Occasionally, and when it is politically expedient (read – tons of cash available to be ‘injected’ into the economy), the governments of Canada and the United States wax poetic on the benefits of high speed passenger rail. When times are bad, railways are rediscovered, primarily I think as a means of attracting potential labouring class votes more than any actual commitment to delivering a functional rail network.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually a proponent of high speed rail, particularly of the variety in service in France and Germany, but generally only if there is a business case to be made for it. Unfortunately it is awfully difficult to make money shipping passengers along single mode transportation networks, just ask the shareholders of Air Canada and other airlines. Notably privately owned passenger transportation (with the exception of motor coaches) networks mostly succeed at losing money for their investors.
However, given that governments in both Canada and the US are currently serving up huge dollops of cash in efforts to ‘stimulate’ the economy (never mind that it doesn’t appear to be working), perhaps now is the time to deliver high speed rail, not as a stimulus, but as a true public good. Being the fiscal conservative that I am, and leaning towards the libertarian side of the political family, I don’t generally support the idea of government spending except in defence, support of trade, and when necessary foreign affairs. Where I depart from my more rigid libertarians is in supporting publicly run power generation and distribution, and in the provision of transportation infrastructure.
Does Kingston rate a stop on a Montreal – Ottawa – Toronto leg of a high speed route? I believe that a stop on such a line would provide an invaluable boost to the local economy, not least of which would open up the region to day communting in either direction to Toronto or Ottawa. At least two high speed rail corridors could tie in directly to those planned by the Federal Rail Administration, one in the Pacific Northwest, and the other between Windsor and Montreal, tying in at both ends to a northeast high speed corridor.