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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.