the scale the other way to gain any real liberal votes. Why do they always pick these fringe candidates?
The only hope Canadians have for good passenger rail is for VIA to completely shut down and then sell it to the highest bidder. VIA has never had a hope and it was doomed to fail from word go and it's about time we acknowledged this reality. VIA is slow, unreliable, expensive, infrequent.....................it's everything you never wanted in a passenger rail service and then some. Let the private sector run the services that can be financially viable and just shut down the rest of the system. The service {a la Brightline} couldn't possibly be any worse than VIA.

VIA has been on life support since its inception and it's about time we put it out of its misery once and for all.
So you think that loosing a public passenger rail system that couldn't sustain itself will result in the private sector step in? Not going to happen.
 
Until the concervatives come up with a real plan and elect a real leader we will have a liberal government until further notice.

And even if they manage to get their crap together they may not get elected.

I am old enough to remember conservatives saying the exact same thing about the liberals in 2014. Canadians vote governments out, not in. Once a government is seen as stale, the other team can be a flaming dumpster and will still win. The Wynne Liberals losing to the Ford Conservatives are the latest and most local demonstration of that that. I'm going to guess you also thought nobody would ever vote Ford right?

So you think that loosing a public passenger rail system that couldn't sustain itself will result in the private sector step in? Not going to happen.

ssiguy has a tough time distinguishing between VIA Rail and the policy constraints imposed on it by the government. In general, policy is rather difficult for him.
 
They spent money on everything but will leave no lasting legacy except for debt. Yes one exception is child tax credits and subsidized daycare but that isn’t fully implemented in most provinces yet.

Yep. Could have gone down in history for a major transformative rail project serving a fifth of the population at launch. Instead, will probably be most remembered for running up the debt, and legalizing weed.
 
The only hope Canadians have for good passenger rail is for VIA to completely shut down and then sell it to the highest bidder. VIA has never had a hope and it was doomed to fail from word go and it's about time we acknowledged this reality. VIA is slow, unreliable, expensive, infrequent.....................it's everything you never wanted in a passenger rail service and then some. Let the private sector run the services that can be financially viable and just shut down the rest of the system. The service {a la Brightline} couldn't possibly be any worse than VIA.

VIA has been on life support since its inception and it's about time we put it out of its misery once and for all.

You keep bringing up Brightline. Have you looked at the context in which they operate? Hint: connecting large metros in highly populated corridors, with substantial public support (all kinds of tax breaks and land easements). The only place where Brightline might work would Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal. That's the closest contextual euivalent of Orlando-West Palm-Miami.

I assure you if VIA closed shop the result would not be more service by the private sector. It would be a lot less service. And a lot of what is left would be very expensive tourist service. Think Rocky Mountaineer.

Lastly, jealousy is a terrible look. I know living in BC has made you resentful and salty about the lack of service there. But being as green as the Grinch isn't going to change the economics of sending choo choos to BC.
 
You keep bringing up Brightline. Have you looked at the context in which they operate? Hint: connecting large metros in highly populated corridors, with substantial public support (all kinds of tax breaks and land easements). The only place where Brightline might work would Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal. That's the closest contextual euivalent of Orlando-West Palm-Miami.

I assure you if VIA closed shop the result would not be more service by the private sector. It would be a lot less service. And a lot of what is left would be very expensive tourist service. Think Rocky Mountaineer.

Lastly, jealousy is a terrible look. I know living in BC has made you resentful and salty about the lack of service there. But being as green as the Grinch isn't going to change the economics of sending choo choos to BC.
I wouldnt be to dismissive of private companies running the corridor. It makes a lot of money and they wont be hamstrung by the political spectrum of the day. In a more glass half full approach look at
mega bus and how they can be profitable. I think if a private company takes over the corridor service it would still be successful.

But to your point the other lines may not be unless there is subsidy from the govt. The canadian would probably be split to a west and east sector with the occasional full route catered more towards the tourist route (as it should be honestly)
The ocean will probably still be relatively intact and perhaps they can split it to regional segments as well. maybe they can revive the proposed maritime regional route that was dropped a couple years ago.

I think the real problem that is hamstringing passenger rail is that it cant compete with the car and plane due to the freight rail having it by the balls. hopefully when hfr rail is built it can demonstrate the merits of dedicated passenger rail corridors and hopefully stem further expansion to other regional lines.
 
The only hope Canadians have for good passenger rail is for VIA to completely shut down and then sell it to the highest bidder. VIA has never had a hope and it was doomed to fail from word go and it's about time we acknowledged this reality. VIA is slow, unreliable, expensive, infrequent.....................it's everything you never wanted in a passenger rail service and then some. Let the private sector run the services that can be financially viable and just shut down the rest of the system. The service {a la Brightline} couldn't possibly be any worse than VIA.

VIA has been on life support since its inception and it's about time we put it out of its misery once and for all.
So you admit there are financially viable and profitable parts of the system. Then you propose to sell them off. What good would that do exactly? Why couldn't the government shut down the unprofitable lines (your idea, not mine) but keep operating the "good" parts?
 
The rate that decisions are being made for whatever eventually comes out of HFR proposal will probably be moot. By the time a decision is made (if ever), Via Rail as we know it might just be a hollow shell if it’s even still around. Via Rail’s future depends on the HFR but as we are seeing the Federal government doesn’t care anymore unless its a election.

Right now I see Via Rail in a precipitous decline. Sure they have new trains on order but those are just to appease and band aid over the bigger picture. If HFR doesn’t get built Via Rail can pretty much close up shop and not many will notice and the new Siemens trains can easily be sold off. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is chatter behind the scenes of Metrolinx just waiting for Via Rail to fold so it can eventually take over service to south western Ontario. Vice versa with the Federal Government hoping that Metrolinx will take over.

The bigger problem is Canadian society’s ineptitude to forsee into the future and the lack of basic understanding of nation/state building. Every other country understands that in order to succeed you need to have a strong infrastructure network in place and that of course will cost money. Canada’s position is always to stick its head in the sand, kick-the-can-down-the-road, go “la-la-la we can’t afford it,” someone else in the private sector will swoop in to build it or just sell it off to the private sector.

It’s always talk a big game and have nothing to show for it except “good feels.” Yes it’s harsh but this is the reality.
 
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I wouldnt be to dismissive of private companies running the corridor. It makes a lot of money and they wont be hamstrung by the political spectrum of the day. In a more glass half full approach look at
mega bus and how they can be profitable. I think if a private company takes over the corridor service it would still be successful.

The Corridor may survive privatisation. Just not in the way most people imagine. If you're a private company what would you do with the Corridor? If I had to make the Corridor more profitable, I would start cutting intermediate stops and focus even more on Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal. I would probably cut at least one of the corridors west of Union too. And maybe terminate service at London. This is the thing. People who think privatization will be panacea don't at all think or even understand investors. If they're putting money into a rail service, it's to get a return. Not to simply improve service. And in the case of the Corridor that would mean prioritizing the most profitable markets.

People love to talk about Brightline and complete ignore the whole real estate development that is attached to Brightline that is what makes Brightline what it is. They aren't just a choo choo company.


But to your point the other lines may not be unless there is subsidy from the govt. The canadian would probably be split to a west and east sector with the occasional full route catered more towards the tourist route (as it should be honestly)
The ocean will probably still be relatively intact and perhaps they can split it to regional segments as well. maybe they can revive the proposed maritime regional route that was dropped a couple years ago.

I don't think anything outside the Corridor survives privatization. But if some of them do, they will be entirely tourist trains. The Ocean once a week with double the fares during Summer only. Canadian running weekly in the Summer and bi-monthly in the Winter. Etc. Investors will cut till they can make money. Even if that means going to zero service.
 
The Corridor may survive privatisation. Just not in the way most people imagine. If you're a private company what would you do with the Corridor? If I had to make the Corridor more profitable, I would start cutting intermediate stops and focus even more on Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal. I would probably cut at least one of the corridors west of Union too. And maybe terminate service at London. This is the thing. People who think privatization will be panacea don't at all think or even understand investors. If they're putting money into a rail service, it's to get a return. Not to simply improve service. And in the case of the Corridor that would mean prioritizing the most profitable markets.

People love to talk about Brightline and complete ignore the whole real estate development that is attached to Brightline that is what makes Brightline what it is. They aren't just a choo choo company.




I don't think anything outside the Corridor survives privatization. But if some of them do, they will be entirely tourist trains. The Ocean once a week with double the fares during Summer only. Canadian running weekly in the Summer and bi-monthly in the Winter. Etc. Investors will cut till they can make money. Even if that means going to zero service.
I guess it all depends on who will be willing to take on the govt service mandate. Via currently is obligated to serve smaller communities in between the major cities that have not other means. We'll see how the companies can do it but I'd be open to at least hearing on their proposals. The govt can always impose a service mandate as part of the sales agreement.
 
Privatization in a true sense is a non-starter so long as the present regulatory regime prevails. The moment HFR declares a profit….. the landlord railways begin to squeeze…. so they get their cut. What investor would put themselves in a position where some other business can reach in and take a cut of their profits ?

I don’t believe that Ottawa could do an IPO for the corridor, so long as CN/CP remain the landlord, even for just small segments of the route.

That’s why P3 is on the table. Ottawa backstops the deal, the private sector proponents make their return….. but CN/CP cannot milk the situatio…. more than they are already, that is.

- Paul
 
I guess it all depends on who will be willing to take on the govt service mandate. Via currently is obligated to serve smaller communities in between the major cities that have not other means. We'll see how the companies can do it but I'd be open to at least hearing on their proposals. The govt can always impose a service mandate as part of the sales agreement.

Do you invest?

Serious question.

When you invest what is your objective?

Mine is to maximize return against my risk tolerance. The kind of service mandate you suggest would be a terrible investment. I can literally see it go no bid on the market. We have had government contracts where industry refused to bid because they didn't consider it profitable enough. I don't get why people think the private sector will automatically sign up for a high capital, highly regulated investment with caps on return dictated by both service mandates and slots from the rail companies.
 
Privatization in a true sense is a non-starter so long as the present regulatory regime prevails.

There's a whole lot of blind faith going on in this discussion about privatization. Doesn't sound like most of the proponents even know what a 10-K is, let alone read one.

I think the "privatization" of the Asian rail operators kinda fools people into thinking the same thing could happen here. Nobody ever talks about the context in these. Massive land grants and co-development. And of course, substantial debt absorption (Japan for example). None of that is an option in Canada. So I don't know why anybody would expect privatization to succeed here without the context that made it successful elsewhere.

The moment HFR declares a profit….. the landlord railways begin to squeeze…. so they get their cut. What investor would put themselves in a position where some other business can reach in and take a cut of their profits ?

Exactly. What a terrible investment. You are forced to commit to a certain level of service. And the network operators can charge whatever they want. I wouldn't touch this with a 10 ft pole.
 
You keep bringing up Brightline. Have you looked at the context in which they operate? Hint: connecting large metros in highly populated corridors, with substantial public support (all kinds of tax breaks and land easements).
It's worse than that.

They actually applied - and received - grants for the construction of the line to Orlando on the basis that their line was a "highway". Not tax breaks or easements - actual grants.

It's not nearly as private as most want to believe it is.

Dan
 
I NEVER said that any of this is VIA's fault. As I stated, VIA was doomed from its inception because the task it was given was an impossible one. VIA was not created by forward thinking governments trying to create a vibrant passenger rail service but rather a plan written on the back of a napkin in a desperate attempt to maintain some form of service when CP wanted to quit the business.

The fact that VIA is a government entity IS the problem. If Ottawa would simply sell its assets off allowing private companies to build/run their own service then we wouldn't be spending gobs of money servicing some outposts. These VIA mandates imposed by Ottawa is why you can get from Smithers to Prince Rupert on VIA but not Edmonton to Calgary. Ottawa should certainly put in service mandates, regulate price increases, service quality standards etc very similar to other government regulated industries but let the private sector run the system.

As for me being a disgruntled BCer who is upset about having lousy service, I am quite the opposite. BC shouldn't have ANY VIA service out here or anywhere in Western Canada because I know a waste of money when I see it. Of course the only exception to that is Calgary/Edmonton which perversely doesn't have any service.
 

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