24 May 2007

Trains, planes, and automobiles

VIA Rail adds expertise to bullet train study

Via Rail is taking part in a feasibility study for a bullet train between Calgary and Edmonton but expects funding will have to come from the Alberta government, the federal Crown corporation's top executive said Wednesday. Via Rail brought its 30 years of expertise to the feasiblity study, and nothing more, president and ceo Paul Cote said. “This is not a Via Rail decision,” he said, about the project. “But we don't want to disassociate ourselves from development of research and design of this project.” Cote said the provincial government would likely take the lead on building a bullet train between the two cities. Van Horne Institute president Peter Wallis praised Via for its contribution to Alberta's bullet train concept. "The work of the Via team on the study was first class, professional and informative," Wallis said. "We're looking forward to the Alberta government's study of its feasibility." In the meantime, Via is discussing options for the passenger service in Eastern Canada with Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon. “We are looking at different scenarios, and are encouraged there is a dialogue.” Cote would not divulge details of the discussions, which focused on the Quebec City-Windsor corridor, but said Via Rail would act accordingly once the minister went public with the government's plans for the passenger service.

In the West, Via Rail would enjoy resuming the spectacular Rocky Mountain run, but haven't been successful negotiating track usage with CP. “Since we stopped servicing Calgary in 1990, we've always made it clear that if there was a possibility for us to come back here and offer to Calgary through Lake Louise to Vancouver, we'd like to do that,” he said. However, CP has argued that car and bus travel on improved highways through the mountains have made such an option obsolete. “We don't see that it would be a viable service,” CP spokesman Mark Seland said, adding the company hasn't been approached by Via Rail in two years. Via Canadian passenger trains haven't operated on the CP route since the early 1970s, Seland said.
(Canadian Press 070523, Edmonton Sun 070524)

What the hell? Are all of these people insane? The provincial government refuses to dole out any cash for expansion of Edmonton and Calgary rapid/public transit, including the LRT lines; we haven't had passenger rail in Calgary for 20 years; the two cities are completely car-centric so if you even did take the train from city center to city center, you would still need to jump in a car somewhere; and they're still salivating over this high-speed rail white elephant between the two cities? It's fricking ludicrous.

Letter to the editor in the Globe & Mail:
The little engine that should

Letter -- A writer responds to yesterday's Globe and Mail article on luxury rail travel in the Rocky Mountains. She agrees that if you're looking for the ultimate in opulent travel, hop on the Rocky Mountaineer or the Royal Canadian Pacific. But if you're an ordinary person wanting to take a train from Calgary to Banff or Vancouver, forget it: Brian Mulroney's government removed passenger train service from Calgary. The writer lives in Banff, and suggests many of the town's traffic, congestion and emission problems could be solved by resuming passenger train service from Calgary. Why does the federal government expect citizens to do so much of the work to reduce emissions when intelligent policies such as reintroducing passenger service along the Calgary/Vancouver corridor could make a significant and sustainable difference?
(Globe and Mail 070524)

And then they ask CP about passenger rail to Vancouver? That's like asking a chicken about how he feels about a duck. They're using the same corridor, but in two different businesses. I would have thought CP would be a bit more appreciative of this from a environmental perspective -- but it's probably too intrusive on the fluidity of the scheduled rail service. What about the airlines? I've bitched for years that we need an alternative to the airlines to get the hell out of this burg when we need to. I would gladly foresake an extra week of vacation time if I could travel to Eastern Canada without having to deal with those bastard airlines. I think there are many others that would also say this, but truth be told, the market in Alberta is probably still too small to make any of this viable in the long run. They could maybe make a go of it though as the editorial responder said above....if they marketed the resumed service properly.

Now a bullet train between Calgary and Vancouver....that's something I could get behind. Screw Edmonton! Let's blow us up some mountains!

Alas, my only advice right now? Via Rail should run, run as fast as possible, away from any association with this bullet train project.

No comments: