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British High Speed Rail Channel Tunnel Rail Link Sold to Canadian Pension Funds

On August 3rd, 2010 High Speed Rail Canada reported that the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and Borealis Infrastructure – an arm of Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System were bidding to buy High Speed One, the British high speed rail line. The line links London to the Channel Tunnel.

Yesterday,is was announced that these two pension plans were successful in purchasing High Speed Rail One for between $3-4 billion. See video here that explains the deal.

Meanwhile back in Canada, the lack of any vision by the current federal Conservative government for renewing Canada's present embarrassing passenger rail situation leaves little hope for optimism. Consider these six examples to illustrate the debacle relating to the current passenger rail situation in Canada.

1. Passenger trains between Ontario and Quebec ran at higher speeds in 1975 then they do now.

2. Alberta's two largest cities, Edmonton and Calgary have had no passenger rail at all for over 25 years.

3. The average Canadian family cannot afford to take VIA Rail.

4. A foreign owned short line railway is preventing more passenger trains and federal government infrastructure money for track and equipment improvements. These improvements would have resulted in a total of 20 passenger trains a day service in and out of Toronto from Kitchener and Guelph Ontario.

5. In 1966, Canada had a population of 20 million and 16 million people took passenger rails. In 2010, Canada had a population of 34 million and VIA Rail's ridership was less than 5 million people.

6. The USA government is reinvesting in cross border passenger rail initiatives along the Montreal-New York City, Toronto-Buffalo-New York City and Vancouver-Seattle border corridors. The Canadian government has ignored solutions to issues related to border delays and needed rail infrastructure/equipment improvements.

The only Conservative member to actively promote passenger rail is MP Dean DelMastro The rest of party has been silent.

Why do Canadian pension funds invest in Britain and not in Canada on passenger rail renewal? Why are most countries around the world reinvesting in passenger rail revitalization and not Canada?. Canada's federal and provincial governments spending on roads was $20 billion in 2008. Investment money to VIA Rail from the federal government in 2009 was $407 million.

Paul Langan
Founder High Speed Rail Canada