News   GLOBAL  |  Apr 02, 2020
 8.7K     0 
News   GLOBAL  |  Apr 01, 2020
 39K     0 
News   GLOBAL  |  Apr 01, 2020
 4.9K     0 

Read about this a few weeks back. Nobody seems to care. Entirely possible that this ends The Ocean.

I know VIA likes the branding, but the Park's really aren't such a big deal... a Skyline dome is honestly a perfectly reasonable option. As is the obvious option no one mentioned of dropping the Park at Windsor and picking it up again westbound at the rear of an otherwise bi-directional set.

There are real threats to VIA, but this is honestly an irritation. Although it does throw a wrench into my desire to get a new fleet for the Canadian and shift the Budds east.
 
I'm sure that this has been a previous discussion on this forum. In regards to the HFR; would it not be more viable to add capacity to the existing route rather than putting down the entirely new infrastructure for a more northern route. Could this line in conjunction with the freight owner not be double or triple tracked in order to avoid the delays caused by freight trains? Given that VIA rail already has a limited budget is this new infrastructure not going to be a drain on the existing services? Could we ever see a product like the Acela Express Train along this corridor to service Toronto/Ottawa and Montreal?
 
Could this line in conjunction with the freight owner not be double or triple tracked in order to avoid the delays caused by freight trains?

The freight operators can't be bothered. See CN and how they took VIA for a half billion dollar ride on the Kingston Subdivision:


Given that VIA rail already has a limited budget is this new infrastructure not going to be a drain on the existing services?

That is the purpose of developing a business plan. To see what the impact would be. If it's substantially adverse, the idea gets canned.

Could we ever see a product like the Acela Express Train along this corridor to service Toronto/Ottawa and Montreal?

No. It's not high speed rail. It is effectively a full speed (110 mph) express service. There is track work that can be done to boost segments up to ~200 kph. Whether VIA is doing that we won't know till the whole report and plan comes out next year.
 
That is why all lines should have some sort of connectivity. Maybe the train has to go around the city. Maybe it goes down another line. Think of it liek highways only having partial interchanges, or none at all. The EDRs get too be a challenge.

Possibly. Likely easier between lines with common ownership as opposed to commercial carriers. Available space and other physical factors at meeting points might come into play, not to mention who pays to build and maintain. Also, not a railroader, but I imagine there are certain regulatory considerations. If a highway is closed or congested, I can take any other public road I chose without restrictions; I'm not sure it's that easy on rail.
 
There are two assumptions here that I won’t budge on until we see firm data

1) Will the travel time Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto match, or improve on today’s travel time Toronto- Kingston - Montreal ? If not, why would we project double today’s ridership?
I have already previously posted a back-of-the envelop calculation on Skyscraper Page using data from the Annual Report 2017, but I thankfully could locate the spreadsheet and update it with 2018 data within a matter of minutes.

***However, a fair warning at the beginning: anyone challenging me on this approximation is welcome to do so, but should be prepared to receive my spreadsheet with the expectation to correct/modify/expand it until the model satisfies his expectations***

The approximation relied on elasticities and the concept of "Generalized Journey Time" (GJT), using the following methodology:
  1. I divided the Corridor east into its four constituent routes (TRTO-OTTW, TRTO-MTRL, OTTW-MTRL and MTRL-QBEC) and copied the travel times for the status quo and under HFR into a table (shown below as "Table 1"). I calculated the current headways for all four routes by dividing a window of 15 hours (e.g. between 6am and 9pm) by the number of frequencies currently offered and the 15 frequencies assumed in this Globe&Mail article.
  2. I converted the headway figures (Step 1) into a GJT supplement, using figures from the UK's Rail Delivery Group's "Passenger Demand Forecasting Handbook", which assumes that a headway of 60, 90 and 180 minutes adds a travel time penalty of 39, 51 or 87 minutes, respectively, to the perceived travel time (I correspondingly intrapolated a value of 75 minutes for a headway of 2.5 hours).
  3. I calculated the relative effect which HFR would have on the GJT of each of the four routes.
  4. In a second table (shown below as "Table 2") and calculated the scheduled weekly train-mileage for every service group (which was straight-forward, TRTO-OTTW [incl. train #51] and TRTO-MTRL are "Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto" and OTTW-MTRL [excl. train #51] and MTRL-QBEC are "Quebec-Montreal-Ottawa"), using VIA's timetables from 2018 (thankfully, the scheduled train-mileage did not change between November 2017 and December 2019, therefore it didn't matter which VIA timetable from 2018 I took to calculate the train-mileage).
  5. I calculated the passenger miles from VIA's Annual Report 2018 by dividing the subsidy figures of both Corridor East service groups by their respective "Subsidy per passenger-mile" figure and then allocated them proportionally to the train miles.
  6. I calculated the annualized growth rate (AGR) for the populations of TRTO, OTTW, MTRL and QBEC and used the average of the AGRs for the two ends of any of the four routes to extrapolate the population growth factor between 2018 and 2030.
  7. I multiplied the passenger-mile figures for 2018 (Step 5) with the population growth factor (Step 6) to estimate 2030 figures (assuming that the demand for intercity rail travel in respect to population growth is perfectly elastic, i.e. exactly 1.0).
  8. I multiplied the passenger-mile estimates for 2030 (Step 7) with the change in GJT (Step 3) and an elasticity of -1.58 I found for the demand for intercity rail travel in respect to travel time (refer to "Table 3" below).
  9. I multiplied the 2018 passenger figures with the same growth factors as calculated in Steps 6 and Steps 8 to obtain estimates for the 2030 ridership after adjusting them for population growth and changes in GJT.
I'm dumping all tables below, but please refer to the second part of my post on Skyscraper Page if you have any questions regarding this methodology.

Table 1: Calculation of change in generalized journey time (GJT) for the Corridor East
1590635945156.png

Compiled from: Globe&Mail article (for travel times and frequencies) and Passenger Demand Forecasting Handbook (for GJT headway values)

Table 2: Approximation of passenger figures for 2030 (after population growth and GJT adjustment)
1590635952349.png

Note: The respective growth rates for Southwestern Ontario (SWO) are taken from Toronto (CMA) as start of route and Ontario (Province) as end of route.
Compiled from: official VIA Timetable (effective 2018-06-17, for train mileages), VIA Rail Annual Report 2018 and Victoria Transport Policy Institute (2018).

Table 3: Elasticity used for estimating the change in the demand for intercity rail travel in respect to a change in GJT
sT5kvrD.png

Source: Victoria Transport Policy Institute (2018, p.23).

All of this just to say that the current trends in population growth give reason to expect a growth in ridership between 2018 and 2030 by 13.3% across the Corridor East (i.e. east of Toronto) and 13.4% across the entire Corridor and that the reductions of travel time and headways give reason to expect a further growth by 37.8% across the Corridor East (ranging from 22.9% on TRTO-MTRL to 65.3% on MTRL-QBEC) and 31.9% across the entire Corridor - for a total ridership growth of 56.2% across the Corridor East (ranging from 38.8% on TRTO-MTRL to 82.6% of MTRL-QBEC) and 45.5% across the entire Corridor.

This means that just looking at three drivers of intercity rail ridership (population growth, travel time, frequency) already seem to explain half of the doubling of ridership you have trouble buying in to. Now, there are a bunch of other drivers which I haven't been able to include in this analysis, but which should increase the demand for HFR further:
  1. The increase in punctuality and thus timetable reliability.
  2. The effect of the new fleet (newer amenities).
  3. Higher capacity allows to turn less passengers away (or price less of them out) during peak times (e.g. Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas).
  4. Higher capacity allows to offer more seats at lower prices.
  5. Separation of end-to-end travel from intermediary allows more efficient use of available capacity (e.g. a Toronto-Ottawa seat is no longer wasted by an Oshawa-Cobourg passenger).
  6. Social factors, like increased environmental consciousness and/or less car ownership/dependency.
I am fully aware that this calculation is incomplete and imperfect, but I hope that it demonstrates that the claim that HFR will double ridership is not that implausible...
 
Last edited:
I can accept that the primary Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal route will achieve greater ridership and run in the black, which ought to be enough to attract funding somewhere....I still have a harder time believing that, shorn of the overhead revenue from through ridership, a Kingston-centric service can also. The Kingston Hub is a promise that won’t be kept. That won’t hurt HFR any, but this route is a Regiment sacrificed to win a campaign somewhere else.

- Paul
There's no way they get 11 trains a day to Toronto. Keep in mind that all traffic between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal moves over to the HFR corridor when that happens. Lakeshore service has to survive entirely around local traffic. If I had to guess, it would be something like 6-8 departures for Toronto, 4-6 departures for Ottawa and 4 departures for Montreal, with the schedule entirely focused around timings that enable day trips to Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal for Lakeshore residents (not just Kingston, this needs to be emphasized). And this level of service would be perfectly fine. It's absolutely ridiculous to begin with that service to these communities is effectively holding better service for the 11 million residents in the Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal metro areas hostage. You wouldn't see this in any other developed economy.
kEiThZ is right that the intermediary markets hold the end-to-end markets back, but the same is true in the opposite direction: due to the pressure to keep the end-to-end travel times bearable, trains only stop at a few stations each, which naturally limits the number of connections these stops have with Toronto. Furthermore, these short markets (e.g. Oshawa-Cobourg) often need to be priced at almost the same level as end-to-end (e.g. Toronto-Montreal), given the capacity shortages at popular travel times. Worst, however, is that if trains do alternating stops, there is close to no inter-connectivity between adjacent communities. Oshawa (CMA) has a population of 380k, Cobourg of 20k, Belleville (CA) of 103k and Kingston (CMA) of 162k. In countries like the Netherlands, these cities would be linked with an intercity rail service which would have a 6-car EMU stop all all these cities every 30 minutes 7 days a week from 5am to midnight and people would travel with these trains between these cities for work, shopping or leisure in the same way as Torontonians take the Subway to travel for the same purposes between the various neighborhoods of their city...

I've already covered most of these points in the following post and table:

How many trains are there currently which connect...
...Brockville and Montreal?
...Belleville and Montreal?
...Cobourg and Montreal?
...Cobourg and Belleville?
...Cobourg and Cornwall?
...Cobourg and Port Hope?
...Belleville and Napanee?

These are some of the markets which would be much better served by a service where every additional stop doesn’t have to be weighted against its impact on the travel time of people who travel much longer distances. The Kingston corridor will only become a real growth corridor if the cities along it receive adequate links between each other...
4FQRzHy.png

Source: originally posted on Skyscraper Page (and most probably also here many dozens of pages ago)
 
Last edited:
@Urban Sky Thanks for those...the explanation for #1 in particular really helped me get my head around the variables that could change (in a good way) with HFR and how they stack up. I would not quarrel with your analysis - it’s quite compelling., At the same time, the two uncertainties that I would point to:

- To me, the key question for ridership on the new HFR is whether those proposed trip times can be achieved and maintained. My gut says that the marketability of HFR will grow dramatically as trip time is reduced. Perhaps my skepticism is just based on the number of times, perhaps going back too many years and in non-comparable circumstances, where trip times were reduced on the corridor, only to be lengthened after a year or two, either because the faster times were operationally unrealistic, or because stops were added in hopes of further revenue. That may be unfair to the proposal....certainly, where VIA runs its own lines today (Coteau-Ottawa-Brockville) those lines have excellent SOGR and are operated very effectively. Nonetheless, if HFR turns out to deliver only the same timings and reliability as today’s service, I can’t see the brand and public acceptance shifting very much, notwithstanding more seats, more timing options, different pricing. The potential to gain ground on perceived trip times relative to air and auto is paramount IMHO, and every minute that VIA can squeeze out of its timings matters. It boils down to what the civil engineers think is possible within the BCA capital envelope. Can’t wait to see those details.

- Re the Lakeshore, I still see a contradiction between your vision (the Netherlands model) and what CN and Ottawa will allow. I agree that the NL vision might generate comparable ridership in Ontario, but is expensive and highly subsidised. The reality, as I predicted above, is that Ottawa will demand break even, and CN will want its track back. One can apply the data model you have offered, and predict additional ridership on the basis of population growth, improved and consistent offering for intermediate station pairs, and new pricing. However, CN will want to lower track speed (or demand additional compensation for maintaining the present); conflict with freight will remain and impact reliability; service between the longer station pairs (which generate the most revenue per ticket sold) will lose time competitiveness as intermediate stops are added. So there will be negatives and not just positives. At the end of the day, the local service will face all the same hurdles that cause VIA to want a separate route for HFR, while becoming harder to sustain with CN or generate public support.

I would predict a service pattern with no more than 5 trains each way Toronto-Kingston, maybe 3 of those continuing to Ottawa, two continuing to Montreal, and one being an overnight layover in Kingston in each direction (the pretend “hub”). Assume track speeds are lowered to 80 mph in line with what CN delivers Burlington-London. All trains making all stops. Equal CN antipathy and thus impediment from freight. Will that break even? If not, it isn’t sustainable. Will VIA have a public mandate and political and bureaucratic support and managerial bandwidth for a secondary service when HFR is sexier? Kingston will become the new Kitchener.

- Paul
 
Last edited:
The freight operators can't be bothered. See CN and how they took VIA for a half billion dollar ride on the Kingston Subdivision:

You know, I just can't help dwelling on what an absurd exercise that was . The original VIA proposal made a great deal of sense. Had the entire 160 km of third track been constructed, a great deal of interference from freight operations would have been removed... and the considerable historical investment in grade separations along that line to make it passenger friendly would not have been wasted. The improvement VIA sought might have delivered much of what HFR will deliver, at a lower cost.

I'm sure the exercise began with VIA saying to CN, "OK, how much money would we have to spend to achieve the trip times and frequencies that we are proposing (as the A-G charts lay out)?" And I'm suspicious that CN's response ("160 km, at a price of x") was actually a highball number, with CN execs believing they had priced the idea out of any real chance of getting approval (from the anti-VIA Conservative government of the day, after all).

Enter the 2008 recession, and the Harper government actually looking for infrastructure work that could be launched quickly as stimulus projects.

Happily for CN, VIA clearly didn't have enough expertise to negotiate a commercial agreement, or manage such a large capital project.... the deal clearly didn't pass any risk over to CN. So CN and its contractor could run amok and it didn't matter. Even Ottawa didn't care, they were just flowing money into the economy, not actually building anything. If it didn't work, they could blame VIA.

I have always felt that VIA ended up holding the bag (and taking the A-G's fire) for something where the blame belonged elsewhere. (Except perhaps that VIA needed the courage to halt work sooner and demand redress when it became obvious that the work was being bobbled).

I still wonder why Ottawa doesn't refine its capital price on HFR and then say to CN, "If we pay lump sum, will you deliver the same system in an enforceable manner, and you can keep any money you don't have to spend?". For that matter, as a CN shareholder, I wonder why CN isn't pitching something similar - "We can deliver that service pattern on our tracks for a billion less than what you will spend on HFR". The answer seems to be, "we tried that once, and CN screwed us over... not gonna do it again". Can't blame Ottawa/VIA for thinking like that. As for CN, they really, really seem to want VIA off their tracks.

- Paul
 
Possibly. Likely easier between lines with common ownership as opposed to commercial carriers. Available space and other physical factors at meeting points might come into play, not to mention who pays to build and maintain. Also, not a railroader, but I imagine there are certain regulatory considerations. If a highway is closed or congested, I can take any other public road I chose without restrictions; I'm not sure it's that easy on rail.

I wonder if the blockades taught CP and CN about how it is better to be able to connect to anyone than no move.
 
@Urban Sky Thanks for those...the explanation for #1 in particular really helped me get my head around the variables that could change (in a good way) with HFR and how they stack up. I would not quarrel with your analysis - it’s quite compelling.,

Yep. This is why I appreciate his posts. I am not a rail pro. But it's nice to see someone construct the maths from publicly available numbers to at least hint at at how a planner would look at this.

The potential to gain ground on perceived trip times relative to air and auto is paramount IMHO, and every minute that VIA can squeeze out of its timings matters.

Yep. This is why I am really hoping that they are doing tradeoff analysis for every single stop they have. I also don't like the idea of skip-stop service. That just creates the temptation to add stops and then eventual pressure for service. Pretty soon, they're stopping at every town of a few k and we're back to slow as molasses. Canadians in small towns need to get used to the idea that they'll have to take feeder service sometimes.

The reality, as I predicted above, is that Ottawa will demand break even, and CN will want its track back.

Everybody has a price. CN will cooperate for the right price. And less service certainly helps. And slower speeds might be an acceptable compromise. Maybe the government jumps in with some subsidies for "safety upgrades" like PTC.

I would predict a service pattern with no more than 5 trains each way Toronto-Kingston, maybe 3 of those continuing to Ottawa, two continuing to Montreal, and one being an overnight layover in Kingston in each direction (the pretend “hub”).

I wouldn't be that pessimistic. I think 6-8 departures each way on Toronto-Kingston is possible to work out with CN. Especially if they are directional at peak. Or at least biased to mostly outbound from Kingston. And I can see 4-6 going on to Ottawa since most of those trains will be on the Brockville Sub. I agree that Montreal will be limited to 2-4 departures per day.

I still wonder why Ottawa doesn't refine its capital price on HFR and then say to CN, "If we pay lump sum, will you deliver the same system in an enforceable manner, and you can keep any money you don't have to spend?". For that matter, as a CN shareholder, I wonder why CN isn't pitching something similar - "We can deliver that service pattern on our tracks for a billion less than what you will spend on HFR". The answer seems to be, "we tried that once, and CN screwed us over... not gonna do it again". Can't blame Ottawa/VIA for thinking like that. As for CN, they really, really seem to want VIA off their tracks.

This has now been in the press at least for a while. They know how serious the government is. If there was a deal to be had, they'd be talking and we might have heard about it. I suspect the cost to enable HFR on Lakeshore isn't as low as people think and CN would face much higher maintenance costs along with probably enough time penalties to its freight operations to impact service. For VIA, they have to worry about a bumpier ride, probably opposition to electrification and limits on upgradeability through capital investment. And for all that, VIA would probably never get more than 110mph. It just doesn't look worthwhile.
 
@Urban Sky

Any thoughts on Paul's points?

Is HFR actually feasible on CN's Lakeshore corridor? Would triple tracking be required for the whole length? Is it even possible to mix long freight trains going that slow and get any speed gains for passenger trains out of it? Would the splitting of Ottawa and Montreal traffic on the Lakeshore corridor make it less attractive as a concept? Or does all the other local traffic compensate?
 

Back
Top