VIA has some ideas about what the new ministry could do for them: 4 billion dollars worth.
http://www.thestar.com/business/2015/10 ... tment.html
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I suppose we should recognise first off that VIA's prospects haven't perfectly aligned with party expectations. Paul Martin did very little for VIA, and fingers were pointed at his family involvement with Voyageur Bus. Collennette couldn't shut up about high speed rail but neglected the kind of boring but achievable improvements we've seen in Michigan and Illinois. By contrast, despite talking tough in opposition VIA doesn't look all that much smaller post-Tories, and stuff like Kingston Sub 3rd track got done, as did P42, LRC, F40, RDC and Canadian car refurbs too. Some improvement on Montreal-Ottawa happened too.
Before the crazy crayon drawing begins, we need to recognise that we need a fleet replacement plan ASAP, since the LRC and HEP corridor fleets have only so much longer to go and it will take a while to get a procurement process started. In Siemens Viaggio there is the possibility of a more or less ready to go modern ADA/FRA corridor car which All Aboard Florida will find the non-snow related bugs in. For expansion, some P42s might be available in the market once Chargers roll out on US services - there's no prospect for >100mph trackage any time soon so why lash out for F125s or Chargers until there is?
Canada actually formalising what it wants and being willing to contribute from international services would be good, since Amtrak and the border States do most of the heavy lifting. Getting Montreal customs finished to chop time out of Adirondack would be a start, as would some cash to figure out a better/faster way to get trains from Rouses Point to Montreal. That helps push Vermonter-to-Montreal along. I don't know if there are any incremental projects in a drawer that would help Cascades between the border and Vancouver. Whether Maple Leaf continues as a stopping service or converts to a Cascades style closed train with customs in Toronto with GO picking up the intermediates should be discussed. I can't see Windsor or Sarnia-US routes happening - too capital intensive for too little return, especially since Windsor station was moved to a location which I believe is not terribly convenient for the tunnel.
As far as reopening routes/new services I think the Americans have shown the way here - the Provinces can't simply line up with their hand out but should commit to covering operating losses, either fully or as an alternative where losses are above the average loss per passenger mile on the legacy network. There is not a ready to go federal provincial partnership structure for VIA as Amtrak has with the States so that should be an early priority. Unfortunately an opportunity was missed to start this with a transfer of Northlander from Ontario (back) to VIA and its economies of scale but with Ontario providing funding. Routes like Sherbrooke-Montreal as business/commuter routes might be worth looking at earlier than creating 2-3 weekly services in thinly populated areas.
BC will probably make another play for Vancouver Island service to resume but to my mind they don't have a plan for a viable service. To my mind they should be outbasing the train 60-90mins distance, running it into Esquimalt/Victoria (as close as you can get to the city centre with the rail bridge gone) as a commuter service, doing a leisure run during the day as far north as time allows and being back in Victoria to run the commuters home.
In theory there hasn't been a better time in years for new rail service in Alberta, such as Calgary-Edmonton, with an NDP government but they are staring at massive deficits so I doubt they are in a position to even glance at it.
To me, the best approach is incremental improvement which is basically what VIA has been doing for the last few years - increasing frequency, squeezing existing trackage to remove speed restrictions/bolted track/dark territory - but at an increased tempo. Shooting for north of 100mph service means issues like cab signalling/PTC suddenly start ringing money alarm bells which will suck the political oxygen out of all VIA spending discussion. It should also be borne in mind that any significant spend will be in the teeth of bleating from the Taxpayer Taliban and from competitor coach lines, possibly even some airlines.