Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Canadian HSR study is a national secret

A favorite tactic of those who selfishly oppose modern sensible transportation is to talk it to death. For example, Texas seems to be a good example of that. In the U. S. almost any region might also serve as a model for procrastination and endless (and meaningless) discussion.

CBC used national laws designed to force government to give up its’ prized secrets. Here is a story about one of those important national secrets.

A report on high-speed Via Rail service in the Toronto-Montreal corridor says it’s time to stop studying the issue and make some decisions.

The report done for Via says the benefits of high-speed rail have been demonstrated repeatedly.

It was obtained by the Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

The document reviews seven major studies since 1984 that examined the feasibility of building the link, at a cost in the range of $11 billion.

It also reports on a 2004 study looking at a similar link between Calgary and Edmonton, estimated to cost $3.4 billion.

Andre Gravelle of the firm UMA Engineering notes every Canadian study to date has concluded significant government investment is needed to build the infrastructure for high-speed rail.

Gravelle cites a 1991 study that indicated almost one-third of high-speed rail passengers would be diverted from the airlines.

He suggests the airline industry helped kill the proposal.

Nah, that could never happen. The airline industry kill a bit of transportation policy that might interfere with its’ greedy interests? Gravelle must be a very suspicious man.


Filed under: International High Speed Rail, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

A profit? Not for a rail line?

This comes from a Bloomberg story in the Taipei Times. It looks like HSR is not only convenient, safe and efficient, it also makes money.

Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC, 台灣高鐵), operator of the nation’s first bullet train, said it will become profitable for the first time in 2009 as it attracts more passengers.

The company will break even on a cashflow basis next year and post net income for the first time in the first half of 2009, Robert Hung (洪永鎮), chief financial officer of the Taipei-based company said at a briefing with the Taiwan Foreign Correspondents’ Club yesterday.

THSRC’s NT$489 billion (US$15 billion) link between Taipei and Kaohsiung began operations on Jan. 5, more than 16 months behind schedule.

The company will sign a deal with a foreign financial services firm within three months to jointly develop property around its station in Hsinchu, the first step in its plan to build hotels and other facilities on 30 hectares of land it owns along the route, THSRC chairwoman Nita Ing (殷琪) said yesterday, without providing details.

“We do have someone. We’ll put up the land, and they’ll put up the money,” she said.

The partners will set up a new 50-50 venture to manage the Hsinchu property with four other stations to follow the same business model, she said.

Shares of THSRC, which currently trade on the GRETAI Securities Market will transfer to the main Taiwan Stock Exchange next year “depending on the market,” Ing said.

The company posted sales of NT$9.19 billion for the first nine months of this year. The company now operates 91 services per day which are about half-full. It will almost double services to 176 trips a day by March, Ing said.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail

Canada’s national dream

Railroads play an important role in Canada’s history. There are many parallels with the United States, except that Canada has had many more politicians pay lip service to better rail service. Greg Gormick writes with the voice of an experienced observer. You should read his history lesson and commentary highlighted here from the Toronto Star.

The question now is whether this federal government is serious about giving Canadians a credible and sustainable alternative to car and air travel. Or are they once again taunting this hardworking, underfed iron horse with yet more feed that will be whipped away after an election?

If the Tories opt for the latter route, they’re making a big mistake. Trains have much untapped potential in getting our economic and environmental houses in order.

That’s being proved daily around the world, where every major country – including China and India – is investing at an unprecedented level in better and faster rail passenger service. Even the anti-public-enterprise government of George Bush is loaded with pro-rail politicians who keep rescuing Amtrak from the White House’s chopping block.

The potential for rail transportation is better understood by the Canadian public now than ever before. Opinion polls confirm they want a national system of trains that will make it possible to leave the car at home and avoid the nightmare of so-called modern air travel whenever possible. Leaving Canadians standing on the platform by reneging on a promise like this one won’t make them happy voters the next time around.

So, let’s hope Flaherty is sincere when he says his government is dedicated to “improving and expanding VIA.”

It couldn’t be a more timely or logical commitment. He’ll find it pays off in every way – including at the ballot box.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

Idaho eyes Amtrak

This is an odd story from a Pocatello television station. I am going to need some help from people with better memories because I do not remember all the circumstances under which the Pioneer was discontinued. I DO recall that it was highly popular, well traveled, and hardly a “failure.”

I also vividly recall a great deal of political backing for the train within Idaho, a state that needs transportation options during the harsh winters.

It is, of course a positive development that there is talk about restoring an essential portion of the national transportation system. It is a bit mystifying as to how the service would be provided without available equipment.

Don’t anybody mention that Sunset. We don’t start up one service by canibalizing another.

How would these TV reporters come to the conclusion that the Pioneer “railed?” Do they suppose highways and airports are self-supporting?

 Amtrak may soon be stopping in a town near you. A plan is in the works to return passenger rail service to Idaho. And as Channel 3 Eyewitness news reporter Sarah Schwabe reports, this service isn’t new to Pocatello.

A passenger rail service use to run through the Gate City up until 1997, when a lack of interest forced Amtrak to shut down the line. Now the question is, is it worth the risk for Amtrak to make a come back?

It’s been over a decade since a passenger train rolled into Pocatello.

“As a kid, I use to ride it all the time back and forth from Pocatello to Glen’s Ferry on the weekends to see my grandparents,” says Greater Pocatello Chamber of Commerce chairman Loren Azzola.

Now state officials are considering reviving the Pioneer Train, which once connected Pocatello, and other Idaho cities to Seattle, Chicago and Denver. That is if Amtrak decides there would be enough passengers to bring back the service.

“Our community as a whole is growing, more people, more people need to be transported, more options to transport,” says Azzola.

Filed under: Amtrak, Regional USA Passenger Rail

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October 2007