Canada’s chief financial watchdog praised VIA Rail’s internal management April 3 but slammed successive national governments for failing to support the state-owned passenger railway with strategic planning and capital investment.
From the April 2016 issue of Railway Age: From the era of fur-trading voyageurs, the St. Lawrence River Valley between the Great Lakes and Montreal has been Canada’s economic aorta. Solitary canoes gave way to steamships, railways, airplanes and freeways, and the vital artery is now clogged within a smear of yellow smog, often thick enough to taste.
In a curious role reversal, Canada’s former Minister of Transport, now opposition politician Lisa Raitt, has revealed that the Canadian government quietly paid C$75 million toward compensation for victims of the 2013 oil trains disaster that killed 47 in the Quebec resort town of Lac-Mégantic.
A string of still-shiny, graffiti-free tank cars rests incongruously amid white apple blossoms with Oregon’s glaciered volcano shimmering in the distance.
Proposing a radical new business model, Quebec’s huge public pension fund announced April 22, 2016 that it will directly undertake construction and continuing operation of a 67-km (41.5-mile), double-tracked, electrified and fully automated rapid rail network, the Réseau électrique métropolitain (REM), which will transform commuting in Montreal and its immediate hinterland.
Rail industry cogitation focuses so far on Canadian Pacific's (CP) prospects for securing Surface Transportation Board (STB) approval for its—at first friendly and now increasingly hostile—attempt to take over Norfolk Southern (NS). Unremarked has been the even-less predictable, but equally essential, attitude of Canada's transportation and business regulators to a deal that would see one of the country's two Class I’s disappear into the alphabet soup of American megamergers.
Reaffirmation by the U.S. rail and hazardous materials regulators of new rules for the movement of flammable liquids means operational migraines for railroaders, without actually addressing the underlying cause of crude oil exploding in transit.
Canada's freshly elected Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, reached heavenward Nov. 4, 2015 in selecting the country's new Transport Minister, former NASA Space Shuttle astronaut Marc Garneau. The 66-year-old Garneau was Canada’s first man in space, logging 677 hours during three flights between 1984 and 2000.
Canada’s three major railways should benefit from the Oct. 19, 2015 sea-to-sea election sweep by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party of Canada. Trudeau’s party even managed to get four members of parliament elected in Alberta's two metropolises, Calgary and Edmonton—the ideological and financial anchors of the defeated Stephen Harper’s pro-pipeline and anti-rail Conservative government.
The wait for a new tank car specification is over. Now comes the “fun” part: Retrofits to older cars, and potentially onerous operating rules.