Just in case the return of rail service from Toronto to Ottawa via Peterborough is indeed a go, Frontenac County and Central Frontenac Council are both looking at making sure the case for a stop in Sharbot Lake is made to VIA rail, the builder, and the government of Canada, the funder.
As well, the Sharbot Lake Business Group, which was formed over the last year, to promote the interests of the business community in the vicinity of the hamlet, is looking at what needs to be done to ensure Sharbot Lake, and Central Frontenac, are enhanced by the return of passenger rail to the region.
(See article by Bill Bowick)
According to reporting from the CBC, VIA Rail is expecting a decision from Transport Canada on the $4 billion project in 2019, and if the go ahead is coming, it will likely be referred to in the Federal Budget, which will be tabled next week.
Paul Langan, who lives in Cambridge, is a long-time advocate for High Speed Rail, and runs the website Highspeedrailcanada.com. He is not, however, a supporter, nor a believer, in the Shining Waters Rail line.
“I question how VIA rail is making a proposal for $4 billion in federal dollars for a project that does not have a business plan attached to it. VIA has not even talked to the planning department of the City of Ottawa about the impact on the rail station from this new service,” he said.
VIA is promoting the line as a “high frequency train” rather than a high speed train, and Langan argues that the speeds that VIA is proposing will not make the train any more successful than it was when passenger service ceased, along the corridor, over 50 years ago.
“This 4 billion dollar debacle has VIA trains travelling at 1975 era speeds through sparsely-populated areas on an abandoned Ontario-Quebec Railway line. (Toronto-Peterborough-Ottawa). Then the line travels on to Montreal-Trois-Rivières-Québec City.”
He also points out that the proposal to run trains along the old line would result in level crossings at dozens of locations along the line, which would pose a safety risk. Langan says that railways around the world have implemented a standard of “Positive Train Controls” (PTC) on their passenger lines, to prevent accidents, but VIA has not adopted them.
“There is no information in what VIA Rail has released in their $4 billion plan that suggests PTC will be implemented on the track they will be building. Track that VIA Rail currently runs on, mostly CN Rail, is not slated to implement PTC systems. The plan should never be approved, but if it is approved, the federal government must demand PTC along the line,” he wrote.
In particular for Sharbot Lake, Langan points to a presentation made by VIA in Quebec last year, which presents a map that does not include Sharbot Lake or Tweed. This contradicts a map that includes both stops that was sent earlier to Central Frontenac and Frontenac County. This, he claims, shows that stops in Sharbot Lake and Tweed are not really planned for the proposed line, but that VIA is saying they will work out those details later.
However, the map that Langan included in his article only came from a presentation, and may only have been included to give a more general impression of the proposed rail system, skipping smaller stations that are still part of the plan. The map he points to also misses several stops in Quebec, including Dorion, Dorval and Laval near Montreal, and Ancienne Lorette and Sainte Foy near Quebec City.
In a phone interview this week with the News, Langan said that if people living in Sharbot Lake end up with a station and a service that helps the community, “I would be happy for them. I don’t oppose anyone in Sharbot Lake. I just think that there is a reason why passenger service was canceled many years ago and the same economic logic is still the same. VIA is using deception to get communities along the line to buy into their plan.”
While VIA has communicated with officials from Frontenac County and Central Frontenac Township over the last year or so, no details about the plan have been released other than the station map that came out a year ago.
According to Langan, “the facts are clear, VIA rail does not want the public to know the details of their plan. If they were a private corporation that would be fine, but they are a public corporation and they are seeking government money for their plans, so the public should be informed.”