Why is Canada late to the game?

VIA-High-Speed-Train
VIA Rail-High-Speed-Train (Image: Jon Curnow)

Why is Canada so late to the game — the game, that is, of high-speed electrically powered trains? They already crisscross much of Western Europe. You’ll also find them in both Taiwan and South Korea. And China is rolling out high-speed rail as if there were no tomorrow. But Canada? Canada doesn’t even rate an honorable mention.

Oh, Kathleen Wynne, Ontario’s premier, said during the recent provincial election campaign that she’d build a high-speed electric line from Toronto to, say, London. But this is probably years away. And, yes, to its credit, Via Rail, Canada’s answer to Amtrak, has spent royally over the past few years — but on new stations, new coaches and in some cases, new tracks. No overhead electric wires for Via.

Now comes word that Israel has called for tenders for electric passenger trains for its railway system. Yes, little Israel, a country that’s about the size of New Jersey and which is perennially fighting for its life. But if Israel can go electric, why can’t Canada do the same? After all, Canada isn’t fighting for its life. And its population in that part of the country, where high-speed trains would make the most sense, is large enough. So, what’s the problem?

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