Category Archives for "Intercity Rail and Bus"

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.

Mar 01

Truth in Advertising for High Frequency Rail

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

Transport Action board members Terry Johnson and Peter Miasek recently published an article in the March/April 2023 edition of Renew Magazine advocating for increased federal transparency for the High Frequency Rail (HFR) project. This project appears to be rapidly increasing in scope and complexity versus what was proposed in 2017 by VIA Rail, including higher potential speeds and more complex routes into Montreal and Toronto city centres.

We urged the release of the $71M study completed by the Joint Project Office in 2021, an updated cost estimate and a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis.

The article can be read here.

Oct 31

Comments on Final Report of National Supply Chain Task Force

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus

In late October, Minister of Transport Alghabra released the final report of the National Supply Chain Task Force, entitled “Action, Collaboration, Transformation”. It noted that there are longstanding structural and systemic weaknesses in Canada’s transportation supply chain and identified immediate and long-term solutions.

Transport Action Ontario and Transport Action Canada have written the Minister to endorse the report as a valid critique and solid base from which to act. We recommended more detail in several areas:

  • Modal Shift
  • Preservation and reinstatement of strategic Canadian rail corridors
  • Removal of supply chain bottlenecks
  • Technology solutions
  • Enhanced trade corridor – Montreal to Windsor

Our letter can be viewed below.

Oct 26

Comments on Draft Transportation Plan for Eastern Ontario

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

In April, 2022, Ontario released the last of its regional transportation plans – this one for Eastern Ontario. Transport Action Ontario (TAO) has reviewed this plan. In general, we find it to be long on ideas but short on specific actions. The highway-centric nature of most of the actions is a concern. TAO feels that more emphasis on public transit, intercommunity public transportation and freight rail is needed.

Our comments can be viewed below.

Sep 28

Federal Study of Southwestern Ontario Passenger Rail Enhancement – update

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

On August 30, 2022 Federal Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra announced a one-year study by a 3rd party advisor on enhancing passenger rail services in southwestern Ontario (SWO). The advisor will examine both near-term improvements and longer-term integration into High Frequency Rail. While this news was welcomed, our concern is that there have already been numerous studies on SWO passenger rail, and this latest study means that additional services are still years away. See our post on the Transport Action Canada website for more details.

One September 26, representatives from Transport Action Ontario (TAO) and Transport Action Canada (TAC) met with senior staff at Transport Canada to review the scope of the advisor’s work. The procurement document was posted on the website on September 9, and can be viewed by searching for “T8080-220058”.

We learned that

  • Advisor will examine previous studies and welcomes additional input
  • Advisor will consult with Metrolinx to understand their plans for SWO and any track access issues
  • Advisor will largely focus on the South Main Line (Toronto – Brantford – London – Windsor) and London-Sarnia, recognizing provincial interest in the North Main Line (Toronto – Kitchener – London)
  • Advisor will contract with CN for it to assess what infrastructure investments are needed for 2-3 service enhancement scenarios
  • Advisor will develop demand forecasts, as that is needed for Business Case development
  • Advisor will be made aware of Amtrak Chicago – Toronto interest

Transport Action will continue to engage with Transport Canada staff on this issue. We have sent them material from TAO’s submissions to the province’s SWO Transportation Task Force that lists lower cost infrastructure improvement ideas. We also anticipate participating in a stakeholder roundtable to be held in early 2023.