Category Archives for "Intercity Rail and Bus"

Jun 25

High Frequency Rail moves a step closer with Canada Infrastructure Bank involvement

By Transport Action | Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , National News

On June 25th 2019, at the former VIA Rail station in Trois-Rivières, the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Cynthia Garneau, VIA Rail Canada President and CEO, and Pierre Lavallée, Canada Infrastructure Bank President and CEO announced $71.1 million in funding from the Government of Canada and the Canada Infrastructure Bank to further explore VIA Rail Canada’s proposal for High Frequency Rail in the Quebec City-Toronto Corridor.

The funding will be used to establish a Joint Project Team, focusing on the following activities throughout 2019 to 2020:

  • finalizing legal and regulatory work related to safety and environmental assessments;
  • consulting with stakeholders and Indigenous communities;
  • examining required land and track acquisition; and
  • completing the technical, financial and commercial analysis required for a final investment decision on High Frequency Rail in the Corridor.

The funding will also support technical work to ensure the interoperability and integration of High Frequency Rail with operating tracks used by local and regional transit providers in Montreal and Toronto. This includes track work in Montreal’s Mont-Royal Tunnel to enable VIA Rail Canada’s heavy rail trains to operate on this segment of the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) light rail system.

Transport Action Canada welcomes this announcement. While we would clearly like to see the High Frequency Rail project move forward as swiftly as possible, we’re very pleased to see that the vital question of ensuring interoperability with REM and access to Montreal’s Mont-Royal Tunnel is going to be addressed. An engineering solution should be relatively straightforward now that the political will to make this work has been confirmed, ensuring that Montreal will enjoy both better transit and inter city connections.

Thanks to VIA Rail’s choice of making best use of existing rail corridors and extant rights of way, the project completion risk for High Frequency Rail is much lower than any previous Quebec-Windsor upgrade proposal and many transit projects. This should allow the remaining diligence to be implemented swiftly, and for the work to proceed on the first sections of the new route in time of the arrival of the new corridor fleet in 2022.

While the government frames this work as “de-risking” the project, the characterisation of the project as “risky” is somewhat unfair. The far larger risk, which the government needs to pay more attention to, is the escalating opportunity cost to Canada of falling further behind the rest of the world on this vital aspect of our transportation infrastructure. Infrequent and inadequate inter city rail service both is a constraint on our domestic economic growth and a deterrent to international investors.

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Feb 07

Building upon the Community Transportation Grant Funding

By TAO-admin | Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Ontario

Transport Action Ontario warmly welcomes the Ontario government’s release of $30 million in Community Transportation Grant funding on Friday, January 25th 2019. The investment represents the first tangible step toward restoring inter-community bus services in Ontario since earlier cuts by numerous Ontario bus providers.

This funding, which follows on from $3 million in pilot project funding provided to 22 communities by the previous government, will provide restored and new services that will make a significant difference to the lives of citizens in many smaller communities that have been without any public bus services for six years or longer.

Transport Action Ontario has sent a letter to Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek congratulating him on this announcement and identifying several other issues with intercommunity buses that need resolution.  Our letter can be viewed here:    TAO-MTOCommTransport2019-02

Jan 29

Full Transparency and Public Consultation Needed on Subway Upload

By TAO-admin | Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Ontario

Transport Action Ontario has sent an open letter to Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek and Toronto Mayor John Tory calling for full transparency and public consultation on the proposed subway upload.  We believe the concept is worthy of study, as the status quo is not acceptable.  However, there are many important aspects of the upload that need to be dealt with fairly and efficiently.

Our letter can be viewed here:  TAO-SubwayUpload 2019-01

Jan 22

Intercommunity Public Transportation for Northern Ontario – New Concepts

By TAO-admin | Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Ontario

The Ontario Government intends to “review initiatives to meet Northerners’ transportation needs, including passenger rail and bus services”.  Transport Action Ontario and our affiliate, the Northeastern Ontario Rail Network, have sent a joint letter to key cabinet ministers discussing the need for a Northern Ontario intercommunity public transportation planning authority, and submitting six new concepts that need to be explored in the provincial review.

The joint letter can be viewed here:  TAO-NEORN letter 2019-01

Dec 13

VIA Rail selects New Fleet for Quebec-Windsor Corridor

By TAO-admin | Intercity Rail and Bus , Ontario

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VIA Rail Canada announced on December 12 that Siemens Canada has been selected as the successful bidder in its fleet renewal program for the Quebec-Windsor Corridor. This is a day that Transport Action Ontario and our affiliate organizations have long campaigned for, and we welcome this federal investment in VIA Rail and environmentally responsible transportation.

The value of the contract is $989M to build 32 new bi-directional trainsets (160 passenger cars and 40 locomotives) plus a 15 year Technical Services and Spare Supply Agreement valued at $23.7M/yr. The first trains are expected to be delivered for testing in 2022, and to be phased in across the Quebec-Windsor corridor over the following two years.

The fleet will be assembled at Siemens plant in Sacramento, California, although Siemens has pledged to source 20% of the parts and services from Canadian suppliers, establishing procurement offices in Ontario and Quebec.
The fleet is based on the Siemens Viaggio design, which has been operating on Austria’s express intercity “Railjet” service across Europe since 2006. This design has also proven itself in North America on Brightline’s express rail services between Miami and West Palm Beach, which will soon be extended to Orlando and Tampa under the Virgin Trains USA brand. Similar equipment is also on order for Amtrak’s Midwestern services and to replace older equipment on California’s inter-city rail services.

The passenger cars will have fast wireless internet, bicycle spaces, quiet zones, and will surpass current universal accessibility standards. They will feature wide aisles, larger washrooms, level boarding at stations with high platforms like Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City, and automatic lifts for accessibility at other stations, helping to fulfill VIA Rail’s commitment to Canadian disability and veterans’ groups.

The trains will run at up to 160 km/h on existing routes, including tracks which VIA Rail services share with CN’s freight operations, and are capable of operating at more than 200 km/h if the federal government also approves VIA Rail’s High Frequency Rail proposal to provide dedicated passenger tracks in parts of the corridor.
The new equipment could also be used to improve service frequencies and reduce travel times in Southwestern Ontario if Ontario’s new government transforms the previous government’s exploration of High Speed Rail into a targeted investment in maximizing the utility of existing rail corridors.

VIA Rail states that it undertook a fair, open, rigorous and transparent procurement process following the best international practices in this field. However, the decision to award the contract to an international bidder has come under fire from Unifor and Quebec politicians who would prefer to have seen a Canadian supplier win. In defence, VIA claims that the Siemens bid was far superior to all other bids in schedule, quality and price. Meanwhile, Bombardier Canada has benefited from numerous orders for its highly successful bi-level commuter equipment, both from Canadian and US transit agencies, including an order for up to 999 cars for New Jersey Transit worth as much as $3.6 billion, clearly demonstrating that Canadian workers also enjoy the advantages of bilateral trade in the rail industry.

VIA Rail is also investing $154M in refurbishing its fleet of Budd-built stainless steel passenger cars for transcontinental and regional services, providing updated seating, wheelchair lifts and fully accessible bathrooms. These contracts, and a contract for refurbishing four dinning cars, have all been awarded to Canadian companies, supporting some 300 jobs in Quebec.

With the “Renaissance” fleet of British-built cars on the Ocean service to Halifax also in need of replacement, Transport Action hopes to see federal funding to refurbish more of VIA Rail’s stainless steel sleeping cars in the near future, a contract that is also likely to go to a Canadian facility.