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https://www.railwayage.com/passenger/intercity/via-rails-existential-problem-it-never-existed/?utm_source=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=32557

 

VIA Rail’s Existential Problem? It Never Existed

Written by David Thomas, Canadian Contributing Editor

Former VIA Rail Canada CEO Cynthia Garneau

Cynthia Garneau on May 20 gave up VIA Rail Canada leadership with two years remaining in her nominal tenure.

The former VIA Rail CEO quit, according to informed speculation, because Transport Canada scooped up VIA Rail’s scheme for a high-frequency rail (HFR) service on dedicated tracks linking Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.

In VIA Rail-speak, “the Shareholder” is Transport Canada, not the people of Canada. VIA Rail simply does not exist as an autonomous entity with its own parliamentary charter under which the CEO can actually make decisions and do deals. VIA Rail is technically a “crown corporation,” but one that reports to the Minister of Transport, not to parliament, which has never once voted on its very existence let alone a vision for growth.

VIA Rail is merely a branch of a secretive and largely incompetent department that has been repeatedly chided by Canada’s information commissioner, auditor general and Transportation Safety Board.

Amtrak, in comparison, operates under the congressional Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970, which assumed private railroads‘ obligations to operate passenger services in exchange for the railroads providing priority status to Amtrak trains. Whether you like the service or not, Amtrak does exist as an independent legal entity.

VIA Rail does not. CN and Canadian Pacific have no legal obligation to prioritize VIA Rail’s passenger trains over their own freight trains. Sometimes, CN orders VIA Rail’s flagship The Canadian to reverse to a distant passing track to make way for CN trains. (I was on one of those reverse movements in 2015 on my way to an interview with VIA Rail’s previous CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, in which he revealed VIA Rail’s vision for a dedicated passenger corridor.)

Former VIA Rail CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano

Desjardins-Siciliano carried the stigma of being appointed by a previous Conservative government and was replaced by Garneau, an aerospace executive with no rail or passenger-carrying experience but considered friendly to the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau. The CEO appointment is nominally a five-year term, but that can be abbreviated at the whim of the governing party.

Garneau’s own writing-on-the-wall was the announcement in March by Transport Minister Omar Alghabra that he was assuming entire control of the HFR project. Garneau didn’t even attend the media event.

So, if it can possibly happen under the direction of Canada’s worst federal department, HFR will be separate from VIA Rail, giving the country two less-than-stellar passenger rail services instead of just one.

In September 2021, VIA Rail Canada took delivery of the first of 32 new Siemens trainsets, and on Nov. 30, revealed it to the public; testing started in December. (Photograph Courtesy of VIA Rail Canada)

Garneau was right to quit (perhaps with a not-so-friendly push from the Minister). VIA Rail believed in its project and, like motivated Ukranian fighters, could well have succeeded. Instead, HFR has been handed over to a top-down Russia-style bureaucracy with a proven record of failure in everything it touches:

• Lac-Megantic and the succession of oil train explosions that followed while Transport Canada tried to cover up its role.

• Airline chaos throughout the pandemic panic including forcing arriving passengers to use contaminated touch-screens to make customs declarations (I was there for that too).

• Allowing Quebec’s rapacious Caisse de dépôt et placement to take over Montreal’s Central Station and Mount Royal tunnel for its own regional rail commuter system, effectively choking off VIA Rail’s HFR access to Montreal.

Transport Canada may have done some things right, but none come to mind.

HFR had looked like the last best hope for modernizing passenger rail in Canada. Garneau’s departure shows that she herself is no longer a believer. The one certainly in Transport Canada’s assumption of full control over HFR is that the new rail service either will never happen, or, if it does, it will be a fiasco.

The best thing now may be to dissolve VIA Rail entirely and look for Brightline-type investors to return Canada’s passenger rail to fully private ownership. The country’s 45-year attempt to run a railway as a branch of a third-rate government bureaucracy has failed, utterly.

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On 2022-05-28 at 9:19 AM, mal said:

https://www.railwayage.com/passenger/intercity/via-rails-existential-problem-it-never-existed/?utm_source=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=32557

 

VIA Rail’s Existential Problem? It Never Existed

Written by David Thomas, Canadian Contributing Editor

Former VIA Rail Canada CEO Cynthia Garneau

Cynthia Garneau on May 20 gave up VIA Rail Canada leadership with two years remaining in her nominal tenure.

The former VIA Rail CEO quit, according to informed speculation, because Transport Canada scooped up VIA Rail’s scheme for a high-frequency rail (HFR) service on dedicated tracks linking Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.

In VIA Rail-speak, “the Shareholder” is Transport Canada, not the people of Canada. VIA Rail simply does not exist as an autonomous entity with its own parliamentary charter under which the CEO can actually make decisions and do deals. VIA Rail is technically a “crown corporation,” but one that reports to the Minister of Transport, not to parliament, which has never once voted on its very existence let alone a vision for growth.

VIA Rail is merely a branch of a secretive and largely incompetent department that has been repeatedly chided by Canada’s information commissioner, auditor general and Transportation Safety Board.

Amtrak, in comparison, operates under the congressional Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970, which assumed private railroads‘ obligations to operate passenger services in exchange for the railroads providing priority status to Amtrak trains. Whether you like the service or not, Amtrak does exist as an independent legal entity.

VIA Rail does not. CN and Canadian Pacific have no legal obligation to prioritize VIA Rail’s passenger trains over their own freight trains. Sometimes, CN orders VIA Rail’s flagship The Canadian to reverse to a distant passing track to make way for CN trains. (I was on one of those reverse movements in 2015 on my way to an interview with VIA Rail’s previous CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, in which he revealed VIA Rail’s vision for a dedicated passenger corridor.)

Former VIA Rail CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano

Desjardins-Siciliano carried the stigma of being appointed by a previous Conservative government and was replaced by Garneau, an aerospace executive with no rail or passenger-carrying experience but considered friendly to the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau. The CEO appointment is nominally a five-year term, but that can be abbreviated at the whim of the governing party.

Garneau’s own writing-on-the-wall was the announcement in March by Transport Minister Omar Alghabra that he was assuming entire control of the HFR project. Garneau didn’t even attend the media event.

So, if it can possibly happen under the direction of Canada’s worst federal department, HFR will be separate from VIA Rail, giving the country two less-than-stellar passenger rail services instead of just one.

In September 2021, VIA Rail Canada took delivery of the first of 32 new Siemens trainsets, and on Nov. 30, revealed it to the public; testing started in December. (Photograph Courtesy of VIA Rail Canada)

Garneau was right to quit (perhaps with a not-so-friendly push from the Minister). VIA Rail believed in its project and, like motivated Ukranian fighters, could well have succeeded. Instead, HFR has been handed over to a top-down Russia-style bureaucracy with a proven record of failure in everything it touches:

• Lac-Megantic and the succession of oil train explosions that followed while Transport Canada tried to cover up its role.

• Airline chaos throughout the pandemic panic including forcing arriving passengers to use contaminated touch-screens to make customs declarations (I was there for that too).

• Allowing Quebec’s rapacious Caisse de dépôt et placement to take over Montreal’s Central Station and Mount Royal tunnel for its own regional rail commuter system, effectively choking off VIA Rail’s HFR access to Montreal.

Transport Canada may have done some things right, but none come to mind.

HFR had looked like the last best hope for modernizing passenger rail in Canada. Garneau’s departure shows that she herself is no longer a believer. The one certainly in Transport Canada’s assumption of full control over HFR is that the new rail service either will never happen, or, if it does, it will be a fiasco.

The best thing now may be to dissolve VIA Rail entirely and look for Brightline-type investors to return Canada’s passenger rail to fully private ownership. The country’s 45-year attempt to run a railway as a branch of a third-rate government bureaucracy has failed, utterly.

This article compares VIA rail to Amtrack. Let's be honest, Amtrack isn't what I would call a reference. They only really have a single route that actually makes money and are required by law to maintain a series of routes which aren't profitable. There is a fundamental contradiction between the stated goal of serving as much of the population as possible and not running deficits. No private business would hamstring themselves like that. If there is one comparison between Amtrack and VIA rail that we really should underline, it would be this contradiction. If we want them to run those routes that are constantly in the red, then we need to accept that the government will have subsidize those routes.

With its HFR scheme, VIA rail is likely to end up in a situation similar to Amtrack and having to take the money it makes on the Montreal Ottawa Toronto triangle and spend it on those routes that are losing money. I can definitely see a future government saying "you are making more money now, so we'll take away some of the subventions we are giving you". If there is any takeaway from this article, it might be that we seriously need to reconsider how VIA rail is governed. HFR isn't going to save VIA rail. The formula determining how much funding VIA rail is getting needs to be more flexible.

England might be a better place to look for solutions. They also ran into this problem, and while there are still some obvious issues, they do have a successful passenger rail operation unlike the US. One of the key things that has been done by England is that the infrastructure is split into a separate corporation. That corporation sells passage rights to pay for the maintenance of the network. This includes public and private passenger rail operators as well as freight.

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  • 1 month later...

Train à grande fréquence

Alstom plaide pour une « solution du XXIe siècle »

 

PHOTO ALAIN ROBERGE, LA PRESSE

Le TGF doit améliorer le service ferroviaire dans le tronçon Québec-Windsor desservi par VIA Rail.

Une « solution du XXIe siècle » — la grande vitesse — est indispensable pour améliorer le service ferroviaire entre Québec, Montréal et Toronto, estime Alstom, en invitant Ottawa à voir plus grand avec le train à grande fréquence (TGF). La porte serait ouverte, selon des documents gouvernementaux.

Publié à 5h00

https://www.lapresse.ca/affaires/entreprises/2022-07-05/train-a-grande-frequence/alstom-plaide-pour-une-solution-du-xxie-siecle.php

Julien Arsenault La Presse

Passer plus de quatre heures dans un train pour se déplacer entre la métropole et la Ville Reine, comme le prévoit actuellement le TGF, « c’est beaucoup trop long » pour inciter la population à tourner le dos à l’automobile ou à l’avion, affirme Michael Keroullé, président d’Alstom Amériques.

« On pense que le bon niveau, c’est un temps de trajet sous les trois heures, a-t-il dit, lundi, au cours d’un entretien avec La Presse, en marge d’une annonce (voir capsule). Pour nous, il faut aller sur une solution du XXIe ou du XXIIe siècle. C’est la haute vitesse. »

Le TGF prévoit la construction de voies ferrées réservées dans le couloir entre Québec et Toronto, ce qui n’est pas le cas actuellement. Cela permettrait aux trains de rouler plus rapidement, jusqu’à 200 km/h. Un train à grande vitesse (TGV) peut atteindre 300 km/h.

Tout à fait d’accord avec la construction de voies réservées, le numéro deux mondial du matériel roulant estime que le gouvernement Trudeau devrait chercher à combiner la fréquence et la vitesse.

 

PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, LA PRESSE

Michael Keroullé est président d’Alstom Amériques.

« On a l’expérience des TGV dans des pays comme la France, l’Italie, l’Allemagne et l’Espagne, souligne M. Keroullé. Pour que cela fonctionne de manière pérenne et longtemps, la vitesse est importante. Nous sommes conscients que chaque pays est différent, mais que cela fonctionnait comme ça partout. »

Un modèle à proximité

D’après M. Keroullé, Ottawa pourrait s’inspirer d’un projet au sud de la frontière dans lequel Alstom est impliqué : l’Acela, un train d’Amtrak (construit par le géant français) qui circule dans le couloir ferroviaire du Nord-Est américain et qui relie des villes comme Boston, New York et Washington. Sur certains tronçons, les trains peuvent rouler à plus de 250 km/h.

 

« Ce qu’on dit au gouvernement, c’est : ne pensez pas que vous devez choisir aujourd’hui entre la fréquence et la vitesse, vous pouvez avoir les deux », affirme le président d’Alstom Amériques.

Le gouvernement Trudeau a déjà dit avoir analysé l’option du TGV, mais il a tranché en faveur de la fréquence. La facture d’un TGV entre Québec et Toronto pourrait s’élever à 65 milliards, selon des estimations de Transports Canada. M. Keroullé a également reconnu que la proposition d’Alstom comporte un « niveau d’investissement plus élevé ».

Malgré tout, un document du Bureau de projet conjoint — sous la responsabilité de VIA Rail et de la Banque de l’infrastructure du Canada — obtenu par La Presse l’automne dernier révélait que le couloir entre Montréal et Toronto serait l’un des plus adéquats pour le TGV en Amérique du Nord.

Lisez « Un trajet des plus prometteurs »

Spécialiste de la planification des transports, Pierre Barrieau, de l’Université de Montréal, n’est pas étonné par la sortie d’Alstom. S’il est d’accord avec certains arguments du géant français, l’expert ajoute qu’il y a une logique commerciale en trame de fond.

« Pour l’Amérique du Nord, Alstom n’a que des TGV en production, dit M. Barrieau. Siemens n’a pas de TGV et CAF non plus. Quand on regarde cet aspect, il y a une guerre commerciale qui va se jouer sur la vitesse. »

Critères modifiés ?

Plusieurs étapes doivent être franchies avant la première pelletée de terre du TGF, prévue vers le milieu de la décennie. Ottawa, qui sollicite l’opinion de l’industrie, ne semble pas fermé à changer son fusil d’épaule, selon un document de 23 pages diffusé en ligne le mois dernier. Parmi les 71 questions reçues par Transports Canada, l’aspect de la vitesse des trains « limitée à 200 km/h » est soulevé à deux reprises.

« Des vitesses plus élevées dans certains segments peuvent être envisagées si elles représentent une bonne valeur pour les Canadiens », répond-on dans le document.

Interrogé, le cabinet du ministre des Transports, Omar Alghabra, a répondu que les « normes minimales » du projet avaient été définies et qu’Ottawa accueillerait « certainement les propositions qui visent davantage de vitesse, de fréquences et des temps de trajet plus ambitieux ».

Le cabinet du ministre Alghabra a refusé de s’avancer davantage sur le sujet.

Un engagement à Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville

Propriétaire de Bombardier Transport, Alstom a concrétisé l’un de ses engagements annoncés il y a plus de deux ans avec l’implantation d’un « centre d’innovation » en banlieue sud de Montréal, où le géant français veut embaucher 80 ingénieurs d’ici la fin de l’année. Propulsion hybride, batterie et hydrogène… l’équipe de la multinationale a le mandat de développer les plateformes visant à décarboner le secteur ferroviaire nord-américain. Les activités sont intégrées au centre de prototypage situé à Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, à proximité du quartier général d’Alstom pour les Amériques.

Lisez l’article complet

En savoir plus

12 milliards

Ottawa a déjà chiffré la facture du TGF à 12 milliards, mais le ministre des Transports, Omar Alghabra, a fait marche arrière en mars dernier.

source : la presse

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1 hour ago, acpnc said:

« Pour l’Amérique du Nord, Alstom n’a que des TGV en production, dit M. Barrieau. Siemens n’a pas de TGV et CAF non plus. Quand on regarde cet aspect, il y a une guerre commerciale qui va se jouer sur la vitesse. »

Mais qu’est-ce qu’il dit, là? C’est comme avoir dit, « Pour l’Amérique du Nord, Toyota n’a que des VUS en production. Honda n’a pas de VUS… » Ok, ils en fabriqueront. Duh.

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And Alstom builds and sells all sorts of non-TGV in North America; in fact, they don’t really produce any TGV here at all! Even the Avelia Liberty — a member of the Avelia global family that includes medium- and high-speed trains — being built for Amtrak’s Acela in the NEC is only designed for service speeds up to 260 km/h on very short sections of the corridor. This design could easily be adapted for use on the TGF here, reaching near-TGV speeds in subdivisions that can accommodate it, and allowing the line to be updated over time to offer more and longer high-speed sections. Of course, without dedicated, electrified tracks on the island of Montreal, this is all moot.

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J'ai fait Montréal-Toronto pas plus tard que la semaine dernière et il faut plus de 5heures, pour s'y rendre. 5 heures, c'est le plus rapide car d'autres départs vont faire le trajet en 6-7 et même 8 heures. Comme touriste, une fois de temps à autre ce n'est pas un problème mais je peux imaginer la situation pour une personne qui voyage régulièrement pour affaire et ne peut se permettre l'avion.

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Pour avoir effectuer déjà 28 trajets depuis le 1er avril avec VIA, faut voir leur offre comme une expérience à profiter plutôt qu'un simple moyen de transport.  La qualité de service en classe affaires bat et de loin plusieurs trains européens et asiatiques.  Mais oui ça serait bien d'avoir service et rapidité.

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