The future… never!

Sean Marshall


High speed rail: it’s an idea that has been talked about in Canada since the 1960s. But sadly, in 2016, we’re still just talking about it.

I’m a big fan of passenger rail. I’ve rode on most of VIA’s network, from coast to coast, as well as several long distance Amtrak lines in the United States, as well as trains in Britain, Continential Europe, and China. I enjoyed riding high speed rail (HSR) trains between London, Paris, and Amsterdam, but I also appreciate a leisurely cross-country ride. In Canada, the train isn’t very fast, nor is it very reliable, but it’s a comfortable, peaceful, and social way to travel. It’s still my favourite way to travel to Ottawa or Montreal.

Passenger rail — excepting commuter services such as GO Transit — declined in this country in the last 40 years, in terms of ridership, speed, and reliability. There are thousands of kilometres…

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Why the Gardiner Expressway remains a barrier to the waterfront

Sean Marshall

29295828846_d05ad61318_kThe Gardiner Expressway isn’t so much a barrier to the waterfront because it’s a looming, elevated eyesore: the railway viaduct isn’t pretty to look at either. It’s a barrier to the waterfront because the roadways around the Gardiner: the on ramps, dual left turn lanes, channelized right turns, and the ground-level Lake Shore Boulevard below it, are hostile to pedestrians. Pedestrians are expected to  yield to cars and trucks at many points; there are many missing crosswalks, and where pedestrians can cross, they must wait for long waits to do so as traffic light cycles prioritize through vehicles.

In the 1950s, when the Gardiner was planned, the waterfront was a mess of railway spur lines, warehouses, and grain silos. Downtown was several blocks north, on the other side of passenger rail yards and Union Station. So it was not the type of place — nor the era — where creating pedrestrian-friendly enviroments…

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A need for high-speed rail reality (Updated)

Sean Marshall

IMG_6258-001VIA Rail train at Brampton Station, on the Toronto-Kitchener rail corridor

Updated Friday May 19, 2017:

Today, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced the commencement of an Environmental Assessment on bringing high-speed rail to Southwestern Ontario, connecting Toronto and Pearson Airport with Guelph, Kitchener, and London, with Phase II continuing to Windsor, with a potential stop in Chatham.

Former federal Transport Minister David Collenette was assigned to write a report on building the corridor; it is now public on the Ministry of Transportation’s website. It proposes operating speeds up to 250 km/h, making it a true high speed line (though slower than many lines in Europe and East Asia, which have cruising speeds between 270 and 320 km/h). The estimated cost of the project is estimated to be $21-billion, reducing travel times from Toronto to Windsor to a mere two hours.

figure-es-2-proposed-future-southwestern-ontario-passenger-rail-network.jpgProposed High Speed Rail system for Southwestern Ontario

An option for a 300…

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Province to look at hydrogen-powered GO trains, but it is it simply hot air?

Sean Marshall

IMG_0268-001Electrification for GO Transit and UP Express has been proposed for years

At GO Transit’s Willowbrook Maintenance Centre in Mimico today, the Ontario Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca,  announced the start of the transit project assessment process (TPAP) that will allow GO to move forward with its plans for electrification. GO RER, the $13.5-billion regional rail network plan, is dependent on a new fleet of electric trainsets to provide rapid transit across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

But Del Duca introduced a new twist to the plot. Along with the electrification TPAP, the province will also look into the feasibility of hydrogen-powered trains. Hydrogen-powered trains are being tested in Germany by Alstom, a French rail manufacturer.

Quoted in the Toronto Star, Del Duca said that “this is a decision that we’re making that will have to last for a generation and beyond, so we want to make…

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