AC's impact on rail transport in Canada

Old Jun 13, 16, 10:41 am
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AC's impact on rail transport in Canada

Slight offshoot of another thread... this is completely unfounded, but I'm curious what other people think.

I've often lamented the state of rail travel in Canada (and North America as a whole), and I've wondered why Via doesn't try to position itself as a cheaper / competitive option to flying - especially on short-haul routes.

Take {Niagara,Windsor}->Toronto->{Kingston,Montreal,Ottawa,Quebec City}.

It's a fairly straight line - the rails are there, and it's probably the heaviest short haul travel route in Canada. Yet, my ability to get from Kitchener to Pearson or Union Station - I'm looking at 2x the travel time minimum in comparison to a car, and a significant cost.

There have been little to no efforts to build out a high-speed rail option along this route, even though we can fairly confidently say that the demand is there. Could this primarily be government/corporate welfare for AC? If we moved significant numbers of travelers to high-speed rail (which, generally, everyone would find more enjoyable and possibly more reliable if done correctly), I assume this would significantly impact AC's top line.

I'm curious what others think.
epiphani is offline  
Old Jun 13, 16, 10:56 am
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I always assumed the density needed for such a project wasn't yet there.
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Old Jun 13, 16, 10:59 am
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Two problems:CN and CP own most of the tracks and prioritize freight over passengers. Until that changes, euro level services (non high speed even) are pipe dreams.

Montreal has been trying to get priority on the commuter trains forever now, they will build their own tracks instead of dealing with the rail companies. That is how easy it is to deal with them.

Second, our climate adds additional challenges with regards to truly high speed rail . The temperature differential in quebec from winter to summer is problematic for example.

Dealing with the first point would tremendously improve rail services, even with no HST.

Nothing to do with AC in my opinion
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Old Jun 13, 16, 11:07 am
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Its a numbers issue. High speed rail in the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal corridor would cost $20B or so, give or take. At a cost of capital of 8%, that's $1.6B/year that could be spent on, among other things, a fleet of A320 aircraft (figure $50M/each).

When you look at VIA's numbers based on their load factor, they really aren't all that much more energy efficient than flying (and actually quite worse than flying if you benchmark against the long-haul trains!). "High speed" rail would be even less energy efficient on account of the higher speeds and higher inputs to track maintenance/construction. Airlines like AC and WS cover all of their costs (short and long-term) with fares they charge. VIA covers only a fraction, and that's not even with proper long-term amortization of their capital infrastructure.

I like VIA (minus the delays, the severely out of date equipment and the often highly demotivated staff), but its existence makes very little sense to me from a dollars and cents point of view.

BTW, if you ever get the chance, take the Jasper-Prince Rupert trip. The scenery is to die for.
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Old Jun 13, 16, 1:12 pm
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Via is going for dedicated tracks:
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Old Jun 14, 16, 9:22 am
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