Saturday, June 30, 2007

Is Deseronto the chokepoint of Ontario's economy?

Yesterday there was a Day of Action by First Nations people which included the closing of Highway 401 and the main railway line at Deseronto by a group led by activist Shawn Brant. I'm not going to go into the specifics of the rights or wrongs of the protest in this post but rather discuss the fact that Canadian National Railway declared that $100 million dollars worth of goods were blockaded due to the protest. Presumably that's $100 million every day the line closes. 5,000 VIA Rail passengers had to make other plans.

In recent years CN and CP have been allowed to abandon pieces of railway infrastructure. I don't have a problem with that per se, it doesn't matter to me who owns them, but they should not be allowed to simply be lifted or rust among weeds while the remaining lines become more and more critical. The Government of Ontario should be buying up these lines to either keep them open or to at least preserve the alignment in public ownership so that when demand for rail increases as I believe it will due to Kyoto pressures, the lines can be swiftly recommissioned.

Specifically, I would like to see the reopening of an active railway link between Toronto, Peterborough and Ottawa, paralleling the Highway 7 corridor on part or all of the old Canadian Pacific route, to allow railway companies to send freight through in the event of a natural disaster or other closure of the Lakeshore route.

In regular service the link could carry electric or diesel high speed express services such as TGV or ICE-TD trains to reduce the impact of flights between Toronto and Ottawa with a stop at Peterborough. The current four hour VIA Rail service could be reduced to two and freights could run during the night to allow maintenance windows on the Lakeshore. This would not necessarily mean stopping service to Ottawa via the Lakeshore since the targetted passengers would be those using airlines at present.
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