Friday, August 18, 2017

Pontypool Ontario the Next Stop for VIA Rail trains?

Pontypool the Next Stop for VIA Rail

Passenger rail  history buffs are excited about VIA Rail's proposed milk run from Toronto - Peterborough into Ottawa.  VIA Rail officials are courting politicians along the line and promising their community might have passenger rail service restored that had been abandoned for over a half of century.

With the media announcing that Sharbot Lake is getting service again, the guessing name of where VIA will stop next on their slow speed, multiple stop 1950s style passenger rail service, has begun.
Now come news from Kawathra Lakes Region that Pontypool  Ontario will be pushing for a stop on the  VIA Rail milk run.

Pontypool is probably best known lately for the filming of the budget conscious Zombie movie named after the community.

Pontypool Railway Station and Grain Elevator

It has been awhile since the railway station platform at Pontypool was filled with passengers. This 1908 photo shows the station packed with people.

Pontypool Railway Station circa 1908

Many people from the Toronto area would take the train to vacation in Pontyool. This photo shows Toronto folks at the busy station.

Toronto People Loved Ponypool

The area where the station was still has the grain elevator standing next to it. The grain elevator is rare with only 2 of its kind in Ontario.  Locals have done the right thing to restore the elevator.

Recent photo of Pontypool grain elevator next to tracks and former station location.
Of course  the love of  rail history and obscure railway stations should not distract us from the fundamental question; How many places will the VIA Rail proposed slow speed service stop at?

Originally Perth Ontario was going to be a stop on the line but lately only Tweed, Peterborough, Sharbot Lakes and Smith Falls are mentioned in the media as stops on the line.

Video of Pontypool Freight Train

For those in the public that have never been up that way, here is a video of the CP running a freight through Pontypool.

We  will give you for the third  time the LINK  to the original 1967 schedule of the line. Have fun and guess where VIA Rail will stop next on their proposed line!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Seattle-Vancouver High Speed Rail - The Seattle Transit Blog Series

With the state of Washington investing $1 million into the first extensive study for a Portland - Seattle  Vancouver high speed rail line there is some optimism building.

Here is an audio file on a previous media report about the study. Now the Seattle Transit Blog have a 4 Part Series on some of the technical issues of the high speed line between Seattle and Vancouver.
It is an interesting read.

Amtrak Cascades Currently Travels Between Eugene Oregon and Vancouver

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Passenger Rail at Critical Juncture in Canada

Guest Blog by Marc Lemieux

Dear Mr. Langan:

While I fully understand your concerns about the supposed benefits and pitfalls regarding Via Rail's HFR project, please be aware that passenger rail in Canada is at a critical juncture in our country's transportation infrastructure for the following reasons:

1 - Something has to be done as soon as possible in order to alleviate severe gridlock in Ontario. Via Rail's HFR project can be built fairly quickly and will consequently provide Canadians with a quicker, more affordable and more frequent passenger train service than is presently in place at this time.

2 - The on-going carnage in terms of human lives lost taking place on a daily basis on our highways must be reduced. Passenger train travel is the safest means of traveling.

3 - Once the first phase of Via Rail's HFR has been completed and subsequently used by Canadians, its benefits will be scrutinized and it will be determined that HFR is a success and a worthy competitor to the automobile; as such, it can be thereafter expanded to adjacent areas, thereby further revealing to other would-be travelers that passenger rail in a viable option.

4 - Once Canadians have been fully reintroduced to the concept of an effective passenger rail system, it will then be possible to make the transition to high-speed rail.

5 - Yves Desjardins-Siciliano is absolutely right in saying that we must provide separate passenger rail infrastructure in order to provide a frequent, reliable and faster service to Canadians. The last major increase in rail infrastructure spending on the lakeshore route in order to construct passing lanes has proved to be a dismal failure in that Via Rail does not own these tracks, CN does, and thus has complete control over which trains have priority.

Since most Canadians today have never even been on a train, unlike their parents or ancestors, the implementation of the aforementioned HFR proposal will most likely be necessary as a first step to the ultimate goal of establishing high speed rail throughout the populous regions in Canada, along with a high-performance conventional rail system in the remaining regions of this country.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

High-speed Rail Shrinking the Rural/Urban Divide

by Dr. Jeffrey Overall Guest Blog - The decision to implement a highspeed rail (HSR) system in Canada has long been debated among politicians.

According to Paul Langan, from High Speed Rail Canada, since 1970, the government has spent $35 million on conducting 25 studies on the feasibility of HSR in Canada. To date, Canada remains the only G7 nation without HSR and our existing system has been slated as at least 50 years outdated.

IMPORTANTLY, There are vital public policy issues that can be addressed with HSR:

Overheated real-estate market

Most commuters in Toronto are faced with an average commute of over an hour (one-way) while those travelling from the suburbs experience much longer commute times often closer to two hours. Conversely, with HSR, the commute times from areas further into the suburbs or rural areas, where real-estate is substantially less expensive, would be the same (or less) compared to existing commute times.

Put differently, people can travel from further distances in less time through HSR. This can
address the issues that many experience with the overheated GTA real-estate market.

Rural/urban divide

The growing social chasm between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, as we saw with Brexit and the Trump Presidency, has significant political repercussions. There have been calls to reduce the rural/urban divide and relieve the rust belt issues currently facing many rural areas in Canada. With HSR, there would be massive economic benefits, through population growth and improved access to urban centres, to rural areas seeking to revitalize their economies.

On May 19th, 2017, Premier Wynne seemed to acknowledge the benefits and proposed a
HSR system, connecting Toronto and Windsor, a distance of 370km, by 2031 at a cost of $20 billion. Ironically, the national railway that connected our great nation, a total of 4,700km, was completed in four years (over 130 years ago from 1881 to 1885).

Comparing a more complex project, on May 25th, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced that the U.S. would land an American on the moon, a feat never attempted before, prior to the end of the decade. On July 20th, 1969, eight years later, that promise was realized.

Clearly, laying 370km of track is not as challenging as landing a person on the moon. So, why have we been waiting 47 years and will continue to wait at least another 14 years for something that should have been implemented decades ago? There are several reasons:

1. Limited political interests

The election cycles in Canada are far too short to create any real interest among politicians. As a result, Canadian politicians do not seem to have the fortitude to invest in long-term visionary projects like the ‘one belt, one road’ trillion dollar infrastructure project that the Chinese
Government has unveiled.

2. Lack of private interests

Canadian citizens look to politicians to lead important change in our society. They rarely
consider visionaries from the private sector to lead these changes. However, if Canadian
politicians are unwilling to commit to longterm projects, they should step aside. Our best
and brightest industry leaders, those who have the proven expertise to implement visionary
projects, should then be incentivized to lead these projects.

3. Lobbyist efforts by Via Rail

There is a strong possibility that the near monopoly that Via Rail maintains could be made
obsolete by HSR. To counter this pressure, instead of HSR, Via Rail has been lobbying for funding to develop dedicated passenger lines, using outdated technology, at conventional speeds.

4. Ontario debt crisis

Recently, India awarded Japan a contract to lay their HSR technology on 508 KM of track.
This contract, to be completed in 7 years, involves a $12 billion loan at 0.1% interest
with a 15 year moratorium over a 50 year repayment period. Considering that Ontario
is the most indebted sub-sovereign region on the planet, a similar financial arrangement with
Japan Rail, an industry leader with 50 years of experience and best in the world at safety
and punctuality, seems ideal. To this end, we should be opening the bidding process up to
international tenders so that we can recruit the best partners. A partnership with Japan might
also help in resurrecting conversations around a much sought after Canada-Japan free trade

For this project to ever materialize, there is a need to gather and integrate regional,
provincial, and national advocates. However, as a result of the 47 year debate and the proposed 14 year completion date, it is difficult to remain optimistic about the prospect of HSR in Canada.

At the dawn of our 150th anniversary, Canada is not a global leader, when it comes to HSR, we aspire to follow.

Dr. Jeffrey Overall is an assistant professor at Nipissing University where he teaches entrepreneurship and strategy. This article was originally published in the Canadian Business Journal.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Infrastructure bank studied as funding option for U.S.-Canada high-speed rail

Read this ARTICLE from Andy Blanchford from the Globe & Mail on how Washington State and BC is looking at Infrastructure Bank funding for ultra high speed rail.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

VIA RAIL $5.25 Billion "Milk Run" Rail Line to Stop in Sharbot Lake!

Passenger Rail Service Returns to Sharbot Lake. Are You Ready Campers?

We have done stories previously on VIA Rail fundamentally flawed plan to run slow trains from Toronto - Tweed - Peterborough to Ottawa.  Now comes news that the VIA Rail will be stopping at Sharbot Lake. Good news for campers without tents!

Please read our previous story on VIA Rail and Sharbot Lake.

Here are a couple fun facts about VIA Rail.

1. VIA Rail High Frequency Rail Plan is More Dangerous than true High Speed Rail. VIA Rail plan is not grade separated. Their plan has trains on the same grade level as autos. Having VIA Rail  tracks at level crossings with roads increases the chances of an auto/train collision. In high speed rail, trains and autos are grade separated eliminating the chance of an accident occurring. That is why the high speed rail system in Japan has never had a fatality after over a half of century of operation. The safety of Canadians traveling by rail should be paramount importance to VIA.

2. VIA Rail Plan Doesn't Address Their Fundamental Problem - High Fares. People will not ride the train due to the high ticket prices. Especially when travel times are ridiculously slow.

Here is an example to embarrass any Canadian:
  • Japan Railway Tokaido Shinkansen High Speed Rail - Tokyo - Kyoto - Distance - 513km -  Time - 1hr. 40min. - Speed - 320km.hr - Price: 154.059 Canadian Dollar

  • VIA Rail Canada - Toronto to Ottawa  - Distance - 449km, Time 4hrs 31min - Speed 120-160km - Price - 168.37. 

NOTE: It is not possible to evaluate VIA Rails new plan has they will not provide details on it. There is no evidence to suggest VIA Rail will reduce fares to make rail travel more affordable to Canadians.

How can VIA justify their ridiculous high prices?

Where Will the Next VIA RAIL Stop Be?

The news that Sharbot Lake will be getting a stop on VIA Rails proposed route clearly illustrates the line is fast becoming a "milk run" with stops in Tweed and Sharbot Lake. We love history at HSRC so we will give you the LINK again to the original 1967 schedule of the line and we will let you pick out where the VIA Milk Run will have a stop at next.

We doubt they will open the mine at Sulfide,ON and it seems the glory days in Ungava ON are over so we will eliminate those two locations.

Ungava Ontario - VIA Rail will not stop there!

We are putting our money on Maberly Ontario being the next stop on  the VIA Rail Milk Run. Why? One reason is the Maberly Station Road is still there. We also like the area. It is beautiful there. Okay not a lot of rationale to stop in Maberly. For all you history buffs that remember the old days when Maberly had trains, here is a photo of the station.

Maberly Railway Station
To read more about the exciting news about VIA Rail stopping at Sharbot Lake. Read this ARTICLE by Elliot Ferguson of the Kingston Whig-Standard. Here is the latest non specific map of the line.
VIA Rail latest  map of their proposed line

We sincerely hope the federal Liberal government will give a reality check to this flawed VIA Rail plan. Canadians deserve better. We deserve what the rest of the modern world has had for over 50 years: High Speed Rail.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

PC Leader Brown will not commit to High Speed Rail

Jennifer Beiman - London Free Press - ST. THOMAS - Even with election talk looming and campaign messages emerging, Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown isn’t ready to commit to continuing a high-speed rail project that would link London to Toronto if his party wins next year.

“I do think (high-speed rail) is valuable, I do think it’s a worthy goal and under this Liberal government it will never happen,” Brown said Tuesday at a campaign-style stop in St. Thomas.

“What I will commit to is making sure that we actually get shovels in the ground, that we spend our infrastructure dollars wisely. . . . What I promise you is that we’ll get better value for infrastructure.”

Click HERE to read the rest of the article.