Packed 401, empty rail line

Ontario Ministry of Transportation and refrigerated rail cars, Montreal crumbles, Toronto budget cuts and more in today's Transport Action Canada Hotline 1126. 
Empty rail line, packed 401 

"When the federal government gave $923 million to VIA Rail for capital investment, part of the money was for the rebuilding 3 rail diesel cars (RDC) for new service on the North Main Line (NML Sarnia-London-Stratford-Kitchener-Guelph-Toronto). This decision was in line with VIA Rail’s stated Corporate Plan for improvements to the North Main Line.  … Unfortunately this is not going to happen. So what happened and why does no one care?" Paul Langan wrote for High Speed Rail Canada on July 31. 

"Goderich Exeter Railway (GEXR), owned by Rail America, leases the CN north mainline. Its relationship with VIA Rail is one of conflict. They are in disagreement about the price VIA  should pay to be on the line.  Two times GEXR had complaints with the Canadian Transportation Agency to fight VIA Rail. Both times the decision went against GEXR yet there have been no increase in service or rebuilt RDCs. The bottom line is GEXR doesn’t want VIA on their sparsely used freight line. They do not want to maintain the line to passenger rail speeds. CN the owners of the line have previously stated their disdain for passenger rail service on their freight line," Langan wrote.

"Let us not forget the root cause of all these issues. It can never be stated enough that we have a federal government that has no plans for passenger rail service in this country. The government grossly under funds VIA Rail.  The end result of no policy on passenger rail in Canada is that it gives freight railway companies like GEXR (Rail America) the opportunity to run roughshod over VIA and has lead to the tragic demise of VIA Rail passenger rail service along the North Main Line,"  Paul Langan wrote for High Speed Rail Canada.

CN cuts VIA speeds in New Brunswick 

On Aug. 2 Transport Action Atlantic's  John Pearce wrote: "Another example of problems for VIA created by short lines, CN, and lack of federal support for VIA, is the 61 miles of slow order between Bathurst, Miramichi, and south 18 miles to the hamlet of Collette. This well-ballasted and mostly straight track has had zone speed lowered from 60 to 30 mph after CN repossessed the track from N.B. East Coast Railway last year. 

"This has lengthened the running time of VIA's Ocean by one full hour, breaking feeder bus connections from Saint John, PEI, Cape Breton and the South Shore and Annapolis Valley of NS, lowering passenger traffic especially in the critical low season (late fall and winter, early spring).

"VIA threatens to cut the schedule frequency in half from 6 to 3 times weekly. CN wants VIA/the feds or the nearly bankrupt province of NB to pay for (unnecessary?) upgrades to the track. Inquiries through Transport Canada re track quality confirm that CN has the sole right to lower track speeds below Transport Canada standards. The slower running also makes for unreliable connections in Montreal and down the line in Toronto. (e.g. train 55 to trains 75, 87, and 95 in Toronto). Passengers are being shifted by VIA to GO trains and buses, chartered buses, taxis, and later trains)," John Pearce wrote.     

Projet Montréal somme le maire de dévoiler les rapports d’inspection

«Cinquante-six structures sont déficientes ou critiques à Montréal. Il est temps de savoir lesquelles et quelles sont les mesures qui sont prises pour les rendre sécuritaires», a déclaré le chef de ( Projet Montréal), Richard Bergeron," Jennifer Guthrie a rapporté pour Métro le 4 août. 

"Projet Montréal a également soulevé un problème d’investissement dans les infrastructures montréalaises. Selon les données fournies par le parti, il faudrait investir 45 M$ par années pour garder les infrastructures en bon état. Or, l'enveloppe budgétaire accordée à la Division des ponts et tunnels s'élèverait à 16 M$," Métro a rapporté.

Ingersoll Times, First refrigerated rail car load arrives 

"A load of frozen diced onions from Washington State was the first refrigerated  rail car unloaded at the new rail spur at Ontario Refrigerated Services facility in Ingersoll on Monday, June 27.  The load will be stored and then shipped to one of the Bonduelle Frozen Food packaging plants in Ontario where the onions will be packaged and sold in  grocery stores under various customer labels. The new rail line will help reduce the carbon footprint of refrigerated food commodities and general dry freight arriving into Ontario, as three truckloads can be shipped on each rail car. 

 "I'm very pleased to see the first load of frozen North American vegetables  arriving at our new facility," said ORS president Roger Kropf. "We hope that the rail service we provide centrally in Southwestern Ontario, whether it is refrigerated or regular dry freight will reduce the carbon footprint globally  for future generations," the Ingersoll Times reported on July 27.

Refrigerated rail cars and the carload merchandise business  

"Maybe there is hope for the carload merchandise business thanks to innovative shippers such as Ontario Refrigerated Services in Ingersoll, Ontario.  While CP and CN move foodstuffs in refrigerated containers in the consists of their  intermodal trains, this is one of the first carload moves I've heard of in  Canada in many years," Greg Gormick wrote on August 1. 

"Meanwhile, not a single siding remains at the Ontario Food Terminal in South Etobicoke, which once received 50' and 60' Pacific Fruit Express and Western  Fruit Express refrigerator cars daily loaded with perishable traffic from California and Washington. Carload perishable traffic is growing in the U.S.  Some of it moves on the tail end of Amtrak's Empire Builder and Lake Shore Limited from Wenatchee,  Washington, to food distribution terminals in Albany, New York City and Boston.  Union Pacific and CSX also move solid trainloads from Washington to a terminal in the Albany area on an expedited schedule," Gormick wrote. 

"It would, of course, be too much to expect the Ministry of Transportation of  Ontario to show any interest in this. They're more eager to boost the number of double-trailer combinations out on the 400-series highways, which will probably finish off CP's already battered Expressway trailer-on-flat-car service.  Your provincial tax dollars at work!" the transportation author wrote. 

Cost of passenger transportation rises 7.0% 

StatsCan said that the annual inflation rate was down to 3.1% in June from 3.7% in May, John Ward reported for the Canadian Press. Much of the drop in June was due to lower prices for passenger vehicles because of manufacturers' discounts and lower costs for travel accommodation. The price of gasoline was 28.5% higher on a year-over-year basis in June but it dropped slightly from May. The cost of passenger transportation rose 7.0% on an annual basis in June.  In addition to higher gas prices, drivers paid 4.4% more for insurance. The average cost of air travel rose by 7.6% the Canadian Press story said.  

New highs this past week on VIA's Ocean in Halifax

John Pearce writes: Traffic has hit new highs this past week on VIA's Ocean in Halifax. The standard Renaissance consist of 4 coaches and 7 sleepers (plus transition car and Park dome) (17 cars total) is carrying well over 200 passengers in and out of Halifax each day. Long may it continue. The following are numbers handled in Halifax ONLY with reservations before 9 am each day: 
Sun. July 24:  221, Mon. July 25: 237, Thu. July 28: 242, Fri. July 29: 360, Su. JL 31: 254.

Alas, today, with a record 8 sleepers outbound, the transition car and Park dome were missing, a deep disappointment for passengers where the dome and programs there offer a major diversion from the more cramped coaches and bedrooms of the Renaissance cars. Word is that the Park car broke down enroute to Halifax from Montreal yesterday.  One supposes it will be towed back to Montreal by today's #15 and replaced. Of note is the fact that the 3 Renaissance train sets on the Ocean seem to contain a total of only 3 diners, and 3 transition cars, so breakdowns can't be tolerated. There is some redundancy with sleepers, coaches, and service cars. 

Toronto budget cuts cuts threaten transit  

"The Toronto Star reported on July 30 that the TTC may defer its order for new streetcars in a move to free up room in the capital budget. As I have often written here, the TTC’s capital plans badly strain the ability of the City of Toronto to carry the ongoing spending, and constant cutbacks in funding from Queen’s Park are a major problem.  Every chance they get, provincial Ministers tell us about billions “committed” to transit in the GTA.  The problem is that much of the actual spending won’t happen for many years, if ever, while current spending is a major problem," Steve Munro reported on July 31. 

"Many programs that funded parts of the TTC capital budget have wound down, and the only provincial funding stream the TTC can actually count on is the gas tax.  That brings in about $150-million annually, and even this is partly split with the operating budget.  Meanwhile, the TTC has reached a point where it classifies almost every project as “state of good repair”.  That incantation, brought to us by former Chief General Manager David Gunn, is supposed to indicate the scope of work and funding needed just to keep the lights on and the trains rolling. However, it has been abused in TTC budgets to include projects such as provisions for additional capacity on the subway.  This is not to say the capacity isn’t needed, but that’s a different class of spending, certainly one that should include regional, not just local funding," Steve Munro reported


20 et 21 août, À Charny,  Festirail, Revit, en collaboration avec le groupe TRAQ

Sept. 17 Sault Ste-Marie, CAPT Group of Seven Train Event,

Sept. 17  Regina, Transport Action Prairie, Annual General Meeting,  Knox-Metropolitan United Church, 2340 Victoria Ave., 2 - 4 pm.