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It is Time to Fund High Speed Rail in Ontario and Quebec

 During this federal election, an important election issue is the funding of high-speed rail.

High-speed rail is a train system where the trains can reach speeds between 200 m.p.h. to 400 m.p.h. comparison, regular trains usually go at a speed of 160 m.p.h. or less.

There are several places that high-speed rail would be an effective transportation option in Canada. One of the most studied locations is the Windsor to Quebec City corridor. The line would include stops in Kitchener and Toronto. This corridor includes more than 50 per cent of the Canadian population.

High speed rail is an attractive option that should be at least partially funded by the federal government, for several reasons.

One attractive feature of high-speed rail is that it is a significantly cleaner form of transportation than automobiles or airplanes. Of course, having a cleaner transportation alternative isn't enough. You need a critical mass of people using high-speed rail in lieu of cars or planes to see the positive impact on the environment.

Consider the all too familiar Kitchener to Toronto commute. It can take two hours by train to get from downtown Kitchener to downtown Toronto, plus there is the extra travel time to and from each station. This means the commute time from Kitchener to Toronto using traditional rail is optimistically about 2.5 hours, but more likely three hours.

Where as, if you consider commuting by car, even in dense Toronto traffic (barring an accident) you can make the same 2.5- to three-hour commute on a weekday, but if you're lucky, the travel time can be much shorter. No wonder the commuter GO trains are only moderately popular.

But if we had high-speed rail, the time to travel from the Kitchener train station to Toronto's Union station could be halved — making train travel faster than car travel, therefore much more tempting to car drivers. This makes the environmentally friendly option of high-speed train travel a practical alternative to driving.

  High-speed trains also compete effectively with short airplane flights. The train ride from Toronto to Montreal takes about five hours. If it was high-speed rail, it could take approximately 2.5 hours. With such dramatic time savings, high-speed rail becomes a significant competitor to pollution-intense airplane flights.

Another advantage of building high-speed rail is the positive impact it can have on the Canadian economy. High-speed rail helps move talented people to where they are most needed quickly, making commutes that used to be barely tolerable, into much smaller inconveniences.

The construction of a high-speed rail system would also create many much-needed jobs, which would also help grow the Canadian economy.

Finally, high-speed rail may reduce traffic congestion on our roads and highways because many people will be tempted to park their cars when they can get to their destination faster by train.

Despite all of the advantages of high-speed rail, many people object to it because of the cost of building a high-speed rail corridor. It is no exaggeration to say it would cost billions upon billions of dollars to construct such a system. And a great deal of the money would likely come from hard-working taxpayers.

While some of the funding for high-speed rail could come from private-public partnerships, it would still likely require a significant investment by both federal and provincial governments.

I think the multiple advantages of high-speed rail more than justify a significant federal investment.

Jane Orend is a freelance writer and multimedia artist.