Sunday, January 8, 2017

Kevin Westcar Wants Upgrades to Existing Rail in Ontario

Comedian Rick Mercer once quipped that Canada is a leader in high-speed rail reports. He was referring to the fact that numerous, expensive studies have been done by federal and provincial government agencies since the 1970s, and not one metre of track has been laid.

In early 2015 Ontario commissioned yet another study of a possible high-speed rail service connecting downtown Toronto to Kitchener, London and eventually Windsor.

Much credibility was added by the appointment of former federal Liberal transport minister David Collenette. He has since managed a stakeholder consultation process that was scheduled to culminate in the release of a report in November 2016. It’s now expected this year.

Probing the concept of sleek and speedy passenger rail services captured the futuristic interest of several communities along the proposed route and, possibly, caused them to lose focus on advocating for significant, shorter-term improvement to existing services. Likely it has pushed the possibility of badly needed intercity public transportation improvements in Southwestern Ontario well beyond 2020 as Via Rail continues to struggle with outdated equipment and Highway 401 suffers chronic congestion and frequent closure.

It’s now clear the Wynne government asked the wrong question of Collenette and his team. Instead of prescribing the high-speed rail solution, the province should have asked what is wrong with the current system (which isn’t a system) and how do we go about fixing it on a staged basis that involves all the current players and assets.

If high-speed rail winds up being part of a long-range vision, fine. But it alone will not fix the basic problems we experience in Southwestern Ontario or anywhere else in Canada.

The solutions are multi-modal and they must be undertaken in a step-by-step fashion that is driven by a co-operatively crafted master plan. You can create a master plan only when all the players are talking to each other and they come to understand the problems each is facing, as well as the opportunities for co-operation and co-ordination. Read the rest of the article below from Lond Free Press.


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Is it Time for Siemens Diesel-Electric Passenger Trainset in Canada?

Congratulations to Siemens in Sacramento California for producing a fine quality trainset. The Brightline (2 locomotives, 4 coaches) sets were built to run on the new passenger rail service in southeast Florida.

Brightline is scheduled to begin express inter-city service between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in mid-2017. They have already delivered their first trainset.

Many USA states with Amtrak service have been ordered this locomotive.

VIA RAIL should consider these Siemen's trainset in their fleet renewal plans for their high frequency rail product. Considering Bombardier's epic failure to supply Toronto street cars on schedule, it makes sense to go to a North American supplier who can deliver their product on time.

Friday, December 16, 2016

$43 Million New Niagara Falls Train Station Opens

Niagara Falls New York Amtrak Station

by Paul Langan - I am surprised I missed the opening of the new Amtrak Niagara Falls New York train station. It is no secret that I have had a life long interest in cross border passenger trains. I have seen the Windsor/Detroit, Sarnia/Port Huron border passenger rail service end in my lifetime. The current state of the last remaining Ontario crossing at Niagara Falls NY and Niagara Falls ON is worth keeping up to date on.

On December 6th the station at 825 Depot Avenue West Niagara Falls NY opened to its first passengers. The station is a blend of new and old and contains the original 1863 Custom House. It has room for retail space and is looking for a vendor to run some food services. Three trains a day currently utilize the station, two Amtrak Empire and the Maple Leaf  (Toronto-New York). Although some are critical of the station and the related expense the city will have to run it, others are more optimistic.

Here is a link to a gallery of photos to the new station.

The key to more frequent and on-time Amtrak trains on the Empire State Cooridor is extensive work on the rail line to get off the freight tracks and on to their own dedicated passenger lines where possible. Work started on second track between Albany, Schenectady NY  in the summer of 2016 as part of federal infrastructure $200 million in funding. This will ease a major Amtrak bottleneck on the Empire State Corridor and reduce travel times by up to 25 minutes. Platforms will also be lengthened and a fourth track added on the Rensselaer train station.

Though much more work and funding is needed along the line, these improvements are positive.

On the Canadian side train service from Niagara Falls, ON is grim with only one train a day (the Maple Leaf). GO Transit only offers bus service and previous seasonal train service now from Niagara Falls but things should change. The provincial Liberal government has announced that commuter passenger rail service from Niagara Falls to Toronto in 2023, so local rail enthusiasts are hopeful.

VIA RAIL has no plans at all and keeping the Maple Leaf train running would be considered a win.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

High Speed Rail Canada December Newsletter to Include Link to Turbo Train Video

We wanted to let you know that when our free e-newsletter comes out tomorrow it will include a link to a rare Turbo Train 1 minute b/w silent video. So if you are interested in viewing the video, please sign up for our e-newsletter on the front page of our blog. We only ask for your name and email. Here is the direct link to our sign up page.
Turbo Train Video Clip Link Included in Our E-Newsletter

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Réseau électrique métropolitain the Mont-Royal Tunnel and VIA Rail

Guest Blog by André Lussier - It is true that using the Mont-Royal tunnel for the REM could well forbid any other train to use it.

The REM is a catenary driven electric train and its height is not easily compatible with bi-mode diesel electric locomotives already used through the said tunnel.

See, both the most used line ( Deux-Montagnes North-West, already electric ) and the newest line ( 2 years old ) Mascouche (North-East, bi-mode locomotives) will be cut from the tunnel, defeating their usefulness.

But the Deux-Montagnes line will be entirelty replaced by a new REM line rolling on the present day train tracks that have just been refurbished at a 400 millions $ cost.

As for the Mascouche line, the REM offers a tranfer station to the REM somewhere on highway 40 ( I do not live in Montreal, so, some of my infos lack proper context, but I can read... ! ) to reach downtown, or any other place via REM and/or the Metro

To get it straight, the tunnel is not compatible with running diesel locomotives, no proper exhaust for the fumes exist to this day and no proper exits for people in case of large problems like fire neither exists. To turn this around, the AMT ( Transport Authority purchased bi-mode locos that switch from electric to diesel once out of the tunnel ).

To get this tunnel repaired or replaced would imply very costly works, like 1 billion $ for a new tunnel to get it to par with recent safety rules, even if parallel to the existing one. At least this is what they say, is it believable ?  I sincerely do not know.

There are other ROW lines to leave the Island on the north shore but they are all slower than using the tunnel. And, as I keep digging, some discussions seem to be going on how to make it compatible with modifications to the signaling and automating some of the traffic to let passenger trains through the tunnel other than the REM system. 

One point that seems to angry VIA is the taking into possession of the tunnel without consideration to the present users as if they were non existent. VIA wanted to use the tunnel for its HFR running on the north shore of the river, making for an easier access to Trois-Rivières & Québec eastbound and Ottawa&Toronto westbound.  But since that part is still a project ...

As you can see, the deck of cards is still flying in the air and no set of rules has yet been arranged.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The USA Finally Make Safety Rules for High Speed Rail

Wired Advocating for HIGH SPEED RAIL in the US is a brutal business, continually raising and dashing one’s hopes. Six years ago, President Obama dedicated some $8 billion in stimulus funds to high speed rail projects. Then the governors of Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin spurned the cash. California took the money, only to see its plan to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles hamstrung by bureaucracy, crippling land use issues, and the Golden State’s vicious brand of NIMBYism. Read the whole article https://www.wired.com/2016/11/feds-finally-make-safety-rules-high-speed-rail/