high speed rail for canada – pipe dream or reality?


July 21, 2009 by juniorannex

HighSpeedRail_ICE1_SchellenbergOccasionally, 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.


One thought on “high speed rail for canada – pipe dream or reality?

  1. After para 2, I almost thought you were leaning the other way. I fully agree that now’s the time for Canada to create a highspeed line between Toronto and Montreal. I could really care less if Ottawa is included as a stop, because the city is sort of boring, and further, I would hate for the Politicians therein to have another perk to their job.

    Given the fact that ViaRail just announced a new passenger only line between Ottawa and Toronto, I doubt we’ll see highspeed anytime soon. It’s such a pity that were investing so much money in this project, which will only offer slight improvements to the current system. I think that highspeed rail would work, and it would be profitable. The problem at the moment is that everyone wants it, but no one wants to pony up the cash to make it happen.

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Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron'scruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. C.S. Lewis


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