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Canada-USA High Speed Rail Possibilities – Part 3 -Toronto-New York

High Speed Rail Canada - High Noon for High Speed Rail Series
by Paul Langan, Founder High Speed Rail Canada - 7/14/10

I would like to examine the Toronto-New York HSR corridor and the latest information relating to it.
Most if not all the passenger rail corridors improvements currently envisioned connecting Canada and the USA would result in higher speed passenger rail as opposed to true high speed rail. (over 200kph).

According to the Fact Sheet: High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program: Northeast Region Office of the Press Secretary White House – Relating to the New York-Albany- Buffalo rail line it states,“ The 468-mile Empire Corridor connects all of New York’s largest cities. The vision for the corridor is to increase speeds to 177kph and add daily round trips, with one of the largest investments being the construction of a third track between Albany and Buffalo.”

In January 2010, New York received $151 million from the stimulus package. These federal funds will be used to begin work on a third track dedicated to passenger rail making stops in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica and Albany. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood reaffirmed the Obama Administration’s commitment to a well developed high speed rail system that serves Upstate New York.

On June 16, 2010, The premiers of Ontario and Quebec warned in the Toronto Star that Canada could miss a golden opportunity on fast trains as the U.S. pushes to create 13 high-speed corridors, including Boston to Montreal and New York City to Buffalo. The federal government should get on board with a high-speed rail line linking Ontario and Quebec or risk being left in the dust by the Obama administration in the United States,

The Buffalo – Albany section of the Toronto-New York route has been identified by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) as a possible HSR corridor. See map for clarification.

The route then goes from Buffalo to Niagara Falls, NY then passes into Canada. The City of Niagara Falls, NY has an ambitious project which is a multi-phased historic preservation, station relocation, border and railway infrastructure project with a total cost of nearly $40Million.

Planners at the City of Niagara Falls NY believe that improved cross-border access between Buffalo-Niagara and the Greater Golden Horseshoe will certainly improve the available service in the binational region and will likely drive intercity rail service demand in both halves of the binational region

Concern has been raised that the US Transportation officials, the Canadian Federal Government and VIA Rail have not properly calculated the significance the cross-border link between the Empire HSR Corridor, at Buffalo but which also continues as an intercity cross-border connection (via Niagara Falls), to the Windsor-Quebec HSR Corridor at Toronto.

It is speculative to know what the US Transportation officials think about this cross border issue. The Obama administration support for improving passenger rail service in the USA is well documented. On the Canadian side the facts are much clearer.

The Canadian Federal Government has no passenger rail legislation, no published short or long term strategy for passenger rail and no stated vision about the importance of cross border passenger rail connections.

VIA Rail Canada is also part of the problem. They lack any available short and long term plans for their trains. VIA Rail has not replied to a request from June 11, 2010 to Malcolm Andrews, VIA Rail Corporate Communications for a copy of their short and long term plans for each of their trains in Ontario and Quebec and cross border connections.

As stated in a previous HSRC blog, The Maple Leaf - is the Amtrak Train that runs daily from New York City through Buffalo, Niagara Falls to Toronto.(VIA takes over on the Canada side) It is a 12 hour 30 minute trip with an on-time performance of 66.8%. It costs $97.00 each way. This train will benefit from the $148 million in grants as part of this money will build a third track to separate freight and passenger rail on a very busy freight portion of this line. This will increase OTP and reduce travel time in a small way.

Delays relating to crossing the border because of immigration/customs add to the problems.

It is extremely doubtful given the present lack of commitment by the Canadian Federal Government and VIA Rail Canada that there will be any significant improvement in the frequency of service or the trip times of Amtrak "Maple Leaf" Train to make it a viable transportation for people.


  1. Any chance of a part 4 for Toronto - Detroit - Chicago?

  2. yes definitely, I am working on it.


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