Government will instead invest in capacity upgrades to get trains running at speeds last seen in 1973
A month and a half ago, Canadian conservatives agreed to a $3 million study for a high-speed rail link between Windsor and Québec City, via Toronto, Ottawa, and Montréal, far and away Canada’s most important corridor. But their support may have been ephemeral.
Yesterday, Transport Minister John Baird said that the state would invest in upgrades to speed the connection between Montréal and Toronto, but that the government wasn’t necessarily focused on expanding the program to include a true high-speed connection between the cities.
The investments proposed so far, part of a $516 million package adopted in 2007, include two more round-trips daily between Ottawa and Montréal and infrastructure investments that will decrease the travel time between the latter city and Toronto to four hours. Today on Via Rail Canada, that trip takes between 4h40 and 5h30, depending on the time of departure. The slightly longer-distance trip between Paris and Valence in France on the TGV takes 2h10 today, so it’s obvious that the government’s investments won’t amount to anything close to true high-speed service.
Mr. Baird made clear that he wasn’t interested in moving forward quickly with high-speed plans, suggesting instead that “Before we make a $30 billion decision … what we should do is get the facts in front of us. That’s what Canadians would expect.” The problem, of course, that the facts have been considered again and again, at least 16 times since 1973. The Quebec-Windsor corridor would make for an efficient and well-used high-speed system. Studying the same-old-same-old, without a commitment of financial or political support, is not going to solve the problem.