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Old Posted Jul 14, 2015, 5:05 PM
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VIA Rail network developments

Do we not have a dedicated VIA Rail thread here? Move this if we do...
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  #2  
Old Posted Jul 14, 2015, 5:06 PM
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Via Rail seeks public-private partnership to fund Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal project

Canadian Press
Published on: June 30, 2015 | Last Updated: June 30, 2015 11:28 AM EDT


Via Rail is attempting to attract money from institutional investors like the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec to help generate private investments worth $3 billion for its railway infrastructure.

The Crown corporation expressed its desire to start a public-private partnership to improve its rails and increase the train frequency between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

On Tuesday morning, Via Rail president Yves Desjardins-Siciliano outlined the company’s strategy and outlined its recent successes in other parts of the country.

Aside from the Caisse de dépôts, other institutions like the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and Omers have shown interest in Via Rail’s project.

Desjardins-Siciliano said he expects the money is available within Canada’s private sector but will welcome interest from foreign investors during the coming months.

Via Rail said the railways’ use by several companies transporting merchandise is having a negative effect on the rails because of increased traffic.

Between 2010 and 2014, the number of people using Via Rail’s services dropped from 4.1 million to 3.8 million. The company’s deficit reached $317 million.

http://montrealgazette.com/business/...ntreal-project
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  #3  
Old Posted Jul 14, 2015, 5:08 PM
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Via seeks faster service on Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor

Michael Prentice, OBJ
Published on July 13, 2015


Ottawa will be a big winner if Via Rail is successful in its bid to raise $3 billion in private funding to improve train service in the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor, OBJ has learned.

Most of Via’s proposed improvements would be on the line between Ottawa and Toronto, Via president Yves Desjardins-Siciliano said in an exclusive interview recently.

Via's chief executive appears optimistic the government-owned passenger rail company will raise the money required to improve service between Montreal and Toronto and turn the corridor from a money-loser into a profitable venture.

Under Via’s proposed improvements, travel time between Ottawa and Toronto would be slashed to as little as two hours and 30 minutes, making it competitive with flying and much faster than travelling by car or bus. Currently, the fastest trains between the two cities take almost four hours.

Train service along the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor is now slow and infrequent. Via says it loses $48 for each passenger it carries on the route – a sum covered by the federal government in its annual subsidy to Via of about $300 million.

Mr. Desjardins-Siciliano believes he can make service profitable in the corridor by slashing journey times and doubling the number of trains.

Right now, rail service linking Canada’s three largest eastern cities operates in a triangle, rather than a corridor. But if Via’s ambitious plans are successful, trains will speed between Montreal and Toronto, with a stop in Ottawa, in as little as three hours and 50 minutes.

The journey time between Ottawa and Montreal would be cut to about one hour and 20 minutes, about 30 minutes faster than the current fastest time. The rail link between downtown Ottawa and downtown Montreal would be faster than taking a car, bus or even a plane, taking check-in times into account.

Via is now in discussions with major investors – notably pension funds – in the hope of persuading them to invest in the proposed service improvements.

We’re now well into the 21st century, so why is Via considering $3 billion in service improvements that will still only put us in the 20th century?

Super-high-speed trains, such as those in Europe and Japan, would cost billions of dollars in government subsidies, and few if anyone in Canada wants to pay for them. Via estimates it would cost at least $9 billion to introduce super-high-speed trains serving Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.

One of the company’s biggest problems is that it has to share tracks – which are often old and dilapidated – with freight trains.

Under Via’s proposed improvements, $2 billion would be spent on new tracks or renovations to existing tracks. Most of the rest would be spent on doubling the fleet of trains that serve the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto routes. Via would have exclusive use of about 25 per cent of all track on the corridor.

Via estimates these improvements would enable it to operate the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto routes with an annual profit of about 15 per cent. That profit would then be shared between Via and the private investors.

Via has not yet indicated how such profits, if any, would be shared with investors. Mr. Desjardins-Siciliano told OBJ he expects the partners to get “a handsome return on their investment.”

Canadian taxpayers also stand to gain, he said, since he expects profitability in the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor to “eliminate a chunk of the federal subsidy.”

A big reason super-high-speed train service is so expensive is that it requires exclusive use of track, with no railroad crossings, added Mr. Desjardins-Siciliano.

He estimated it would take 12 to 15 years to implement the plan. The improvements proposed by Via can be introduced gradually, he said.

If investors are found and if the federal government approves Via’s plans, service improvements could begin within 18 months to two years after that, the Via chief told OBJ.

http://www.obj.ca/Local/2015-07-13/a...nto-corridor/1
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Old Posted Jul 14, 2015, 5:49 PM
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$3 billion is cheap enough that the federal government should simply just pay for it. That way, instead of having to share the resulting profit with investors, the federal government can pocket all of it and spend further on more improvements.

That said, it's exactly what we've needed. To date all proposals have just been massively expensive 300km/h trains; this is small enough to be pragmatic and thus possible in our fiscal climate.
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  #5  
Old Posted Jul 14, 2015, 5:52 PM
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The main bottleneck between Toronto & Ottawa is in Smiths Falls; there, VIA trains have to travel through a CP freight yard to connect between two subdivisions, which requires them to slow to a crawl, and can occasionally (thankfully pretty rarely) cause delays of about 20-30 minutes due to CP freight movements.

I've heard VIA plans to pay CP to move their yard outside the town to remove the bottleneck; if CP is not forthcoming a new railway line to bypass the town is possible but potentially politically difficult (as any new transportation corridor tends to be).

Here in Ottawa, these plans will almost certainly include grade separation of the Trillium/VIA interchange (as it puts scheduling constraints on VIA) which would be a much-needed boost to the Trillium line. The Fallowfield/Woodroffe crossings, however, probably won't be, as they aren't a huge burden on VIA (the trains are already slow through there due to the station).
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  #6  
Old Posted Jul 14, 2015, 6:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rocketphish View Post
Via seeks faster service on Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor

Michael Prentice, OBJ
Published on July 13, 2015


Ottawa will be a big winner if Via Rail is successful in its bid to raise $3 billion in private funding to improve train service in the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor, OBJ has learned.

Under Via’s proposed improvements, travel time between Ottawa and Toronto would be slashed to as little as two hours and 30 minutes, making it competitive with flying and much faster than travelling by car or bus. Currently, the fastest trains between the two cities take almost four hours.

Mr. Desjardins-Siciliano believes he can make service profitable in the corridor by slashing journey times and doubling the number of trains.

The journey time between Ottawa and Montreal would be cut to about one hour and 20 minutes, about 30 minutes faster than the current fastest time. The rail link between downtown Ottawa and downtown Montreal would be faster than taking a car, bus or even a plane, taking check-in times into account.

http://www.obj.ca/Local/2015-07-13/a...nto-corridor/1
This would be such a welcome service from my standpoint and sorely needed from Via's business position. Currently I drive to Toronto for business because I usually need to go with less than 2 weeks notice and while there are 50+ flights a day, they are all over $500 with the short notice. I prefer the train but have constantly opted to drive because driving is faster. Also, hoping on a train to Montreal with a 1 hr 20 minute ride makes a day trip even easier-almost providing a "regional" type service.
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  #7  
Old Posted Jul 14, 2015, 6:44 PM
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The Ottawa-Toronto line specifically has actually done quite well in recent years; ridership has climbed a lot (in one recent year, I'm pretty sure 2013->2014, it actually climbed 38% in just that one year!), and they've added a lot more trains. We've gone from something like 60 trains to a week to close to a 100 in the past 5 years; Friday specifically has jumped from 5 departures to 8.

This project could tie in very well with the GO RER project in Toronto. Because Union will be the main hub of the RER lines, it will make huge swaths of the GTA very accessible for VIA connections. An Ottawan going to a meeting in Markham or Mississauga could easily take trains to get there.

With regional RER connections to places like Hamilton, Barrie, and Kitchener, and new rapid transit lines in Ottawa, Toronto, and Kitchener-Waterloo, combined with improved VIA services, it will amount to an efficient transit network connecting millions of Ontarians.
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  #8  
Old Posted Jul 14, 2015, 7:13 PM
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This reminds me of the Kitchener bullet train from the last provincial election (which has since disappeared). Hardly any train service in the world is profitable and even fewer pay the capex privately, hard to believe they would make a profit on the operating cost and enough of a surplus to pay the investors a return on the investment.

I wonder if this is just an election gimmick or if this is the first step of a plan to just ask the government for $3B ("sorry boss, we tried to get private investors and they wouldn't bite")
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Old Posted Jul 14, 2015, 7:21 PM
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Originally Posted by acottawa View Post
This reminds me of the Kitchener bullet train from the last provincial election (which has since disappeared). Hardly any train service in the world is profitable and even fewer pay the capex privately, hard to believe they would make a profit on the operating cost and enough of a surplus to pay the investors a return on the investment.
There's currently an EA being done for that one that was launched last fall.

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Originally Posted by acottawa View Post
I wonder if this is just an election gimmick or if this is the first step of a plan to just ask the government for $3B ("sorry boss, we tried to get private investors and they wouldn't bite")
If it isn't a serious investment plan (though given the interest it has generated from a number of high profile investors I'd disagree with you on that one), it would be latter. Nobody from the CPC has said a peep about it and VIA has had this in the works for quite some time now.

That said, the timing of this around the election is suspicious. It makes me think this is an attempt by VIA to make this plan an election issue.
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Old Posted Jul 14, 2015, 7:33 PM
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There's currently an EA being done for that one that was launched last fall.
Yeah, for "bi-directional service"
http://www.therecord.com/news-story/...rts-this-year/

A far cry from the pre-election promise of high speed rail.
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  #11  
Old Posted Jul 14, 2015, 7:33 PM
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Regarding that $48 subsidy...that is pretty low compared to other lines. Before the Ontario government shut it down, the ONTC Northlander to Northern Ontario had a subsidy of over $400 per passenger, meaning they could essentially buy them all new cars for the same price if they were regular users.
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Old Posted Jul 14, 2015, 7:48 PM
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Originally Posted by acottawa View Post
Yeah, for "bi-directional service"
http://www.therecord.com/news-story/...rts-this-year/

A far cry from the pre-election promise of high speed rail.
No, there's a separate high speed rail EA going on too, in addition to the RER one.

http://news.ontario.ca/mto/en/2014/1...peed-rail.html

Two-way all day GO to Kitchener and the Toronto-London HSR were always meant to be separate projects/services (albeit sharing a lot of common infrastructure). The former has a higher chance of happening, though.
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Old Posted Jul 14, 2015, 7:51 PM
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Originally Posted by acottawa View Post
Yeah, for "bi-directional service"
http://www.therecord.com/news-story/...rts-this-year/

A far cry from the pre-election promise of high speed rail.
That's not the same thing. The plan Is to have 2 lines operating on the corridor, HSR and GO. That would be for the local GO transit service, while the HSR EA is for the high speed express trains that will run to London.
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Old Posted Jul 14, 2015, 9:48 PM
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Yay, this thread is here! *drools* Anyways a few things I've been wondering:

-I don't get where VIA's stations come into all this, as they are mostly on CN lines. If Via builds a track, would they need new stations too? This is only really an issue between Brockville and Toronto (maybe Montreal too).

- Oh, ok, read it again, VIA will own 25% of the track. One would have to think though that the same issues could flare up in the future, though. That said, not sure where the half hour from Ottawa to Montreal is being saved.

- I had wondered if VIA would have considered a new line from Smiths Falls to Kingston. However, if they want to ditch the direct train from Toronto to Montreal, maybe it's better to not leave Brockville.
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Old Posted Jul 14, 2015, 10:49 PM
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- I had wondered if VIA would have considered a new line from Smiths Falls to Kingston. However, if they want to ditch the direct train from Toronto to Montreal, maybe it's better to not leave Brockville.
Based just on the article and the proposed time estimates and eliminating the "triangle" I would guess they're looking at the cp corridor between Belleville and smith falls
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Old Posted Jul 15, 2015, 3:13 AM
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Originally Posted by White Pine View Post
Yay, this thread is here! *drools* Anyways a few things I've been wondering:

-I don't get where VIA's stations come into all this, as they are mostly on CN lines. If Via builds a track, would they need new stations too? This is only really an issue between Brockville and Toronto (maybe Montreal too).

- Oh, ok, read it again, VIA will own 25% of the track. One would have to think though that the same issues could flare up in the future, though. That said, not sure where the half hour from Ottawa to Montreal is being saved.

- I had wondered if VIA would have considered a new line from Smiths Falls to Kingston. However, if they want to ditch the direct train from Toronto to Montreal, maybe it's better to not leave Brockville.
Even considering abandoned lines, there was never a direct route between Smiths Falls and Kingston. I think Kingston is a crucial midpoint station between Ottawa and Toronto and you wouldn't want to bypass it so likely the route via Brockville will remain the best choice.
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Old Posted Jul 15, 2015, 3:26 AM
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Originally Posted by White Pine View Post
Yay, this thread is here! *drools* Anyways a few things I've been wondering:

-I don't get where VIA's stations come into all this, as they are mostly on CN lines. If Via builds a track, would they need new stations too? This is only really an issue between Brockville and Toronto (maybe Montreal too).
I imagine VIA would add an additional set of tracks within the CN corridor on the Kingston Subdivision (the 'mainline' track between Toronto and Montreal) that would be exclusively VIA's by agreement, despite being technically CN-owned. GO did this between Pickering and Oshawa some time ago (in the 1980s or 1990s I think).

The federal government already invested a lot of money in replacing many of the stations along the route. Although, notably, Kingston station has not been replaced and as such has a number of deficiencies; and there's some pressure from Kingston City Council for the station to be relocated further east around Division Street; so we'll see how that plays out.

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I had wondered if VIA would have considered a new line from Smiths Falls to Kingston. However, if they want to ditch the direct train from Toronto to Montreal, maybe it's better to not leave Brockville.
If they ditch the Toronto-Montreal direct train, that would mean the removal of service from Cornwall station, which is a fairly high ridership station; I imagine they would likely leave a few trains on the old route to reach Cornwall. Same solution could be done for Brockville.

A new straight-line track from Kingston to Smiths Falls, although identified as necessary/desirable in pretty much every HSR study, would be difficult. It would have to pass through heavily forested hills filled with lakes, making pretty much any route route both expensive and environmentally sensitive, and likely to draw the ire of cottage owner NIMBYs.

The track from Brockville to Smiths Falls is single-tracked (would have to be doubled as part of this plan likely) and owned by CP, but I don't think CP ever uses it. I'm a very frequent VIA rider, and while VIA trains are frequently stopped on sidings for each other on this route, never once has a train I've been on ever conflicted with a CP train. CP may very well retain ownership of the corridor; although the new second track built here might end up being VIA-owned.
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Old Posted Jul 15, 2015, 3:37 AM
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I think Kingston is a crucial midpoint station between Ottawa and Toronto and you wouldn't want to bypass it
Due to Queen's University, Kingston-Toronto has very high intercity travel demand on weekends and around holiday times; much more so than would otherwise be expected given the population and distance; furthermore, the demand is driven by a demographic that is more likely to take transit than drive. On a typical Sunday train from Toronto to Ottawa, half the train gets off in Kingston.

Even the express trains stop in Kingston on the Ottawa-Toronto route. It's a vital stop and would almost certainly not be bypassed.
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Old Posted Jul 15, 2015, 1:19 PM
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Originally Posted by 1overcosc View Post
Due to Queen's University, Kingston-Toronto has very high intercity travel demand on weekends and around holiday times; much more so than would otherwise be expected given the population and distance; furthermore, the demand is driven by a demographic that is more likely to take transit than drive. On a typical Sunday train from Toronto to Ottawa, half the train gets off in Kingston.

Even the express trains stop in Kingston on the Ottawa-Toronto route. It's a vital stop and would almost certainly not be bypassed.
There's no way to get the reductions in travel times (90 minutes) they're talking about on the Ottawa-Toronto route without taking a more direct route, which means either a greenfield railway from Kingston to Smiths falls (which as lrtfriend pointed out never existed as the old K&P took a direct route to Pembrooke and you pointed out involves major geographic impediments) or using the CPR from Belleville to Smiths Falls. Not sure which they're planning although with only a 1.5B track budget it sure looks like the latter.
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Old Posted Jul 15, 2015, 1:50 PM
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Originally Posted by 1overcosc View Post
I imagine VIA would add an additional set of tracks within the CN corridor on the Kingston Subdivision (the 'mainline' track between Toronto and Montreal) that would be exclusively VIA's by agreement, despite being technically CN-owned. GO did this between Pickering and Oshawa some time ago (in the 1980s or 1990s I think).

The federal government already invested a lot of money in replacing many of the stations along the route. Although, notably, Kingston station has not been replaced and as such has a number of deficiencies; and there's some pressure from Kingston City Council for the station to be relocated further east around Division Street; so we'll see how that plays out.



If they ditch the Toronto-Montreal direct train, that would mean the removal of service from Cornwall station, which is a fairly high ridership station; I imagine they would likely leave a few trains on the old route to reach Cornwall. Same solution could be done for Brockville.

A new straight-line track from Kingston to Smiths Falls, although identified as necessary/desirable in pretty much every HSR study, would be difficult. It would have to pass through heavily forested hills filled with lakes, making pretty much any route route both expensive and environmentally sensitive, and likely to draw the ire of cottage owner NIMBYs.

The track from Brockville to Smiths Falls is single-tracked (would have to be doubled as part of this plan likely) and owned by CP, but I don't think CP ever uses it. I'm a very frequent VIA rider, and while VIA trains are frequently stopped on sidings for each other on this route, never once has a train I've been on ever conflicted with a CP train. CP may very well retain ownership of the corridor; although the new second track built here might end up being VIA-owned.

That's interesting. Why is this? Easier to get to or something? Hopefully if they do move the station they could find a way to better integrate it with Kingston's express busses. A new station could also be an easy way to put more tracks at the station with minimal disruption.

However, I would have thought that the current location is more central...
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