July 23, 2009
Ottawa spends $300 Million for rail corridor upgrades

Canada's busiest rail corridor is set to get much quicker with the help of $300 million in federal cash.

Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear was at Toronto's Union Station on Thursday to spell out the details of
previously announced spending initiatives to improve the train network between Windsor, Ontario and Quebec City.
"It gives me great pleasure to unveil this investment," Goodyear said.  "Three hundred million dollars is a big piece of the puzzle for
one of the most heavily used rail networks in North America."

The money will go toward station upgrades to accommodate passengers with special needs, a rebuild of VIA Rail's locomotives to
make them more fuel-efficient, and a major track expansion in the Kingston area to allow trains to overtake each other and
eliminate bottlenecks.

The two-year project will begin in the next few weeks and continue through 2011.  It will create more than 2,600 person-years
worth of employment, Goodyear said, and allow both VIA and CN, the freight carrier that also uses the line, to move more trains and
more quickly.

The money was part of $407 million earmarked for rail renewal and expansion in the government's January budget, but the details
of the project were only released Thursday.

By the time the project is completed, it will mean the addition of two daily round-trip trains between Toronto and Montreal, and
Toronto and Ottawa, VIA chair Donald A. Wright said, and will shave roughly 30 minutes off the travel time along the 539-kilometre
rail line that links Toronto and Montreal.

"It's the dawn of a new era in safe, swift and sustainable passenger rail travel in Canada," Wright said.

High-speed rail 'still on the table'

The corridor is key to VIA's network as roughly a third of the Canadian population lives along it, and service along it accounts for
nearly 90 per cent of VIA's passenger load for the year.

In recent months, pressure has mounted to implement some sort of high-speed rail network along the corridor, both as a way to
stimulate economic activity but also provide energy-efficient transport in Canada's most densely-populated area.

As recently as March, Canada's Transport Minister John Baird said the government was considering introducing a high-speed train to
run between Windsor and Quebec City but he said the cost of such a train would be considerable, likely $20-30 billion.

Thursday's announcement stopped short of that.  Calling the upgrades "an intermediate solution," Goodyear acknowledged that a
high-speed train network would be at least a decade away.

"But the issue is still very much on the table for this government," he said.

The track upgrades and expansions would be useful should Ottawa one day move toward high-speed rail, he noted.

"We're building the foundation for possible future investments in higher-speed rail," Wright said. "[But] it's a complex matter.  It
does not depend on speed alone to deliver full value."

In 2008, VIA moved 4.6 million people and set an all-time record for revenue with $299 million.

Source:  CBC