Category Archives for "Intercity Rail and Bus"

Jul 02

Federal Study of Southwestern Ontario Passenger Rail Enhancement – second update

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Southwestern Ontario

As described in our first post (September 30, 2022), a federal study on passenger rail enhancements in southwestern Ontario is underway. In November, it was announced that CPCS Transcom, in association with WSP, will act as external advisors, with a report due by end 2023.

Following months of little public activity, three important events occurred in the last week of June, 2023:

(a) Minister Alghabra held the long-promised ministerial roundtable with stakeholders. Although attendance was limited to mayors and wardens, Transport Action Ontario prepared a briefing package that was circulated to these attendees ahead of time, giving our take on benefits of rail, concern areas and what municipalities need to ask for. The package is attached below.

(b) Following the roundtable, Minister Alghabra and new VIA President Mario Peloquin announced the return of Trains 82/83 in Fall, 2023, assuming track access agreements can be negotiated with CN and Metrolinx. We have previously learned that negotiations between CN and CIA on track access in general have not been going well. Therefore we welcome the Minister’s commitment that “we will support VIA in whatever they need to make sure that it happens”.

(c) Transport Action representatives also met with CPCS on June 29. We had earlier submitted a briefing note to CPCS covering our material previously sent to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. These included rail infrastructure recommendations and developing London as a hub for high frequency rail in southwestern Ontario. The briefing package is attached below. We learned that the scope of work for CPCS is consistent with previous plans, namely:

  • Focus on Burlington to London, Windsor and Sarnia (ie Kitchener line not included)
  • Study increased service on existing CN infrastructure, with existing station locations
  • Develop 3 service scenarios, with the best being hourly London-Toronto. This is consistent with our recommendations.

Improved passenger rail is vital to southwestern Ontario. Transport Action will continue to be very involved with both this federal study and the Ontario study.

Jun 26

Reinstating VIA Trains 82/83 – Demonstration in Brantford, ON

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Southwestern Ontario

Transport Action Ontario (TAO) participated in a well-attended demonstration in Brantford on June 24, 2023 concerning reinstatement of VIA Trains 82/83, key commuter-oriented trains connecting to/from Toronto.  We spoke to several elected officials and municipal staff.

Conservative MP Larry Brock was frustrated that former VIA CEO, Martin Landry had stated there was no equipment and no crew to reinstate Train 82 after Covid. Larry considered this unacceptable and will continue to pursue the matter with the new VIA CEO, Mario Peloquin. He said that all inquiries to VIA’s customer relations department about Train 82 were usually met with “call your MP”. They did, so he saw the magnitude of the issue.

Brantford Mayor Kevin Davis was similarly frustrated as he had requested GO Transit to replace its bus with an early morning train because of congestion on Highway 403 and the Lincoln Alexander Memorial Expressway that often-made driving to Aldershot a 60-90 minute crawl. He stated it gets worse by the week because of the accelerating urban sprawl in Paris/Brantford and along the top of the Hamilton Mountain.

Both elected officials showed interest in working with TAO.  We also engaged with the Clerk of Brantford who indicated the city needed additional resources to drive the Train 82 issue. There were questions on High Frequency Rail but we advised it will be another 2 years before the project is confirmed and about 10-15 years before there are any services west of Toronto – in the event it proceeds.

There was excellent media coverage of the event.  We hope that other elected officials in southwestern Ontario  follow the example of Brantford with demonstrations, alliances and political advocacy, as this appears to be the action necessary to obtain improvements in these vital train connections.

May 22

Bus services to Detroit reinstated by Flixbus and Trailways

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus

Passengers in Ontario once again have options to travel by bus to Michigan and the US Midwest, with both Flixbus and Trailways offering routes between Toronto and Detroit.

The Trailways service, launched on April 5, 2023, operates twice daily and makes intermediate stops in London, Chatham and Windsor. It operates in partnership with Megabus, so fares within Canada can be booked through Megabus, but cross-border travel must be booked through Trailways or a fare retailer like Busbud.

The Flixbus service, which started operating to Detroit in March, originates in Scarborough, making stops at Toronto Union Station Bus Terminal, McMaster University, London, Western University, Highway 401/Bloomfield Road interchange in Chatham-Kent, and in Windsor. Connections are available to the Greyhound network in the United States, with is now owned by by Flixbus parent company Flix AG. Flixbus also operates an additional round trip daily between Toronto and Windsor.

Photograph: Trailways stops adjacent to the downtown bus terminal in Chatham, allowing connections to urban and intercommunity bus services.

Apr 16

Advocacy Summary for April, 2022 – April, 2023

By Transport Action Ontario | Events , Highways and Bridges , Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Northern Ontario , Southwestern Ontario , Uncategorized , Urban Transit

Transport Action Ontario’s annual general meeting (AGM) was held in Toronto on April 15, 2023 in a hybrid format. The meeting followed a pro-forma agenda, including Treasurer’s report and election of officers and directors for the upcoming year.

The major part of the meeting was devoted to the President’s report, which summarized the extensive advocacy work undertaken by the organization all across the Province over the past 12 months. In total, work was conducted on about 30 items, with some successes and good progress on others.

For members and subscribers who were unable to attend the AGM, the President’s Report is attached as a FYI.

Mar 04

Enhanced Train Control for Canada’s Railways

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus

In February 2022, Transport Canada published a Notice of Intent describing how it intended to implement enhanced train control (ETC) in Canada by 2030. ETC is also known as positive train control (PTC) in the USA.   Currently, reliance for train safety in Canada is placed solely on the train crew.  There is no regulatory requirement for technologies to be installed to protect against operation above the permitted speed or to ensure that a wayside signal is followed.

ETC technologies are used to improve safety and can also increase track capacity by moving people and freight faster through high volume corridors.   The basic Canadian approach will likely have railway companies tailor investment according to the level of safety risk posed by individual railway corridors:

  •  More advanced functionality in higher risk corridors – stop train movement to prevent collision with other trains, derailments caused by excessive train speeds or prevent trains from entering authorized areas of track.
  • Basic functionality in lower risk corridors – e.g. alert crews of excessive speed or upcoming stop restrictions.

Canada’s rail network is an “open network” meaning trains owned by one company can operate on its corridors and, with prior agreement, in corridors owned and maintained by other railways.  Canadian companies operating in the USA have had to comply with its congressional mandate to implement PTC by end 2020.  Any Canadian ETC technology will have to preserve interoperability among Canadian operators and compatibility with PTC.  It will also need to be compatible with ETC systems being installed by Canadian passenger railways like GO Transit and VIA Rail on their corridors. For example, European Train Control System (ETCS) Level 2 is the system promised for GO Expansion.

Transport Canada has just completed stakeholder consultation on the ETC plan.  Comments were supportive and raised the expected themes of interoperability, risk-based assessment and technology.  Some respondents pointed to the ETCS as a proven system that could likely meet the federal goals.

Transport Action is supportive of the federal ETC approach, but urge a shorter time line than 2030.  After all, this issue has been a priority of the Transportation Safety Board since the VIA Rail derailment in Burlington, ON in 2012. The use of open standards like ETCS is welcome but CN and CP already have iETMS systems for PTC operations in the USA, so interoperability becomes more complex.

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