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Friday, May 31, 2013

A busy day of ONTC developments

Speculation was growing over the past 24 hours as to what might happen to the ONTC divestment debate. The media's curiosity was piqued when Vic Fedeli called a press conference for this morning, where he planned to announce a new discovery in the paper trail previously reported here.

Fedeli did not disappoint. Citing newly-released internal government documents, the Opposition's energy critic accused the government of completely misrepresenting the financial reasoning for the divestment process. While the McGuinty government claimed that the divestment would save $265 million, Fedeli's research indicates that the government in fact estimates that the divestment would cost over $790 million, mainly due to pension liabilities. This would negate the entire rationale behind the divestment process.

In the news conference, Fedeli reiterated his call for the government to halt the "charade" and to support the ONTC as the "economic engine of the north."

In an unrelated development, the CBC is reporting that there is no longer a timeframe for the sale of Ontera, suggesting that the whole process is being reconsidered.

Multiplying A4s

Multiplying A4s by Thomas Blampied
Multiplying A4s, a photo by Thomas Blampied on Flickr.
Via Flickr:
Three of the six A4s taking part in the "Great Gathering" events throughout the next year at the National Railway Museum in York are now on display in the Great Hall. Right to left: joining the NRM's 'Mallard' are newly-restored 'Dominion of Canada' (on loan from Exporail in Quebec) and 'Dwight D. Eisenhower (on loan from the National Railroad Museum in Wisconsin).

Thursday, May 30, 2013

ONTC sale against government’s own advice

New documents have surfaced that appear to show how badly planned the divestment process for the ONTC really was. Vic Fedeli's office has found documents from 2012 that appear to show high-level government officials advising the government to stop with the divestment plan as it would not work and would cause major public upset. Notable among the documents is a claim that the financial implications of the divestment have not been considered, backing up the allegations that the whole process was botched from the start.
In recent weeks, the government's resolve in the divestment fight has weakened, suggesting that the reality of the mess that is the ONTC issue is starting to come to light.
ONTC sale against government’s own advice | Your online newspaper for North Bay, Ontario

For further commentary, see the North Bay Nipissing News editorial on the subject.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Origin Displays Goes to Work in Northern Ontario

I applaud Ontario Northland's new menu boards, which feature items in the Cree language.
Origin Displays Goes to Work in Northern Ontario - Times Union

Gas plant money could have been used in the north, MP charges

It's the same accusation, and once again there is no clear answer.  The Auditor General's report is going to be a very important moment in the ONTC issue.
Gas plant money could have been used in the north, MP charges - CBC News

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Ontario Northland Video - Extended Cut

In 2011, Ontario Northland made a promotional video to highlight the many important services the ONTC provides to northern Ontario and beyond.  They have recently uploaded an extended cut to show even more of the many different benefits the ONTC offers to Ontario.

As the divestment process continues, think for a moment about what the video is saying.  Do we really want the government to throw all of it away?

Horwath credits NDP pressure

I need to respectfully disagree with the leader of the NDP's assertion than any softening of tone on the divestment front is a result of NDP pressure.  Let us not forget that we have a new premier who appears to want to mend links that McGuinty severed.  The NDP did not not topple the 2012 budget, a move that would have stopped the divestment before it got as messy as it now is.  Indeed, the NDP has helped, but it is local opposition and the numbers that the Auditor General is now investigating that have really made a difference.
Horwath credits NDP pressure | North Bay Nugget

Friday, May 24, 2013

BC Premiere Screening of De-Railed, June 6th

The excellent documentary De-Railed: The National Dream is heading to the west coast.  If you happen to be in the Victoria Area, this is your chance to see this excellent story about how Canada's railways are at risk and about some of the people are fighting to stop Canada losing a vital part of our transportation infrastructure.  Of particular interest to a BC audience, the documentary looks at efforts to restart passenger rail service on Vancouver Island.
British Columbia Premiere Screening of De-Railed, June 6th

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Fedeli says Liberals silence on ONTC costs speaks volumes

Speculations continue as to the true cost of the divestment process.  Only the Auditor General's report will be able to clarify the issue.
Fedeli says Liberals silence on ONTC costs speaks volumes

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Stainforth Slide Cleanup - 14 May 2013

Via Flickr:
In February of this year, a spoil heap at the Hatfield Colliery began to slip, burying under the nearby railway line and lifting and distorting the track. Since then, the spoil has continued to move and the railway has been closed, with freight services diverted and passengers being bused between Doncaster and Scunthorpe. According to a Network Rail source last week, surveys of the unstable ground suggest that the spoil is water-logged for more than 150 feet down and must be removed. As such, a large amount of work must still be done to stabilise the area before track repairs can begin. The latest (optimistic) estimates suggest the closure will continue until at least the end of the year. This image shows the colliery and the Hatfield & Stainforth railway station, with the buried track in the distance.

Northlander in premier’s spotlight

Cautious optimism perhaps, but this suggests that the Northlander story isn't actually over.
Northlander in premier’s spotlight

Meeting focused on ONTC studies, finances

There has been a definite shift in the last few weeks: actual dialogue!
Meeting focused on ONTC studies, finances | North Bay Nugget

Thursday, May 16, 2013

ONTC 'essential' for economy: Hudak

Hudak does make a valid point linking economic health with transportation infrastructure, but it does not hide the fact that the previous divestment attempt a decade ago was a Conservative idea.
ONTC 'essential' for economy: Hudak | North Bay Nugget

Monday, May 13, 2013

Red 90

Red 90 by Thomas Blampied
Red 90, a photo by Thomas Blampied on Flickr.
Via Flickr:
90018 leads a Durham-bound railtour at York, 11 May 2013.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Gravelle says divestment not the only option

In the nearly 14 months since the divestment of the ONTC was announced, this is probably the most important statement to date.  Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle has said that it is time to consider other options, as well as divestment, for the future of the ONTC.  Among the possibilities is a partnership with Metrolinx, including refurbishment work in North Bay.  Ironically, such work did exist until the GO Transit contract was lost to a Quebec-based company.  It is early days, but this is a definite change in tone.
Gravelle says divestment not the only option | North Bay Nugget

Friday, May 10, 2013

FONOM Looking for ONTC Commitment from Minister Wynne

Kathleen Wynne has taken much more time that McGuinty ever did to address concerns from northern Ontario.  That said, I very much doubt that the divestment will be halted as a result of this meeting.
FONOM Looking for ONTC Commitment from Minister Wynne

ONTC sale could be costly

Vic Fedeli reiterates his claim that the divestment process will cost far more than it will ever save.  Hopefully the fall's Auditor General report will clarify the issue.
ONTC sale could be costly | Kapuskasing Times

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Princelet Street, London

When I am not rambling on about railway subjects, taking photographs, or writing a book, my alter-ego is studying history.  Here is a piece I wrote about a recent trip to 19 Princelet Street in London.
A visit to the Museum of Immigration and Diversity, 19 Princelet Street | Family & Colonialism Research Network

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Adobe Photoshop rule change to hit photographers

As if photography weren't expensive enough as it is, Adobe will make Photoshop & Co. subscription based for all future releases.  Expect copies of CS6 to fly off shelves AND expect a lot of people to look for other software companies (*cough* Apple *cough*).
Adobe Photoshop rule change to hit photographers | Amateur Photographer

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

By rail - The Big Picture

I really enjoy the Boston Globe's "The Big Picture" and the latest edition is 47 incredible photographs of railways from around the world.  It makes me realise just how much of an impact railways have had on our world and how much we take them for granted.
By rail - The Big Picture -

Monday, May 06, 2013

Cosway's Corner - For love of trains

A few months ago, I was interviewed by John Cosway for his column in the Wayback Times, a Canadian antiques and collectibles newspaper.  His article is about the love of railways and how the train has enthralled generations of people.  Railfans are a central focus for the piece, so I was the sort of person he was looking for.

Anyone with a love of things older than, say, five minutes ago will enjoy reading it.  I did.
Cosway's Corner by John Cosway - For love of trains

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Liverpool Street Rush

Liverpool Street Rush by Thomas Blampied
Liverpool Street Rush, a photo by Thomas Blampied on Flickr.
Patience is key to getting shots at Liverpool Street during rush hour. I was able to grab this shot during a brief lull in the stream of commuters.

Cannon Street

Cannon Street by Thomas Blampied
Cannon Street, a photo by Thomas Blampied on Flickr.
I recently had the chance to spend the day in London and decided to see as many of the capital's railway stations as I could.  Here is Cannon Street at the start of another London rush hour.

ONTC turns down Battalion

Another PR mess is brewing surrounding the ONTC divestment.  Three requests for charter services have been turned down as the ONTC has been directed to use its bus fleet only for scheduled runs.  This is, of course, because the bus network is now having to cope with former Northlander passenger too.

More relevant to my research is the amount of secrecy around the divestment process.  Virtually every document related to the decision is not available through the Freedom of Information Act.  So much for transparency.
ONTC turns down Battalion | North Bay Nugget

Hope for the ONTC?

According to a statement on the New Deal North website, the Ontario Budget has stated that the ONTC is important to the north.  While there is no plan to end the divestment process, the new wording might indicate a willingness to consider alternatives.
New Deal for Northern Ontario

Friday, May 03, 2013

Ontario Liberals' fate over budget hangs on NDP

It's funny how things repeat themselves.  A year ago, we were waiting to see if the NDP would topple the government and once again it looks like the NDP will be deciding the fate of the new budget.  This article does not mention northern issues, but according to a report on TVO,  Northern Development and Mines is having a large portion of its budget cut.  There is no word on how this might affect the ONTC, but it is safe to assume that the government is not wavering in its commitment to complete the divestment process.  I still question how the government intends to tap into the "Ring of Fire" if it doesn't have a stake in the transportation infrastructure.
Ontario Liberals' fate over budget hangs on NDP - CBC News

Fedeli asks if ONTC is next Liberal scandal

Rather than wait for the Auditor General's report, Vic Fedeli is again accusing the government of financial mismanagement.  Of particular note in this release is the use of "McGuinty-Wynne" Liberals, suggesting no change in government policy.
Fedeli asks if ONTC is next Liberal scandal

As Amtrak Aid Ends, States Face Decision on Local Routes

Just when things were looking up for Amtrak, it seems that the passenger rail operator may be shrinking.  Will communities be able to save their train service?  It probably depends on what state they are in and whether any funding can be sourced.
As Amtrak Aid Ends, States Face Decision on Local Routes -

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Free CBC!

Simply put, Stephen Harper is very close to owning the CBC.  If the Budget passes, the federal governmment will have control of 80% of the public broadcaster's budget.  Editorial independence?  I think not.

Please sign the petition to help protect the CBC.

HST Railtour

HST Railtour by Thomas Blampied
HST Railtour, a photo by Thomas Blampied on Flickr.
I have been meaning to catch up with photographs for a while, but the backlog keeps getting longer longer. Here is a shot of an HST pulling a Redmire-St Pancras railtour last month.

ONTC: Fedeli slams latest 'scandal'

This story is similar to accusations made last summer that the ONTC is being prevented from taking on new business.  Not only does this policy prevent the Commission from showing that it can be viable, but it also shows that the government are intent on continuing with the divestment, despite the ongoing Auditor General's investigation.
ONTC: Fedeli slams latest 'scandal' | North Bay Nugget

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Canada's new polymer $5 and $10 bills

It wasn't exactly a secret that the new $10 bill would feature VIA Rail's The Canadian, but now it has been officially released.  Unfortunately, my first impression is that it is UGLY!

However, looking at the route map in the background, does this mean that the government will keep funding VIA all across Canada?  It would be pretty pathetic to have to re-issue bills if there were more budget cuts.
Zoom: Canada's new polymer $5 and $10 bills