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Remember that high-speed train from Windsor to Montreal? Here’s where the federal leaders stand on it

Imagine, imagine, we can imagine (Image: Jon Curnow)

Finally, transit infrastructure has made it into the federal election news cycle. NDP leader Jack Layton was in Quebec today, where he told an audience that he supports federal funding for high-speed rail along the Quebec City-Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Windsor corridor. Ontario and Quebec have had this on their wish lists for some time. The Liberals have put it in their platform, Dalton McGuinty and Jean Charest both support it, and now an ascendant NDP is getting behind it as well. Apparently the only one who isn’t a fan is Stephen Harper.

This is one of those ideas that has already been studied so many times, it’s hard to imagine what’s holding it up, except for a sudden love for the profit margins of Porter Air, Greyhound and Megabus. The last really thorough government study, from 1992 to 1995, found that the infrastructure would cost between $9.5 and $10.5 billion (presumably, this figure is much higher now). There was supposed to be an update to that study in 2010 but, just like a Via train, it’s been delayed. Meanwhile, Torontonians who want to take a weekend trip to Montreal have a few good options, but we’re left wistfully dreaming of the downtown-to-downtown train ride in two and a half hours.

Of course, with Alberta’s rise in the country’s economy, there’s a possibility for a grand bargain here: the other route that’s been studied as a high-speed rail line is Calgary-Red Deer-Edmonton. It would be a hell of a sales job, but maybe it’s possible to convince Harper that while he’d prefer zero high-speed lines and the NDP are only angling for one, what the country really needs is two.

• Layton smacks separatist talk, says Duceppe and Harper driving unity ‘wedges’ [Canadian Press]

  • hop

    Two and a half hours???

  • Andrew

    The TGV in France does a 7 hour car ride in 3h15min, with stops in between. 2h30m to Montreal from Toronto is easy-peesy for high speed rail. If only we’d stop talking about it and build….

  • Mark Dowling

    Calgary-YYC-Red Deer-YEG-Edmonton (300km at 350km/h top speed, 300km/h average speed) would be the one I’d build first, including getting the airlines on board as partners with the service and codeshare with services to both airports. 60 minutes downtown to downtown would obliterate the need for Calgary-Edmonton origin/destination flights.

    Note that the Albertan HSR proponents aren’t looking for Fort Mac to Medicine Hat – Windsor-Quebec as one 1200km project makes the numbers too scary. London-Montreal+Ottawa gets most of the catchment while cutting route length by 1/3.

  • keith

    High speed rail between Montreal and Toronto would be a terrible boondoggle and result in a subsidized, money-losing competitor to Air Canada that would hammer its key routes. This after the government has had to rescue AC repeatedly as quasi-national utility, a private business that is expected to service remote places. There is no universe where Canadians would actually pay for a high speed rail ticket that would make this a profitable venture. We do not have European population density, and driving down the 401 is not a problem for most people! This would be a subsidized toy for a few elite bankers and businesspeople going for meetings. Harper is right.

    I would much rather see federal spending on Via’s most used corridor to make it a more reliable service at normal speeds. I.e. more dedicated track, maybe electrification, no more level crossings so there aren’t the delays now we have from freight trains, snow, etc.
    Right now the train ride takes less than 5 hours – this is really not a hardship for anyone.

  • Ignatius

    A little late, I know.

    Re: “We do not have European population density”

    Population density of southern Ontario:

    Population density of Europe:

  • benvad

    Actually it’s too long. Downtown to downtown should be 1 to 1.5 hours, this would be a relief to everyone.