Help is here. My old friend, former federal transport minister David Collenette, has written a knowledgeable commentary on the VIA Rail plan for a ‘high-frequency’ passenger service in the Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City corridor. There are some surprises in David’s article in the Toronto Star on the subject.
It is no surprise that David would compliment the liberal government on its innovative plan. He has always been a team player since high school. He even says nice things about VIA Rail. He is only mildly reproving that the plan is not for high-speed rail. He thinks the extra cost for high-speed would be a smart investment.
As a former minister of transport, David is well aware that Canada’s railways have discouraged passenger traffic for so long that passenger rail has failed to develop. Canadians have learned the hard way that, in Canada, passengers always wait for freight.
But he sees hope in the department of finance with Michael Sabia now in the key role of deputy finance minister. After many years of blocking discussion of high-speed rail, the finance department now has someone who understands the need for innovation.
He points out that much of the new line will be based on abandoned CPR lines in both Ontario and Quebec. It has the political value of adding new stops at Peterborough, Ontario and Trois Rivières, Quebec.
David sees the new service as essential to dealing with climate change. Just how this works when the line only promises to be 90 per cent electric is not clear. I suppose for the 10 per cent of the line without electricity, the passengers could get out and push.
But the Pollyanna aspect of David Collenette’s commentary is that he seems to think it will happen. He even thinks the new service will be capable of 200 km/h speeds. Even VIA Rail has admitted that the system might be capable of 177 km/h. Which coincidently is the top speed of most diesel engines.
Sorry David, but I am not holding my breath for this one.
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