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VIA Rail Stimulus Upgrades Coming

Posted by Dennis Marciniak / July 17, 2009

VIA rail upgradesOttawa will spend $300 million from the economic stimulus fund to upgrade Ontario's railway corridor. VIA Rail Canada will use the money on improving accessibility for the disabled, introducing fuel efficient locomotives, and reducing travel time between Montreal and Toronto by a whole 30 minutes. Construction is set to begin in the next few weeks.

New tracks will be laid in 8 locations along the corridor in hopes of resolving tie-ups between passenger and freight trains. These bottlenecks occur when VIA attempts to pass CNR (Canadian National Railway) trains but can't due to track restrictions. Additional railway will be strategically laid alongside the 539 kilometer route so VIA trains can pass by quickly and safely.

In 2008, VIA moved over 4.6 million people and brought in a revenue of $299 million. With ridership expected to rise about 40% over the next five years, two trips will be added from Toronto to Montreal upon the project's completion in 2011. I don't understand why high-speed rail isn't being implemented if the amount of people and trips are expected to rise? I'm sure that a speedy Windsor-Quebec City route would help alleviate some of the passenger traffic.

Gary Goodyear, the Minster of State for Science and Technology called the stimulus upgrades "an intermediate solution", but warned that such a project was at least a decade away. Meanwhile Joe Volpe, the transit critic for the Liberals added "These guys are re-announcing something that doesn't serve much purpose," also saying that the Conservative government should invest in high-speed immediately; a notion that I am completely on board with.

Thalys Train Brussels Main StationThink about it. A trip from Toronto to Montreal would take about 2 - 3 hours. Businessmen and tourists alike would be able to take advantage of this speed; forgoing the 6-hour trip we might have to endure today. This would allow others and myself, to take a weekend off in Montreal quite easily and vice-versa. The 'high-speed bridge' would also improve the economies of smaller cities, as there would be increased traffic from other major cities. I have always been puzzled as to why our country is in absence of this technology while the States and most of European countries reap the benefits.

Although it's a distant dream of mine, high-speed rail has been discussed many times in 2008. My hopes are that this project will begin to build a basis for this kind of infrastructure in the future. High-speed rail isn't exactly something that is easy to pull off, but once it is there, it becomes extremely advantageous its users.

Photo by HighPlainsDrifter Photography.



Johnny D / July 17, 2009 at 04:46 pm
... And let the high speed debate begin.
Chris / July 17, 2009 at 04:53 pm
Fat chance getting high speed trains travelling and competing head to head with the most profitable domestic airfare routes Toronto/Ottawa/Montreal. Politics plain and simple. Of course high speed rail from Windsor to Quebec City is a great idea
KSD / July 17, 2009 at 05:00 pm
There's so much focus on the Windsor-Quebec City corridor, but the Toronto-Sarnia route is always left out of the conversation. Living in Stratford and travelling into T.O., it takes 2-2.5 hours each way...that's up at 5am, home by 8pm...more than 3 times a week and you're exhausted and if you have kids, you'll get to kiss 'em when they're already asleep in bed...

It's time to talk seriously about high rail all through Ontario (BOTH East AND West!)...or let's reverse the commute and really take hold of technologies that keep folks more local...
Chester Pape / July 17, 2009 at 05:10 pm
These improvements ought to restore the 3:59 minute express runs between Toronto and Montreal which VIA was forced to drop because they just couldn't consistently pull that off on shared rails with CN.

The locomotives that VIA owns today are already pretty good and could go much faster than they do. The problem at present is that between Toronto and Montreal there are in excess of 200 level crossings, the detectors that turn on the flashing lights (and where present gates) are located 1/4 mile from the crossing, at the current top speed of 160km/hr the train reaches the crossing 9 seconds after the flashing starts. Just rewiring the signals to allow for faster speeds using current rolling stock would cost hundreds of millions. Even Amtrak Acela style psuedo-high speed needs tracks with no level crossings. Would cost Billions.
Serge / July 17, 2009 at 05:30 pm
Lets do this people!!
Torontonian replying to a comment from Chester Pape / July 17, 2009 at 07:48 pm
I believe the 3 hour 59 minute runs were exclusively the
Turbo train. The Rapido was 4 hours 59 minutes from its
first runs in the late 1960s.

It was a major selling point for the Turbo that it could
shave one hour off the Rapido's running time.

I don't remember any Rapido able to achieve such a high
speed and quick inter-city run.
Mark Dowling / July 17, 2009 at 08:10 pm
Joe "Youth For" Volpe should STFU. Collenette's dreams of TGVs went nowhere *because* VIA was so crap - and the Liberals did little to help it. It's shocking that it's the Tories that are doing it, but the improvements in routes like Ottawa-Montreal (now about 7 daily from 4) have been noticeable, the LRCs are being refitted and the Renaissance cars are being hauled out of rotting in storage to be made wheelchair accessible. They can and should do more but it's a start and I (as a VIA user who will be doing Toronto-Kingston on Monday) welcome it.

The corridor most likely to get high speed rail and be economically viable is, whisper it, Edmonton-Calgary - 300km, only one major stop en route, not a hugely challenging topography. Get high speed rail done there, and properly, and Ontario will follow.
nutellapr / July 17, 2009 at 08:12 pm
This is old news. Conservatives reannouncing funding they've already promised. BlogTO do your homework.
Sean / July 17, 2009 at 08:18 pm
Blah, blah, blah. There's no money.
All levels of government are in the hole.
Reality Check / July 17, 2009 at 08:34 pm
How expensive would TGV service be?

Massively more than Pearson expansion was.

What are the passenger numbers of QC-W corridor vis a vis Pearson? 1.5-2 orders of magnitude.

Never mind that we have a much faster way of getting to Montreal from Toronto: Porter. Flight is an hour, it's 5 minutes from the core, and a taxi from Trudeau to downtown Montreal is 25 minutes.

Plus there's the problem that getting to Union is a hassle for people who don't live in the core (no parking, hard to drive to, expensive taxis). Pearson is much easier to get to for people off of the subway (and even then...).

On the re-announcment: feds of both parties will announce spending as many times as they can. Provinces and municipalities do it to (Miller especially), So call them on it but lets not pretend its part of some scary hidden Harper agenda.
Joel / July 17, 2009 at 08:36 pm
Hard not to be pessimistic about intercity rail in this country. This issue has the same "bridging" potential as trans-Canada rail had in the late 19th century, and the Trans-Canada Highway had in the post-war period. Most people I've spoken to are in favour of an investment in HSR, despite the large up-front cost. Why any leader hasn't latched onto this issue is beyond me.
mr. hood / July 17, 2009 at 08:54 pm
if the french can do it throughout france, with somewhat similar weather patterns(winter/summer), we should look to their transportation engineers to see how they troubleshoot the problems that can arise with such a weather system similar to our own. Track maintenance, rolling stock maintenance, timetable modifications, and technology advancements have seemed to keep things manageable over there..

maybe have a team of french engineers come across and do some consultation on what problems they think may arise if we were to build a dedicated hi speed rail line..

just food for thought
Torontonian / July 17, 2009 at 11:19 pm
How long will it take for someone to correct the
name in the fourth paragraph to Gary Goodyear?

Speaking of Goodyear, did you notice the flurry of
announcements from his and his position in the
government that took place yesterday. I suspect they
were trying to make people forget the Valerie Goodyear
adoption fraud scandal--particularly since Gary's chiropractic practice office is in one of those building
in the bankruptcy filing.
Matt / July 17, 2009 at 11:58 pm
I'd love to see a Windsor-Quebec City high speed rail, but the truth is obviously, the massive cost of the project. High-speed rail requires LGV construction techniques, meaning any existing infrastructure would be insufficient. Add the infrastructure needed to bypass level crossings, etc. and it is a daunting sum. Adding politics to the mess just puts the final nail in the coffin.
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McRib / January 18, 2012 at 11:23 pm
thats great Ted, thanks.
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