Public money private profit, Gaspésie les trains de passagers

An overly-tired flight controller lost track
of two Porter Airline planes. 
30-year PPP for Waterloo transit, Bigger trucks Congress push, Island Corridor Foundation needs to open up, Via Rail bargain, Gaspésie, Cliff Mackay and more news in today's Transport Action Hotline.

Tired flight controller cause for 2010 Porter Airlines near-miss

"Two Porter Airlines planes came within “300 feet” of each other near Toronto after an overly-tired flight controller lost track of their positions, a federal investigator has concluded," Ian Robertson reported for the Toronto Sun on Feb. 3.

"Porter Flight 406 from Montreal, with 54 people aboard, was approaching Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport over Lake Ontario as Flight 249 with 37 people aboard took off for Ottawa. Both were cleared by a flight controller working for NAV Canada, a private, non-profit corporation that owns and operates Canada’s civil air navigation service. At around 8:39 a.m., “about six nautical miles southeast of the airport, both aircraft responded to resolution advisories from their respective traffic collision-avoidance systems,” the report states. “The aircraft crossed paths separated by approximately 300 feet vertically,” the Toronto Sun reported.

VIA Rail may be a bargain

"Lorne Gunter objects to paying a subsidy to VIA Rail, and he praises the train system in Berlin. But he did not tell us the subsidies that Berlin pays to sustain its rail system, nor the financial contributions being made by state and federal governments in Germany toward the rail system. Because VIA has a separate budget, it is easy to determine its subsidy. But this column should also tell us what the German subsidy is. VIA may be a bargain," John J. Bakker wrote to the editor of the National Post on Jan. 30, 2012.

Gaspésie - Le train pourrait circuler l'été prochain

« Tout indique que les trains de passagers de Via Rail ne circuleront pas sur le tronçon ferroviaire de Matapédia à Gaspé avant l'été prochain en raison des travaux nécessaires pour sécuriser cette infrastructure qui s'étend sur plus de 300 kilomètres » Thierry Haroun a rapporté pour le Devoir le 3 février 2012.

John Pearce, Would that we had such priorities in legislation in Canada!

Last month, the National Association of Railroad Passenger reported: "Amtrak filed an official complaint with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) over the dispatching practices of the Canadian National Railway (CN), asking the STB to investigate the causes behind CN’s consistent failure to meet the standards for on-time performance established under federal law (the 2008 Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act).

"Between October 1, 2010 and September 30, 2011, eight Amtrak routes that operated over tracks owned by CN failed to meet the new legal standard for on-time performance (which requires trains to arrive at the end-point station within 15 minutes of schedule at least 80% of the time). After its efforts to deal directly with CN failed, Amtrak filed a formal Petition for Relief with the STB seeking a formal investigation, recommendations for improvement, and damages levied against CN.

“[CN’s] commitment to providing its freight customers with precision-level on-time performance stands in stark contrast to CN’s abject failure to deliver Amtrak passenger trains on schedule,” the Petition says, adding that the delays are “the direct result of policy choices and an unlawful preference for freight trains over Amtrak trains.” Amtrak’s petition doesn’t stop there, however; it asks the STB to determine if Canadian National has engaged in a pattern of violating its obligation under federal law to give preference to Amtrak passenger trains over freight trains on Canadian National's rail lines," NARP reported. The Amtrak Petition for Relief is at

Vancouver Island, Island Corridor Foundation needs to open up 

"It's time for municipal and regional governments to insist that the Island Corridor Foundation open its board meetings to the public. Since it was first created in 2006, the ICF has faced numerous challenges requiring millions of dollars of public money, not the least of which was the torching of Nanaimo's historic E&N railway station in August 2007. The foundation is a partnership of First Nations, five regional and 14 municipal governments that took over ownership of the 290-kilometre rail corridor in 2006 on behalf of the communities of Vancouver Island," Walter Cordery wrote for the Nanaimo Daily News on Jan. 30.

"Last month, former ICF cochairman and founder of the organization, Jack Peake, raised concerns about closed meetings of the not-for-profit society's board of directors. Peake, who formed the E&N Railway Action Group to act as an ICF watchdog, claims the foundation is too secretive and is not being accountable for all the public money it has already received or the money it hopes Ottawa will contribute," the Nanaimo Daily News reported.

Steve Munro, Toronto transit, Nobody is quite sure

"Nobody is quite sure whether Transit City, Mayor Ford’s plan, or some hybrid scheme will win out.  At Queen’s Park, the real intentions of Metrolinx are never clear.  Whether they are dark lords piloting a death star toward the TTC, or brainy bumblers plotting to take over the world, is hard to say," Steve Munro wrote on Jan. 30 the sixth anniversary of his powerful blog.

"Over at the TTC, they’re just trying to keep the wheels on in the face of an administration that cries wolf over Toronto’s supposed poverty and strips funding without understanding the real cost of what they do. Transit planning is a political poker game whose players are drunk with the vision of billions on the table, but who plead poor, unable to afford a taxi ride home. …

"At Queen’s Park, the challenge is to find some backbone for the funding of transit. The Metrolinx “investment strategy” process drags on and on.  The date for a report still lies over a year away, far enough that nothing beyond talk will happen before the next election," Steve Munro reported.

Harry Gow, Michigan rail plan is a model for Ontario

"A statewide passenger rail plan has been finalized. That means the Michigan Department of Transportation is one step closer to creating a rail system from Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids and on to Holland," Michigan's Newschannel 3 reported on Jan. 27.

"MDOT officials say the plan takes a conservative view of future funding while addressing the importance of freight and passenger rail to our economy and our environment. MDOT says the total cost of the 140 transportation projects will be $7.2 billion, paid for mostly with federal grants," Newschannel 3 reported.

Transport Action's Harry Gow reports "The Michigan rail plan is a model that Ontario should, but likely won't emulate. It has some implications for Ontario through rail connections to Canada. The Michigan State Rail Plan is at

Too long, 30-year term proposed for private Waterloo LRT 

"A private firm should build and operate Waterloo Region’s light rail transit project for the best value and cost, recommends a regional report released Friday. Enlisting a private company to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the $818-million system would save an estimated 18 per cent and drop the region’s risk down to $274 million over 30 years, compared to the region shouldering everything but the construction," Johanna Weidner wrote for Waterloo Region Record on Jan. 27.

"(T)he suggested 30-year term worries Tim Mollison of the pro-transit Tri-Cities Transport Action Group. “If regional council has their heart set on private LRT, then it is crucial that the operating part have a shorter contract length so our community receives consistent, high-level service,” Mollison said. He believes five-year renewable contracts for the operation are the best way to ensure good transit service for the region’s residents, rather than locking into one operator for decades. A lot can change, and a lot of damage can be done, in 30 years, Mollison said," the Waterloo Region Record reported.

"The Region has released its staff report recommending an LRT procurement strategy, which will determine the approach used to design, build, and operate the system. More specifically, it recommends a public-private partnership, with extensive private sector responsibility. … (On) February 7, at 6pm will be the public meeting on LRT procurement. Regional Council will make the final decision on February 8," Michael Druker reported for the Tri-Cities Transport Action Group on Jan. 27.

Bigger trucks proposed in the US

"Today, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unveiled its long-awaited surface transportation bill, called the "American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012." The bill includes provisions that would allow states to permit heavier and bigger trucks on the nation's highways, an idea the Association of American Railroads opposes," Progressive Railroading reported on Jan. 31.

Le ministre Lebel publie une déclaration au sujet du décès de Cliff Mackay

Au nom du gouvernement du Canada, je désire exprimer notre profonde tristesse à l'annonce du décès de Cliff Mackay, survenu à Napanee, le 26 janvier 2012. Je tiens par ailleurs à offrir nos sincères condoléances à sa famille. Depuis 2006, à titre de président et chef de la direction de l'Association des chemins de fer du Canada (ACFC), M. Mackay a fait preuve d'un grand leadership et s'est exprimé avec passion sur de nombreuses questions clés en matière de transports. Il a abordé avec enthousiasme tous les nouveaux défis auxquels l'industrie ferroviaire a dû faire face, que ces derniers touchent l'économie, l'environnement ou la sûreté, et il est devenu un défenseur du changement positif.

Cliff Mackay remembered for tireless work on behalf of airline and railway industries  

"Cliff Mackay raised a lot of eyebrows when he left the airline industry in 2006 to become president and CEO of the Railway Association of Canada, and the long-time civil servant is being fondly remembered as a tireless advocate for both industries. Mackay died on Jan. 27 at age 63 after a four-year battle with cancer, leaving a legacy as a successful advocate for both aviation, and freight and passenger rail," Alex Binkley wrote for on Jan. 30, 2012

"Roger Cameron, the Railway Association of Canada's former communications director, said Mackay "was a real gentleman. He was easy to work with and he was always interested in learning about what was going on," Cameron said. "He had a good relationship with our railway and supplier members. He could anticipate problems, but also opportunities and what could be done to deal with them. And he always found people who could be helpful," reported.

Calif. Gov. Brown rejects $100 billion high-speed rail estimate

Jerry Brown plans to cut back high-speed rail to save it

France, Italy sign agreement for Lyon-Turin high-speed rail line

Transport Action Canada
Hotline 1151, Feb. 3, 2012
(formerly Transport 2000 / anciennement Transport 2000 Canada)
(613) 594-3290
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March 6, 7 to 9 pm, New Westminster, Transport Action BC, Waves Coffee shop, 715 Columbia St., near the New Westminster SkyTrain station

28 et 29 mars 2012, Québec. TRAQ, Le Colloque ferroviaire annuel du Québec

les 26 et 27 avril, Granby, Le Colloque 2012 de l'Association des Transports collectifs ruraux du Québec (ATCRQ) se tiendra à Hôtel Spa et Confort à Granby, Québec