Discussion of Canadian Passenger Rail Services such as AMT (Montreal), Go Transit (Toronto), VIA Rail, and other Canadian Railways and Transit

Moderator: Ken V

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  by XC Tower
 
Merci, labienordique! I will tell of what rail means to me.
Also, to all: I feel that there were many things that could have been done to lessen the cost of the passenger train subsidy. No doubt that steps were attempted, but it seems that more could have been employed. An opening up to ideas and suggestions could have brought in some that weren't thought of. I believe that the ONR employees have some from their perspective, but the traveling public, tour operators, etc., along with seeing what other passenger train operators were doing, would've helped. As I wrote earlier, there are always valid points on both sides of an issue, but as a believer in reason and compomise, my feeling is something could've been worked out to save the Northlander. I know that a strong message was conveyed about the ONR not being for sale, but was each aspect of the Ontario governments complaint about subsidy ever attempted to be looked at individually? Please pardon the ignorance on my part, as I do need to find out more on this scenario.
Thank you.



XC Tower
  by goodnightjohnwayne
 
XC Tower wrote: Also, to all: I feel that there were many things that could have been done to lessen the cost of the passenger train subsidy. No doubt that steps were attempted, but it seems that more could have been employed. An opening up to ideas and suggestions could have brought in some that weren't thought of. I believe that the ONR employees have some from their perspective, but the traveling public, tour operators, etc., along with seeing what other passenger train operators were doing, would've helped. As I wrote earlier, there are always valid points on both sides of an issue, but as a believer in reason and compomise, my feeling is something could've been worked out to save the Northlander. I know that a strong message was conveyed about the ONR not being for sale, but was each aspect of the Ontario governments complaint about subsidy ever attempted to be looked at individually? Please pardon the ignorance on my part, as I do need to find out more on this scenario.
Thank you.



XC Tower
How did Conrail transition from subsidies to profits and privatization? It took a lot of investment, the modernization of labor practices, divesting commuter rail operations to public sector authorities, and the abandonment, scrapping or short-lining of a huge amount of track.

The problem is that the Ontario Northland is maintaining hundreds of miles of jointed rails and softwood ties to passenger train standards, on a remote, sparely populated route, using high cost labor. By the criteria of even the pre-profitability 1970s Conrail, a line with the characteristics of the Ontario Northland would have been immediately abandoned or scrapped. It's worth remembering that this line was built by the public sector and there has never been a private sector justification for its existence. It always was a taxpayer subsidized operation.

In the long term, the real choice was always between modernizing the line with welded rail and hardwood or concrete ties to reduce maintenance costs, most likely at a cost of hundreds of millions, or eventually ending the passenger operation. There was no compromise, no means of reforming a high labor content, high labor cost operation. Privatization is also something of a joke, since what sort of an unsubsidized short-line operator wants to deal with a "General Chairman's Association?"
  by marquisofmississauga
 
goodnightjohnwayne wrote:
... It's worth remembering that this line was built by the public sector and there has never been a private sector justification for its existence. It always was a taxpayer subsidized operation.

...
That sounds like roads & highways in the province - well, just about everywhere for that matter.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Mr. Nordic Bay, I think that discussion over at the Canadian Railfan Forum at which you have participated regarding the Ontario Northland should be X-posted over here:

http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopi ... 21&t=81706

It appears that, while restoration of the now discontinued "Northlander" Toronto-Cochrane service is foremost, you also hold that the Provincial government should continue in the transportation and telecommunications business as the private sector would not provide adequate service to a sparsely populated area of the Province.

In his capacity as an individual informed of Canadian railroad industry affairs (as distinct from Moderator of the two forums), Mr. Ken V holds that the Canadian National is interested in operating the existing ONR freight services - and for their own account. The telecommunications line is already in the private sector, and I have not learned anything regarding the highway bus operations.

Owing to its "remote service" status, the Cochrane-Moosinee train is to continue. If the government entity Ontario Northland (rail, highway, etc) is to be dissolved with all of their existing operations and activities transferred to the private sector, what public agency will continue to fund Cochrane-Moosinee passenger service? While one would think that your national rail passenger agency, VIA, should step forth, they appear to have lost innumerable public support.

All told, advocates of having the Provincial government remain in the transportation business in place of the private sector have an uphill battle, without taking sides in the matter (as a US citizen who has not set foot anywhere in Canada since 1988 and who knows when or if I ever will again) allow me to say "good luck".
  by labaienordique
 
New plan for Northern Ontario
http://www.nugget.ca/2012/10/19/new-pla ... rn-ontario

GCA unveil plan to tevitalize Ontario Northland, connect to Ring of Fire
http://www.baytoday.ca/content/news/details.asp?c=49292

A New Plan for Ontario Northland
http://www.600ckat.com/2012/10/19/a-new ... northland/
  by Highball
 
marquisofmississauga wrote:
goodnightjohnwayne wrote:
... It's worth remembering that this line was built by the public sector and there has never been a private sector justification for its existence. It always was a taxpayer subsidized operation.

...
That sounds like roads & highways in the province - well, just about everywhere for that matter.
My sentiments exactly " marquisofmississauga ".


goodnightjohnwayne stated.............. " How did Conrail transition from subsidies to profits and privatization? It took a lot of investment, the modernization of labor practices, divesting commuter rail operations to public sector authorities, and the abandonment, scrapping or short-lining of a huge amount of track. ".................


Conrail and all U. S Railroads in general received the " unstraggling " they needed with the following two U.S. Federal laws, acts as set forth by the The 1980 Staggers Rail Act, preceded by the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 (often called the "4R Act"), which reduced federal regulation of railroads and authorized implementation details for Conrail, the newly-created northeastern railroad system. The 4R reforms included allowance of a greater range for railroad pricing without close regulatory restraint, greater independence from collective rate making procedures in rail pricing and service offers, contract rates, and, to a lesser extent, greater freedom for entry into and exit from rail markets
  by XC Tower
 
I have several things to share:
First: After completing a round trip on VIA Rail last week from Niagara Falls, Ontario to Truro, Nova Scotia, I can state from experience that the trains between Toronto, Montreal, and Truro(Halifax) were packed! To me, the ridership indicates that there are large numbers of the Canadian population who will and do ride the train. The train between Niagara Falls and Toronto was interesting as the first riders at Niagara were tourists/travelers, then at St. Katherines, Grimsby, and on, they were commuters who were regulars going to work in Toronto. Coming back (on its 2nd to last run....ever) it was the reverse. To say that there is low ridership simply appears not to be true.
Since the VIA's "Liners" have been gone from Halifax to Sydney since 1990, (under the "Tory" leadership of Mr. Mulroney as Canada's P.M.), which also had heavy ridership between Cape Breton Island and the mainland of Nova Scotia, I rode the Acadian Bus Lines from Truro to Sydney (aboout a six hour ride). Each bus had a large number of riders also..........Oh, yes, there's one more item of interest: Acadian Bus Lines is finished as of the end of November! I really have to wonder what's going on with Canada's public transportation network!?!
Second: As far as citing the Conrail "Success Story", I think leaving out the fact that Conrail (Penn Central) received billions of dollars of taxpayer funds to get going, along with massive concessions by its employees, and who knows how much from scrapping the thousands of miles of rail from many of the routes it took over, is misleading. If one were to mention Conrail's "Success Story" in places such as Meadville,Scranton, Sayre in Pennsylvania, then go to Ohio asking in Marion and Youngstown, plus trying New York State at Buffalo, Hornell, and others, I don't think there would be much agreement with the residents as they showed you what is left of the railroad jobs and facilities, if any. There is another side to each story. It's especially rough to be on the side of losing your job and the others that built your community.
Third: As Hurricane Sandy begins its swath of devastion through the northeastern United States, am I the only one who wonders if eliminating the most efficent way of transporting large numbers of people on land, thus less polluting, isn't an act of insanity? I do believe that it is all connected to the release of huge numbers of hydrocarbons into the Earth's atmosphere, then heating up our oceans, which is giving the power to these monsterly destructive storms.
Allow me to finish with my words getting back to ONR's "Northlander", I respect the people of Northern Ontario and employees of the Ontario Northland for voicing their opinions over the loss of their train and potential one of the railroad which opened up the beautiful place that is called home. I wish them, along with the ONR and VIA Rail, the best. Perhaps, just perhaps, someday the insanity will be realized and reversed. Is the profit of a relative few worth the losses that the many will endure?




XC Tower
  by Tadman
 
XC Tower, you may misunderstand a few things.

First, to my knowledge, Conrail earned back every penny the government put in it between pre-IPO profits and then the proceeds from said IPO. Before the current administration, we did bailouts if they made sense, and they paid back. Same with the first two Chrysler bailouts. Both Conrail and Chrysler I and Chrysler II earned a return on investment for the gov't treasury.

Second, the Conrail surplus trackage abandonment had little to do with causing the downfall of cities like Sayre, Scranton, and Youngstown. While the closure of the Sayre shops was unfortunate, it sure didn't precipitate the greater northeast and midwest industrial collapse, though. The appearance of the "rust belt" as we call it occured earlier was precipitated by the following factors:

1. Much more friendly and inexpensive labor down south.
2. Overbuilt infrastructure in general - when Europe and Asia came back on line in the 70's, we had lots of surplus capacity.
3. Incredibly unfriendly labor relations, expensive payscales, and ludicrously low piece rates in factories up north.
4. The EPA.

What did happen, though, is that as industrial capacity left the northeast, starting in the 1950's, and the midwest, starting in the 1970's, we were adding roads and airports like crazy. At that point, the railroads lost a lot of business to roads and the south, and couldn't afford to provide the same level of service on such extensive trackage. The gov't wouldn't let them abandon, the unions wouldn't agree to two-man crews (why have a fireman on an SD40? for coffee?), the gov't kept building highways and airports, and the railroads eventually went under. PC, E-L, NH, RDG, CNJ, MILW, Rock, Annie, LHR, LNE, D&H, LV, B&M... It's like a wall east of the Missouri River and north of the Ohio River - or, consider it all of Ontario and Quebec.

So what you actually have is a case of the railroad being the victim of the growing rust belt, rather than causing the rust belt.

Canada didn't experience such troubles because their railroad network, for the most part, wasn't overbuilt. There was also a strong commodities business, leading to strength similar to that we saw in C&O and N&W at the time PC was collapsing. The only overbuilding, really, was BCR and ONR. It made sense during the war, but now your gov't wants to rationalize their investment and I can't blame them.

I'm just mad at myself for not riding the Northlander last summer. I took my then-girlfriend across the lake on the SS Badger when I wanted to travel ACR and ONR.
  by Highball
 
XC Tower wrote: I rode the Acadian Bus Lines from Truro to Sydney (aboout a six hour ride). Each bus had a large number of riders also..........Oh, yes, there's one more item of interest: Acadian Bus Lines is finished as of the end of November! I really have to wonder what's going on with Canada's public transportation network!?!
Bus service in the Maritime Provinces will continue on December 01st by a new company, Bus Atlantic, with a new business model.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-bruns ... roved.html

In recent weeks, the new company and VIA Rail have expressed the desire to have connectivity of their services / routes. One example, would have the bus line and VIA sharing the same stations in major centers, as Halifax has at present. This concept
has never been applied to much degree with Maritime ground transportation in the past.
  by XC Tower
 
Thank you, Tadman, for the information/opinion regarding Conrail and the U.S. Northeast railroad collapse and Rust Belt formation. You cited many good points.
As far as Conrail goes, I feel the alternate plan of also forming a competing system, known as MARC (Mid Atlantic Rail Corporation), I understand, would have preserved more railroad jobs in many of the railroad towns which made up the Erie Lackawanna, Lehigh Valley, and Reading (I believe). My information comes from the book, " ERIE LACKAWANNA: DEATH OF AN AMERICAN RAILROAD" and viewpoint comes from visiting many of the towns and cities that I cited after Conrail...No, the railroads didn't cause the Rust Belt, but, I agree, it was government policies and other economic realities. Still, giving Conrail a near monopoly in the Northeast, especially to New York City, wasn't the best plan in my opinion either.
Going back to the ONR, the moves by the government of Ontario really look like they are going to hurt the railroad towns and cities along its route. Selling it to CN wouldn't seem to preserve many of those jobs on the ONR. Considering an alternate plan would be a best case scenario/compromise. I would hate to see or hear of the many "FOR SALE" signs popping up in front of homes in North Bay or Cochrane, ON, as they did in so many of the cities and towns along the cast off,scaled back or outright abandoned railroad routes from Conrail. There is the human impact, which tends to be overlooked often, when talking dollars.
I do wish the best for the employees and families of the Ontario Northland. Those that I met and knew were and are decent working folks. you, your railroad, and the Northlander deserve better.



XC Tower
  by labaienordique
 
A New Deal … A Brighter Future for Northern Ontario

The New Deal for Northern Ontario will revitalize the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) while creating significant economic opportunities and thousands of new jobs in the province’s North. The plan, which enjoys broad and growing stakeholder support, will preserve transportation services and hundreds of existing jobs, and provide access to the massive Ring of Fire mineral deposits. Ownership of ONTC’s railroad and other assets will be transferred from the provincial government to a new ports authority.

http://www.newdealnorth.ca/Default.aspx
7. Would the New Deal restore the Northlander and all passenger services?
We are looking to reinstate and revitalize passenger rail services along the Highway 11 corridor. We will work with the provincial government and Metrolinx to find the best way to do this. This will take time, and is part of our plan.
http://www.newdealnorth.ca/Faq.aspx
  by Tadman
 
This is good to hear. What is the chance of the Northlander being restored (versus political promises that aren't kept)? I always wanted to ride the ONR end-to-end (coupled maybe with a ACR ride, too).
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