Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What the Canadians know that we should understand about high-speed rail

Here's an article by a retired train conductor from Canada. Although he's talking about the Canadian passenger rail system, he could just as well be talking about our California HSR project as well.  I gather that, like me, he's an older guy and has seen the evolution; that is, the ups and downs, of passenger rail.

I know, Amtrak is reporting record riderships.  An increase of a miniscule number makes it a less miniscule number. 

Rigidity of route and scheduling makes passenger rail service less desirable except for routine riders; that is, commuters.  And commuter rail does indeed have increased ridership numbers since urban and regional traffic patterns make driving ever less desirable within metropolitan areas. But please note that the CHSRA has made it repeatedly clear that they have no intention of building a commuter rail service.

And we should make it absolutely clear that there is a vast difference between longer inter-city passenger rail, and public mass transit within population-dense regions.  We have little need for the former, but we have an increased need for the latter, and that's where all this capital development investment should have been going. 

And that is the point of retired passenger rail conductor Mike Hayes of Windsor, Canada. Mike has the right word for high-speed rail, "grandstanding." 

We don't need high-speed trains


Re: Rail plan a thing of folly, opinion column, by Chris Vander Doelen, Nov. 10.

It's about time that someone spoke out against a high-speed rail system in Ontario, or Canada, for that matter. The whole idea of it is ludicrous, to say the least.

I am a retired CN Rail/Via Rail conductor of 34 years. I worked CN freight trains, CN passenger trains before Via Rail was created, and Via trains after the creation of the Crown corporation to operate only passenger train service in Canada, and I retired off of the GO train service in Toronto.

I operated trains between Toronto and Montreal, Ottawa, Sarnia, London, Niagara Falls and, of course, Windsor.

I can tell you this for sure. The people who ride the train don't need or care about high speed, or the idea of we will de-liver you in 30 minutes or less at hundreds of miles per hour.

They ride the train for com-fort, relaxation and to watch the scenery and the downtown-to-downtown experience. They only ask for two things, on-time and on-time performance.

That was always our biggest hurdle and I am sure it still is to this day.

When Via Rail was created, the government of Canada gave it a blank cheque to spend any way it saw fit. So they purchased from CN and CP all of the equipment, stations and rolling stock.

Thus, giving millions of dollars to the Crown corporation of CN for property that was al-ready publicly owned. Over the years, Via has received hundreds of millions of dollars to remain functional.

But ridership is not what it once was. In the '70s, we would bring a train into Windsor from Toronto on a Thursday night or Friday morning with 10, 12 or even 14 coaches to handle the crowds of passengers that would be going to Toronto for the weekend.

These weekend excursions were arranged by Key Tours and Can AM Tours. Many of the passengers were customers from Detroit and area.

Trains eastbound from Toronto, heading to Montreal, all had 8, 9, 10 or more coaches full.

When was the last time you saw any Via trains with that many coaches full of passengers, other than at Christmas?

When the government of Canada slashed 50 per cent of the passenger train service in 1988, a mere 10 years after creating Via Rail, that told us that they were not interested in the high cost of maintaining a passenger service in Canada.

So what makes anyone think that spending billions of dollars on a high-speed rail net-work will be a logical thing to do? The people in this country just don't ride the trains the way they used to, and when you chase the customers away, you have a slim-to-never chance of getting them back.

I'm sorry but the mayors in Essex region should voice their concerns over improving what we have now and working on a performance issue, rather than grandstanding over a high-speed train service that we don't need, nor can we afford. 

MIKE HAYES, Kingsville

© Copyright (c) The Windsor Star

Read more: http://www.windsorstar.com/news/need+high+speed+trains/5747608/story.html#ixzz1eT4sPCui

No comments: