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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"De-Railed" screening in Toronto, April 4th

This is an excellent opportunity to view an excellent documentary about the state of Canada's railways.  If you are able, go along and see it.  Spread the word in the GTA!
"De-Railed" screening in Toronto, April 4th, Ryerson University

(For my review of De-Railed, click here).

Update on Derailment of VIA Rail Canada Train 92

It is hard to believe that is has been a year since the fatal accident involving VIA Train 92 in Burlington.  The TSB is working on the investigation which will culminate in the publication of a final report.  So far, the investigators have said that the conclusions are likely to focus on three key areas:
  • train operation
  • signal operation
  • structural strength of the rolling stock
The TSB has not said when the final report will be released.
Transportation Safety Board of Canada | Update on Derailment of VIA Rail Canada Train 92 (R12T0038) in Burlington, Ontario in February 2012

Fedeli to call for a formal audit of ONTC fire sale

This is not the first time that Fedeli has called for an investigation into the divestment of the ONTC, but his request has more authority.  Whether the divestment process continues or not, the process should be scrutinised to avoid a similar mess in future.
Fedeli to call for a formal audit of ONTC fire sale

Thursday, February 21, 2013

James Bond... On A Train

Despite the recent lack of photographic updates, I have been out and about capturing the British railway scene.  Here a few highlights:

Sometimes, trains on the East Coast Main Line fail and it is up to "Thunderbird" locomotives to go and pull them for the rest of the trip.  Generally, the rescue locomotive is one of DB Schenker's class 67s.  Don't ask me why, but 67020 was actually timetabled to pull 1G55 for its entire run.  I think that it might have been due to engineering works.  It made for a nice shot, followed by a quick escape before the Saturday night party-goers got too numerous around the station.

Sometimes trainspotting isn't archaic, or unpopular.  To promote the release of Skyfall on DVD, an entire IC 225 set has been redone in promo wrap.  The locomotive has even been renumbered 91007!  As I waited to see it, York station staff also came out to take a look, cameraphones at the ready.  It is nice to know that I wasn't seen as a security threat!  Everyone stopped to have a look and to comment on how nice the train looked.  The set should still be running, keep an eye out for it!

Two special trains in two nights, how will I ever keep up!

ONTC: The Wellar Reports

I have a confession to make: I had never heard of Dr. Barry Wellar until this morning.  For this, I will hang my head in shame.*  However, now that I have been made aware of his work, I have a treasure trove of material to increase the depth of the research for Call of the Northland.

Barry Wellar is a retired Professor of Geography at the University of Ottawa and he is working with Transport Action Canada to investigate the decision to end the Northlander and the wider ONTC issue.  Given the public nature of the ONTC issue, his work is being made available online on his website (most recent reports are further down the list).

It is a wonderful treasure trove of information on the workings of the decision and I will be spending much time going through it - eventually.  I must admit that it is rather difficult to research the ONTC from half-way around the world while also pursuing full-time study.  Sadly, the same goes for revising the book as a whole.  I am increasingly thinking that the release date will be pushed back, but that can only improve the book.  I will have my work cut out for me when I am next in Canada!

I look forward to seeing the next releases from the ongoing investigation.

*In my defence, I am 3600 miles from Ontario.

Fedeli 'disappointed'

Despite assurances that all of Ontario matters, Vic Fedeli isn't impressed so far.
Fedeli 'disappointed' | North Bay Nugget

GCA calls on Premier to release ONTERA Documents

As with all press releases, they only tell one side of the story.  However, this isn't a good start for the new government.
General Chairperson's Association (GCA) | GCA calls on Premier to release ONTERA Documents

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Fresh Start

The controversy of Dalton McGuinty's resignation last year is now over.  The party has a new leader, Ontario has a new premier and, with the reading of the throne speech, parliament is back in session.

So far, the NDP have said that they will support the government, the Conservatives will not.  The throne speech has been described as "vague" but promising.  The big test, it seems, will be what the budget holds.

Vic Fedeli has towed his party's line, suggesting that the new cabinet is simply an extension of the previous one and that northern Ontario will once again be ignored.  He is, however, very happy with Michael Gravelle being minister of Northern Development and Mines.

Northern Ontario got little mention in the speech, but it was made clear that people would be helped wherever in Ontario they happened to live.

Clement takes charge in Ring of Fire

It's no secret that Stephen Harper is a natural resources kind of guy.  Frankly, the fact that Canada's economy is mostly resource-driven is probably what has helped stave off recession (that and prudent banking laws from the previous government).  To appoint Tony Clement to look at the Ring of Fire is a promising move and suggests that the government is looking to take the area seriously.  However, there is no mention yet of what transportation infrastructure might be involved.
Clement takes charge in Ring of Fire

New cabinet panned, northern picks lauded

It seems that the decision to appoint northern politicians to "northern" portfolios is popular and uncontroversial.  The rest of the cabinet?  Not so much...
New cabinet panned, northern picks lauded | Your online newspaper for North Bay, Ontario

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Northlander on CBC Radio

Yesterday, CBC Radio show Living Out Loud broadcast a very moving documentary on the last run of the Northlander.  It is worth a listen, as is the segment on the sounds of trains and how people are so drawn to them.  You can download the show here.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Gravelle wants dialogue

After only 48 hours in charge of Northern Development and Mines, it would be foolish to commit to massive changes.  Wisely, Michael gravelle hasn't, but he has said he wants to talk to northern leaders.  So, what is the current projection for an end to divestment?  In a word: unlikely.
Gravelle wants dialogue | North Bay Nugget

Metrolinx may consider charging for GO parking

GO Transit's commuter trains are a true success story.  Every day, they carry nearly 200,000 commuters in the GTA, a number which really does put a dent in the number of cars on the road.  Unfortunately, most of these commuters then get in a car to travel from the station to their homes.  Charging for parking would have two benefits.  Firstly, it would provide additional revenue for Metrolinx, which could be invested in making an even better network.  Secondly, it might make some people think twice about driving to the station.

Any parking charge would have to be considered carefully because it will lead to a certain number of commuters giving up on the train and choosing to drive instead.  This should be avoided at all costs.  A good way to prevent this would be for Metrolinx to work closely with municipal transit providers to provide an attractive alternative to driving to the station.  As the PRESTO system rolls out, it is time to look for other ways to make transit systems work better as one entity.
Metrolinx may consider charging for GO parking | Toronto Star

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Pro-ONTC Cabinet?

Kathleen Wynne's new cabinet was announced on Monday.  Let us consider the new new team in relation to the ONTC (a full list of cabinet ministers can be found here).

Despite the rumours, David Orazietti is not the new Minister for Northern Development and Mines.  Instead, he has been given charge of Natural Resources while Michael Gravelle takes over from Rick Bartolucci.  These two "northern" portfolios thus remain in the hands of northern MPPs, but shift the balance of power away from Sudbury.

Pro-ONTC leadership candidate Glen Murray is now the Minister of Transport and Infrastructure while Charles Sousa, also opposed to the divestment process, is the new Minister of Finance.  These are important cabinet posts and could be important for the future of the ONTC.

The New Deal plan is still on the table, but a lot of work must be done if it is to become a reality.

The Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities is pleased with the new cabinet, especially given the track records of the new ministers, and hopes that the ONTC will be a top priority for the new government.

Here's to a fresh start!

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Sault MPP not admitting to cabinet post

There aren't many Liberal MPPs in northern Ontario.  With Bartolucci resigning his post at Northern Development and Mines, speculation has turned to the only MPP from the north who doesn't currently have a portfolio (Thunder Bay-Superior North MPP Michael Gravelle has Natural Resources): Sault Ste Marie MPP David Orazietti.  Only time will tell...
Sault MPP not admitting to cabinet post

Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci announces retirement

After 28 years in politics, Bartolucci has decided to call it a day.  Looking at the highly beneficial infrastructure projects he helped with, including a northern Ontario medical school and road improvements, I can't help but feel that he leaves with a dark ONTC cloud over his head.
Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci announces retirement

Bartolucci resigns

When Kathleen Wynne won the Liberal leadership race, I had a feeling that developments on the ONTC front would start to move quickly.  It looks like I might be right.  Rick Bartolucci has decided to step down as Minister for Northern development and Mines and will not run at the next election.  His leadership saw the announcement of the sale of the ONTC, a decision he has always stood by, and it is unclear whether that plan is compatible with Wynne's vision for the north.  Did he feel he would lose his cabinet post anyway?  Did he think he might not win his seat again at the next election?  Maybe both?
Bartolucci resigns | North Bay Nugget

Wynne firm on committee for north

Actually talking with the north must be a good sign of a change at Queen's Park.
Wynne firm on committee for north | North Bay Nugget

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Co's spar over ore transport

In the second half of an analysis on the Ring of Fire, the tone is decidedly optimistic that things will start happening in the next few months.
Co's spar over ore transport | Sudbury Star

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Draft 6 Underway!

It has been a lot of work, but I am now writing draft 6 of Call of the Northland.  Even after the last run of the Northlander last September, many things have happened in the story of the ONTC and 2013 is looking to be just as busy.  This draft sees the complete reorganisation of the book into one coherent narrative, rather than two books in one.  As I have said before, the tentative release date is at the end of September, but I will push it back if I feel more work is needed.

I would also like to announce the launch of a dedicated website for the book.  This will act as a portal to help promote it and to help readers to get in touch with me.  It is a work in progress, but take a look at

Ring of Fire: Rail or Road?

A very good history of the Ring of Fire and why rail is important to the project.
Ring of Fire: Rail or Road? | Sudbury Star

Friday, February 01, 2013

Hughes calls for commitment to passenger rail

It is so easy to get blinkered when working on a specific project.  Indeed, the ONTC issue is important to Ontario, but it isn't the only rail issue in the province.  Never forget, we are seeing a system-wide cutback of passenger rail services that must stop.
Hughes calls for commitment to passenger rail | Cochrane Times Post