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Is the Light Coming On At Via Rail? - Gauging Interest in New Line – VIA wants $3B for commuter track.

It was December 2014 when VIA Rail Chief Executive Yves Desjardins-Siciliano gave an interview with the Globe and Mail that probably made his political masters happy but rail fans and High Speed Rail Canada highly criticized the interview.

Now it seems Desjardins-Siciliano is starting to realize the extent of VIA's problems. Although he still refuses to acknowledge the need for a VIA Rail Act and Regulations he has stated that the current situation with CN and CP sharing existing track does not work and dedicated track is needed.

The news from Desjardins-Siciliano about the need for dedicated commuter track ($3billion) in the Toronto-Montreal corridor was released on March 12th, 2015. It seems to have gotten limited media hits. According to Google News Alerts only the Saskatoon Phoenix picked the story up and it was largely ignored everywhere else.

Perhaps the most insulting part of the article is CN's response to the problems they cause for VIA Rail. It reads, CN "has a close working relationship with the passenger carrier and considers it a valuable customer," spokesman Mark Hallman said in an email. The railway "continues to invest in additional rail capacity where necessary to accommodate growing freight traffic and to promote greater network fluidity and efficiency for all traffic." A great nothing quote from a railway company mired in almost monthly freight derailments.

We know Desjardins-Siciliano has been abroad looking for foreign companies to partner on such a project. We also know that the Chinese government are very serious about investing in passenger rail in Canada although high speed rail is their preference.

As for the $3 billion estimate to build the line, we at HSRC are not sure where that number came from. The idea of having average speed trains run on time would be a big win for passenger rail in Canada.

We should no more soon, on March 16, 2015, Mr. Desjardins-Siciliano was to share his vision for the future of VIA Rail at the Canadian Club of Montreal. Unfortunately, the VIA Rail website has not been updated yet (8 days later!) but here is where the speech will be whenever VIA gets around to updating their site.

It remains to be seen when Desjardins-Siciliano presents his plan to Mr. Harper, who has no plans for passenger rail in this country, how it will be perceived. Stay tuned!