Windsor-Quebec High-Speed Train

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“High-speed rail began in 1964 when Japan launched its Tokyo-Osaka bullet train. France, Germany and Spain followed with systems that now extend thousands of kilometres. The latest innovation is magnetic levitation (maglev), a train lifted and propelled by electromagnetism at speeds over 500 kilometres an hour. The first commercial example of maglev runs between Shanghai and Pudong International Airport.” 01

“Over the past few years, there has been considerable debate on introducing high speed rail passenger services (HSR) in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor. The European experience demonstrates that there are really only two HSR technologies. One is designed for upgraded, existing electrified track (the Swedish X-2000 train) and the other for new, dedicated electrified right-of-way track (the French TGV). While the infrastructure costs for the X-2000 are less expensive than for the TGV, both options would require substantial capital funds…” 04

“The Van Horne Institute study projects a cost between $5 and $9 million per kilometre for the cheapest alternatives. Electrified track systems and maglev cost more.” 01

Shouldn’t this be affordable for Canada if smaller countries can do it? “Slovenia is the smallest country with a “high speed” train, which runs at an excess of 200 km/h (125 miles per hour)…there are other small nations that are planning their own bullet trains. For example, Trinidad & Tobago, a Caribbean nation better associated with calypso music, is building a high speed line.” 05

“If a Canadian consortium has its way, Canada’s first high-speed train will pull out of a station in Toronto or Quebec City early in the 21st century. Travelling at speeds of up to 320 kilometres per hour, Montreal-Toronto would take only two hours and 20 minutes, compared with four hours, at best, today. Rail travellers may welcome this development, as may those wanting a fast and less expensive alternative to short-haul air service from congested airports. But do these benefits merit a $7.5 billion taxpayer contribution to an $11 billion railway? Does Canada even have the capacity to manage such a complex rail project?” 02

“While the French have the TGV and the Germans and Japanese have their equivalents, the last high-speed venture attempted in Canada was the ill-fated Turbo in the 1970’s. This weird looking, wedge shaped train was quick – maybe too quick. Equipped with gas turbine engines the train traveled between Montreal and Toronto at over 100 mph. However, after a series of collisions with vehicles at level crossings (including on its inaugural run) the Turbo program was scrubbed. The Turbo shows the amount of drawbacks associated with any kind of high-speed rail in Canada. New track would need to be constructed while the rail corridor would have to be restricted. Certainly, there would be no more level crossings. Then the entire length of the system would have to be electrified. And finally, there is the weather: frost could heave the tracks, snow or ice build up could derail a train. An Aerotrain-type vehicle could work well in Canada. But there are drawbacks, not the least of which is the noise. Who wants that thing racing through their backyard? Still, the promises of a fast, friction-free system are too many to drop out right. I mean, wouldn’t it be great if you could take a train that would get you to Montreal just outside an hour, Ottawa inside an hour, or Niagara Falls in about 15 minutes?” 03

“A suggestion has been brought forward again to run a high speed train in the Windsor-Quebec City corridor,through Toronto,Montreal,and Ottawa.There have been numerous studies into this proposal,both technical and economic,and an attempt was made by CN Rail forty years ago,ending in failure.     With population increases recently,the need for such a service would make sense if the costs to complete the project were feasible.If costs are beyond the ability of the project to finance it’s self,then it should be shelved.To spend millions of dollars to assess if demand exisits for the service would be futile,unless the major fault with this project is addressed first,that being the quality of the rail bed to support the high speed trains safely and comfortably.     The problems CN Rail experienced with it’s Turbo Train 40 years ago could have been corrected.The train could have been modified,or another train used.What they couldn’t overcome was the quality of the rail bed.They tried continuous rail,welded rail.They tried wooden ties,concrete ties,rubber ties, composition materials,all without success.With weather variations between summer and winter,the heaving of the terrain makes a ground level rail line unsafe and too bumpy for high speed service.To build it above ground is probably cost prohibitive.     Without addressing this problem first,any money spent on other aspects would be wasted.”  06

01. 2007/09/28 – CWF: All aboard for…
02. 1998/12/05 – NP: High-speed train service…
03. Transit Toronto: 2001, The Future Didn’t Look Like This
04. 1994/09 – GovCan: Transportation issues in Canada
05. 2008/01/08 – Yahoo Q&A: What is…
06. 2008/01/12 – LFP ‘Letters’: High speed trains (Paul Luoto, St Thomas)

Other Links:
2002/08/26 – Macleans: Via Rail Resurgent
2005/03 – EcoPolitics: Rail vs Auto Transport
2007/10/11 – CTV: Ottawa announces nearly $700 million for Via Rail
2008/01/05 – Owen Sound Sun Times: It’s time to get serious about rail
2008/01/05 – Brantford Expositor: Now’s the time for high-speed rail in Canada
2008/01/09 – Macleans: Premiers to announce feasibility study…
2008/01/10 – UrbanToronto (forum): Ontario-Quebec High Speed Rail Study
2008/01/10 – Canada News Centre: Funding for…high-speed rail studies
2008/01/10 – CBC: Governments revive plans for high-speed trains…
2008/01/10 – OntarioToday: Queens Park (audio)
2008/01/11 – Windsor Star: High-speed rail link wanted in Windsor
2008/01/11 – Kitchener Record: Rapid trains gather steam
2008/01/12 – Montreal Gazette: Put high-speed train on the rails
2008/05/14 – Windsor Star: High-speed rail


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