Category Archives for "Interurban Rail and Bus"

Nov 06

Hopes run high for New Brunswick’s RuralLynx

By admin | Atlantic , Interurban Rail and Bus , Latest Regional News

“Could be a model for all of Canada” – TAA

taa-rurallynx

Supported by Transport Action Atlantic, the Southwest New Brunswick Transit Authority presented the case for RuralLynx to provincial transportation minister Bill Fraser on October 27th. Although there’s nothing official yet, chair Stan Choptiany (second from left) is optimistic that funding will be found to bring public transit to Charlotte County in 2017. Also in the photo (l. to r.) are Laurie Parris, executive director of the Charlotte County Multicultural Association; Minister Fraser; TAA president Ted Bartlett; St. Stephen town councillor Ghislaine Wheaton; and TAA board member Michael Perry.

RuralLynx may soon be a reality in New Brunswick’s Charlotte County, bringing renewed mobility to the people of small towns and rural communities and connecting them with the public services they need in Saint John.  The Southwest New Brunswick Transit Authority Inc. pitched its business plan to provincial Transportation Minister Bill Fraser and senior officials on October 27th.  While the minister’s response was positive, there has been no firm commitment of the necessary financial support that would enable the bus service to finally hit the road next year.

Yet Stan Choptiany, the former mayor of Saint Andrews who chairs the authority’s board, has a positive feeling that it’s all going to fall into place.  The project, strongly supported from the start by Transport Action Atlantic, has found favour with both the MLA and MP for the area, and is well positioned to receive a portion of its necessary funding from United Way.

TAA emphasizes that the amount of money needed from the provincial coffers is miniscule in comparison to the overall budget of the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, and is an investment that will ultimately result in significant overall savings to government.  A follow-up message to Minister Fraser urged him to take a “leap of faith” to support an imaginative proposal that could be a model for all of Canada.

Nov 04

State of play regarding Lac-Mégantic’s quest for justice and for safety of oil transported by rail

By admin | Interurban Rail and Bus , Latest National News , National News

PIAC article on state of play regarding Lac-Mégantic’s quest for justice and for safety of oil transported by rail.

Bruce Campbell, PIAC* Board member

It has been more than three years since the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster, which killed 47 people; left 27 children orphaned; spilled six million litres of crude oil, poisoning the land and waterways; destroyed the town centre; and traumatized a community – trauma that continues to afflict its residents. Combining lives lost, environmental damage and physical destruction the July 6, 2013 Lac–Mégantic rail disaster is – outside of wartime – without precedent in modern Canadian history.

Have the lessons from this disaster been learned? Has it led to fundamental improvements in the rail safety system? A number of policy changes have been put in place since the tragedy including: the rule allowing single operator freight trains has been removed; rules regarding train securement have been made more precise; crude oil has been designated a dangerous good requiring an emergency response plan; a stronger crash resistant tank car has been introduced and will be phased in over 10 years. Nevertheless, massive oil trains continue to run on increasingly overstressed and under-maintained tracks, through urban areas, sometimes at excessive speeds. Main track derailments of trains carrying dangerous goods have increased.

The CPC-1232 tank cars (a slightly improved version of the old legacy DOT-111s), which currently carry virtually all crude oil, continue to puncture and their contents explode – most recently in May, 2016 in Mosier, Oregon, where a disaster was narrowly averted. These unsafe cars will be allowed to carry their dangerous cargo until 2025, when their stronger replacements (DOT-117) are fully in place.

Rail oversight measures essential to a safe regulatory system – notably frequent on-site inspections – remain inadequate. Without them, companies are still “regulating themselves”, compromising safety when it conflicts with costs. An impediment to a robust rail safety system is the “cozy” relationship between Transport Canada and the powerful rail industry. Far too often, the industry is able to shape regulations to its own benefit while compromising the public interest. The industry can block or delay new regulations, and remove or dilute existing regulations that adversely affect its costs.

The 2016 budget allocated $48 million per year for three years to “strengthen oversight and enforcement, and to enhance prevention and response capabilities, related to rail safety…”; but results so far are far from what is needed.

Here are a few measures that would substantially improve safety of rail transport of crude oil:

  • Combine Safety Management Systems (SMS) with robust on-site inspections
  • Substantially increase the Transport Canada’s rail regulatory resources and independence, reducing the potential of regulatory capture by industry.
  • Accelerate the timetable for phase-out of CPC-1232 tank cars.
  • Remove volatile components from oil (including bitumen) before loading
  • Address worker fatigue problems
  • Address speed and alternative route problems
  • Enhance the ability of TSB to enforce recommendations

The people of Mégantic paid a terrible price for failures of a dysfunctional regulatory system. The government must admit its responsibility and commit now to building forthwith a rail bypass around the town, which they are demanding. Fundamental reforms are needed to persuade skeptical public that that lessons of Lac-Mégantic have been learned.

*Public Interest Advocacy Centre

Oct 30

Power of Rail Symposium at Western University

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

The Southwestern Ontario Transportation Alliance (SWOTA) and Transport Action Ontario (TAO) hosted a symposium on Oct. 12, 2016, promoting better passenger rail service for Western students and faculty. Our special guest was NDP MP Irene Mathyssen.

TAO Director Scott St. John introduced SWOTA President Terence Johnson, who discussed the need for an urgent High Performance Rail solution to address the growing infrastructure and mobility gap in Southwestern Ontario. Debunking the myth that Ontario lacks the population density to support a reasonable level of core services, Johnson drew a parallel between London, Ontario and Crianlarich, a village of 185 people in the Highlands of Scotland, which has more frequent and less expensive services to Glasgow than London does to Toronto.

 

Drawing upon examples from across the United States to illustrate the comparatively low cost and rapid implementation schedule of High Performance Rail, and the benefits of service integration between train and bus, Johnson set the stage for TAO Acting President Tony Turritin to give a more detailed description of the Network Southwest vision for restoring mobility to the region.

 

Irene Mathyssen, MP for London-Fanshawe, expressed her support for “Network Southwest” and making London a regional hub for Southwestern Ontario. She is working to draft a new version of the “VIA Rail Canada Act,” originally introduced by MP Phil Toone, that would empower VIA’s mandate in relationships with government and the freight railroads.

 

As Tony Turrittin explained, examples of High Performance Rail are close at hand.  In the United States, Amtrak operates fast and very frequent trains between New-York and Albany (227km), Chicago-Milwaukee (137km), Los Angeles-San Diego (205km), and Oakland-Sacramento (144km).  As VIA Rail has withdrawn service in Southwestern Ontario over the last two decades, cities such as Stratford, Kitchener, Guelph and Niagara Falls have put out a cry for help to the Province asking that GO trains be extended to their cities.

 

GO service is highly popular because it is mass transit: frequent, high capacity so reserved seating is not necessary, pairs of wide doors for quick boarding, reliable sechedules, and low fares — all the things that VIA Rail isn’t, Turrittin pointed out.  VIA’s schedules don’t comprise a workable network, on-time performance is very poor, seating is limited, and fares extremely high.  But VIA is an express service which GO is not in its present commuter rail form.  He proposed melding the best of what VIA is supposed to do with GO’s mass transit model.

 

Turrittin closed his presentation by calling on the Province to step into the intercity rail vacuum left by VIA Rail with the GO-train mass transit model.  This is an opportunity.  A new delivery agency is needed with the participation of the region’s municipalities.  The federal government can help by passing on its regional VIA subsidy to the new operating agency.  Some track upgrades are required.  There will be major economic and social benefits flowing from quality intercity express rail in Southwestern Ontario integrated with regional and local transit. 

Turritin’s presentation can be viewed here:  nsw-presentation-london-10122016-turrittin

 

Communications expert and TAO member Chris Ryan spoke at the end, encouraging everyone to get involved and write to their politicians.

 

The full “Network Southwest” report is available at www.swota.ca/networksouthwest/

Oct 24

Extra trains for Christmas

By admin | Atlantic , Interurban Rail and Bus , Latest Regional News

By Tim Hayman, Transport Action Atlantic

 

VIA Rail Train 15, The Ocean, departs Halifax with a stainless steel HEP consist in tow at the end of the 2015-16 Christmas season. (Photo – Tim Hayman)

It might seem a bit early to be thinking about holiday travels, but the Christmas season is just over two months away, and VIA has added additional departures of the Ocean into their reservations system to give people in the Maritimes more travel options during that busy time. In keeping with what VIA has done in each of the last two years, there will be three additional round trips added into the schedule, along with a rescheduling of the Sunday departures that would have left on Christmas day.

Also good news for railfans and those in the travelling public who prefer the older Budd-built stainless steel “HEP” equipment, a full set of HEP cars will be added in to supplement the normal two Renaissance trainsets, facilitating the additional departures. Unlike last year, where equipment cycling meant that the HEP equipment only operated on two round trips, this year three trips each way will be HEP equipped.

The return of this equipment means that additional accommodation types will be available on those trains, including “Cabin for 1” (traditionally known as roomettes), upper and lower berths, and drawing rooms that can be booked for 3 travellers (“Cabin for 3”). If past years are to be the example, there will also be a full diner with more meal components cooked on board, and a Skyline car to provide take-out food service and a lounge and scenic dome for coach passengers. 

VIA has not yet made an official announcement about the extra trains, and it remains to be seen what their advertising campaign will look like this year. However, the extra trains are now in the online reservations system for booking, so we can see what additional dates and accommodations are available. UPDATE OCT. 20 – VIA has now made a formal announcement about the extra trains. See the press release HERE. The VIA release does not identify the equipment used, so see our breakdown below for those details.

Here is the breakdown of the Ocean’s schedule over the holiday period. Extra trains added into the system are shown in bold. Note that the Dec. 26 departures in both directions are rescheduled from Dec. 25, and as such are not truly “extra” trains, despite running on a Monday (*Note: the VIA release identifies the westbound trip on the 26th as an extra and the one on the 27th as rescheduled from the 25th). Equipment types for each trip are shown in brackets.

VIA 15 (Halifax to Montreal)

Wed, Dec 21 (HEP)

Thu, Dec 22 (Renaissance)

Fri, Dec 23 (Renaissance)

Mon, Dec 26 (HEP)

Tue, Dec 27 (Renaissance)

Wed, Dec 28 (Renaissance)

Fri, Dec 30 (Renaissance)

Sun, Jan 01 (Renaissance)

Mon, Jan 02 (HEP)

VIA 14 (Montreal to Halifax)

Mon, Dec 19 (HEP)

Wed, Dec 21 (Renaissance)

Thu, Dec 22 (HEP)

Fri, Dec 23 (Renaissance)

Mon, Dec 26 (Renaissance)

Tue, Dec 27 (HEP)

Wed, Dec 28 (Renaissance)

Fri, Dec 30 (Renaissance)

Sun, Jan 01 (Renaissance)

VIA has been somewhat disappointed in the ridership on the extra Christmas trains over the last two years. Though numbers were up slightly last year, they did not reach the levels that management had hoped for. In any case, the extra departures did allow for more people to travel than would have been possible on the normal 3/week schedule, and VIA has presumably decided that it’s worth running these additional trains this year.

Right now it’s important to spread the word, and make sure people know these extra options are there when they think about their holiday travel plans. Just as we said last year: if we want to encourage VIA to continue running extra trains during the holidays and consider adding additional frequencies at other times of the year, it would be best if these trains are well used!

Oct 24

Positive Train Control

By admin | Interurban Rail and Bus , Latest National News , National News , Topics

By Robert Wightman

There has been a lot of talk on Positive Train Control, PTC, lately, especially with the New Jersey Transit, NJT, in Hoboken recently. Exactly what is PTC, why did it come in to being and what will it do?

From Wikipedia

Positive train control (PTC) is a system of functional requirements for monitoring and controlling train movements as an attempt to provide increased safety. The American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) describes Positive Train Control as having these primary characteristics:[1]

  • Train separation or collision avoidance
  • Line speed enforcement
  • Temporary speed restrictions
  • Rail worker wayside safety

It resulted after a Metrolink Commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train collided on September 12, 2008, in California, which resulted in the deaths of 25 and injuries to more than 135 passengers. The operator of the commuter train was allegedly texting on his cell phone at the time and ran a red signal. The US Congress passed a 315 page bill that President Bush signed into law on October 16, 2008.

PTC would have prevented the Metro North Derailment where the commuter train entered the curve at three times the stated speed on Dec. 1st, 2013 killing 4 and injuring more than 70. It would also have prevented the Amtrak derailment near Philadelphia in May of 2015 that killed 8 and injured over 200.

There are many incidents that PTC would NOT have prevented. In the US these include:

  1. The accident on FEB. 3rd, 2015 where a Metro-North  train slams into an SUV on the tracks at a railroad crossing about 20 miles north of New York City, killing the SUV’s driver and five people aboard the train,

  2. The April 3rd, 2016 accident on Amtrak where two employees moved a back hoe onto the tracks near Chester PA without obtaining permission from the Rail Dispatcher. If they had done this the track would have been locked out and the train switched to another track.

  3. The Sept. 22nd 1993 incident where a barge hits a railroad bridge near Mobile, Alabama. Minutes later, an Amtrak train hits the bent tracks and plunges into the bayou, killing 47 people.

  4. The accident of January 26, 2005 when a, southbound Metrolink commuter train #100 collided with an SUV that had been abandoned on the tracks immediately south of the Chevy Chase Drive The train jackknifed and struck trains on either side of it—one a stationary Union Pacific freight train, and the other a northbound Metrolink train (#901) traveling in the opposite direction. The chain-reaction collisions resulted in the deaths of 11 people.

  5. The collision in Feb. 2015 where six people died and 12 were injured when a Metro-North  train smashed into an SUV that was stopped on the tracks in Westchester County.

  6. The most recent collision in the US, the New Jersey Transit, NJT commuter train crash in Hoboken NJ, would not have been prevented by PTC because the Federal Railway Administration, FRA, had granted a Main Line Track Exclusion Addendums (MTEAs) for the New Jersey Transit’s Hoboken passenger terminals where speeds are restricted to no more than 20 mph and interlocking rules are in effect as the terminal is too complex for the system, PTC, to operate.

In the Canadian context PTC would have prevented the VIA train derailment at Burlington on Feb. 26th 2012 when a Via train entered a 15 mph crossover at 56 MPH killing the 3 crew in the locomotive and injuring 46 people. It would not have prevented the Lac Megantic disaster where an unattended train ran away backwards down a grade after being left without enough hand brakes applied nor would it have prevented the CP Derailment in the winter of 2015 near Nippigon ON that was caused by broken rail inside an insulated joint which was partially caused by extreme cold.

Positive Train Control may look like a major safety advance, and it is, but at price tag of over $2 billion Canadian it makes one wonder if it is the best bang for the buck. There are more people killed each year in level crossing collisions between trains and autos than in PTC preventable railway accidents. Would it not be more prudent to increase level crossing grade separations before PTC? Major train accidents maybe more spectacular but more people are killed in level crossing accidents each year that in train accidents.

  1. American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA), Lanham, MD (2009). “Meeting the Communication Challenges for Positive Train Control.” AREMA 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, IL.