Category Archives for "Intercity Rail and Bus"

Mar 27

VIA high Frequency Rail (HFR) Project not part of 2019 Federal Budget, but Continues to be Evaluated

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

The Federal Government released its 2019 Budget on March 19. There had been expectations that the budget would contain a decision on the fate of VIA Rail Canada’s $4B+ High Frequency Rail (HFR) project. As discussed in our statement of October, 2018, posted on this website, this project envisions new dedicated trackage between Toronto-Ottawa (using the partially abandoned Havelock line) and between Montreal-Quebec (using north shore trackage accessed through the Mt. Royal tunnel), while improving the schedule on existing Lakeshore and South-shore routes.

Our October statement noted that the Federal Government was evaluating this and other proposals to add passenger rail capacity in this corridor. We urged the Federal Government to move forward promptly and commit to boosting passenger rail frequencies, speeds and on-time performance in this corridor.

In contrast to the expectations, the Federal Budget was silent on HFR. However, in a March 20 article in the Globe and Mail, Infrastructure Minister François-Philippe Champagne is quoted as saying “this is a project that is important from Quebec to Windsor . so we keep on working with VIA Rail” and that a range of options are being considered. Transport Minister Marc Garneau stated that the Government continues to study VIA Rail’s plan, including how HFR could work with the Montreal light rail project to both share the Mt Royal tunnel, and that funding could flow through the recently created Canada Infrastructure Bank.

Transport Action Canada is hopeful that improved passenger rail service in the corridor will be announced in the near future, with VIA Rail’s proposal enjoying cross-party support. In the meantime, we continue to celebrate the federal approval in December of nearly $1-billion to replace VIA Rail’s aging corridor fleet, as this is a necessary first step to any service improvement

Mar 10

Premier Ford speaks on bringing back Passenger Rail Service to Northern Ontario

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

During a visit to Muskoka Region on March 1, 2019, Premier Ford spoke about his pledge to bring full passenger rail service back to Northern Ontario.  As covered in Muskokaregion.com, the Premier said he had not forgotten about that commitment, and that “we make sure we keep our promises” and “we’re doing everything we can to make sure it’s sustainable – unlike the last time – and we offer passenger rail to the people of the north”.

 

Transport Action Ontario looks forward to the upcoming Provincial Budget in April, where we hope to see a financial commitment to passenger rail to Northern Ontario.

 

The Muskokaregion.com article can be viewed here:

MuskokaRegion2019-03-07pg1 MuskokaRegion2019-03-07pg2

 

Feb 07

Building upon the Community Transportation Grant Funding

By TAO-admin | Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Press Releases and Open Letters , Urban Transit

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 21

Intercommunity Public Transportation for Northern Ontario – New Concepts

By TAO-admin | Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Northern Ontario , Press Releases and Open Letters

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 , Latest News

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.

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