Jul 23

Letter to Minister Mulroney – Rail and Bus Transportation Plan for Southwestern Ontario

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Press Releases and Open Letters

Ontario’s Budget 2019 confirmed that the Province is actively exploring opportunities in Southwestern Ontario to enhance passenger train speeds and service levels on existing railway corridors, as well as opportunities for inter-community bus services or other transit solutions that better support the immediate public transportation needs of the region. A transportation plan will be brought forward by fall, 2019.

Transport Action Ontario (TAO) strongly supports this new approach. We have long advocated for High Performance Rail (HPR) – incremental improvement of passenger rail service on existing corridors, plus improved bus feeder service. Various meetings on this topic were held earlier this year by TAO and affiliated organizations with then Transportation Minister Yurek and his staff.

With the appointment of a new Minister, the Hon. Caroline Mulroney, TAO took the opportunity to update her and her staff on our thinking for this upcoming plan. Our letter to the Minister summarized the need for a robust public transportation option, the available technical reports on HPR, the need to include VIA Rail Canada and the Federal Government in the study, and key next steps including specific service scenarios that should be studied.

Our letter to Minister Mulroney can be viewed here:

We also sent the Minister a Policy Briefing prepared by Transport Action Canada on Southwestern Ontario Rail and Bus.

Jun 25

Transport Action Welcomes VIA HFR Announcement

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Press Releases and Open Letters

The following announcement was made today, June 25, 2019, by our parent organization, Transport Action Canada.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Transport Action Canada Welcomes VIA HFR Announcement
Today, the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Cynthia Garneau, VIA Rail Canada President and CEOfficer, andPierre Lavallée, Canada Infrastructure Bank President and CEO announced a total of $71.1 million in funding to further explore VIA Rail Canada’s proposal for High Frequency Rail in the Quebec City- Toronto corridor.

Transport Action Canada welcomes the announcement of $71.1 million by the Canada Infrastructure Bank and the Government of Canada to complete diligence work on VIA Rail’s High Frequency Rail project.

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 (Réseau Express Métropolitain) and access to Montreal’s Mount Royal Tunnel is going to be addressed. We are confident that an engineering solution will be relatively straightforward now that the political will to make this work has been confirmed, ensuring that Montreal will enjoy both better transit and enhanced 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. We hope this will allow the remaining diligence to be completed swiftly, and for the work to proceed on the first sections of the new route in time for the arrival of the new corridor fleet in 2022.

The largest risk, which we feel 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. 

About Transport Action Canada
Transport Action Canada, founded as Transport 2000 Canada in 1977, is the nation’s leading citizen transportation advocacy group. We are a non-profit, consumer-based organization that promotes through advocacy and education, and represents the interests of consumers or users of public transport services in Canada.

Jun 05

Public Survey on Passenger Rail Restoration in Northeastern Ontario

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Northern Ontario

As summarized in our posting of April 28, 2019, Ontario Northland has been tasked by the provincial government to complete a plan to restore passenger rail service to Northeastern Ontario. Our hard-working affiliate group, the Northeastern Ontario Rail Network, together with the Committee Promoting Muskoka Rail Travel and with the District of Muskoka, have initiated an on-line public survey to gauge citizen interest.

For more information, see the article in “My Muskoka Now” at this link:

https://www.mymuskokanow.com/90313/survey-launched-to-gather-views-on-passenger-rail-restoration/

The survey can also be accessed directly at:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NEORNsurvey

The survey will run until June 30.

Jun 05

Update on Federal Funding Commitments for Greater Toronto and Hamilton Transit

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

With an upcoming federal election in October, Transport Action Ontario has reviewed federal funding support for transit capital maintenance and expansion in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). No matter how the numbers are displayed, the current federal commitment is very low versus a target of 33% or more.

The federal government must up its game! And the provincial and federal governments need to cooperate to deliver the funds!

Our full report can be viewed here:

Jun 02

GO Expansion Project moves to next phase of procurement

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

Transport Action Ontario has long supported the GO Expansion project (formerly Regional Express Rail). In fact, our 2013 report “Regional Rapid Rail” was an important precursor to the provincial project announced in 2014. As readers recall, GO Expansion proposes 15-minute all-day two-way service on core parts of 5 GO train corridors. The province has committed $13.5B for capital construction.  

The province has now taken a major step towards procurement of this massive project. The procurement of this project has proceeded in 3 stages:

  • A number of specific track, station and grade separation projects went to market in 2017/2018.  Some of these, such as work on the Stouffville corridor, are under construction.  Others are still in the tender process, or may be woven into the “On-Corridor” package described below.
  • A second procurement package was released in early 2018 to construct 12 new stations, including 6 for Toronto’s Smart Track.  However, in November, the province withdrew the tender and announced it would pursue a new Transit Oriented Development  approach that would have the private sector fund station construction in exchange for development rights.  Since then, two new stations (Mimico and Woodbine) have been announced under this approach.
  • The third tender package is called “GO Rail Expansion On-Corridor Works”.  Interestingly, it uses outcome based specifications where the winner is required  to meet key performance specs such as x trains per day between points A and B, trip times, on-time performance, etc. It is up to the proponent to figure out how to achieve this most cost-effectively – whether to electrify or not, construct new track or not, use other innovations.  As with all large transit contracts in Ontario, it is a Public Private Partnership (P3), where the winning bidder is responsible for  Design-Build-Partial Finance- 30 years of Operation- 30 years of Maintenance.  Media estimates of contract value is $18B ($9B capital + $9B op/main).   On May 30, the province announced the 4 qualifying teams and issued a Request for Proposals (RFP). 

Another interesting aspect of this “On-Corridor” tender is that the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB)  will finance up to $2B of the contract, only its second transit deal in Canada.

The release of the RFP and the CIB financing for the “On-Corridor” project  are good news, as they signify solid government commitment to this massive and vitally important project.

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