Pearson has a problem. And it’s not going to be solved anytime soon.

Toronto’s Pearson Intl. Airport has a problem: it’s bursting at the seams.  The airport, Canada’s busiest, recently said its daily passenger count this summer is likely to hit 150,000 — a 50 per cent increase over what Pearson typically handled on its busiest days just a decade ago. Indeed, if passenger stats stay strong, the airport is likely to handle 9.6 million passengers this year between Canada Day and Labor Day — an increase of 13 per cent over the same period in 2015.

(Toronto’s Pearson International Airport)

Continue reading “Pearson has a problem. And it’s not going to be solved anytime soon.”

Canada Will Get On Board (Some Day)

Canada has been around for close to 150 years. Israel has been around for less than half that time. Canada has 36.1 million people; Israel,  8.5 million. Canada’s gross domestic product is C$1.6 trillion; Israel’s, $281.9 billion. Canada faces no continuing threat to its existence; while Israel hasn’t known a single day of peace since it came into being.

Continue reading “Canada Will Get On Board (Some Day)”

How many airports can the Mideast support?

Just when you thought the Mideast’s airport footprint was big enough, Kuwait Intl. Airport says it will build a new terminal — one that will handle 25 million passengers a year. That’s more than double the number the airport welcomed in 2015.


(Model of new terminal at Kuwait Intl. Airport)

But Kuwait’s expansion pales before that in Turkey where the biggest airport in the world is now being built near Istanbul. That new terminal, when fully completed, will handle 150 million passengers a year.

Istanbul New Airport shaping up as a hub for the 21st century

(Model of new airport in Istanbul)

And although Israel is a piker when compared to passenger traffic elsewhere in the Mideast, it too has jumped aboard the bandwagon, readying a new airport at the southern tip of the country for use in April 2017.

(New airport in southern Israel now under construction)

Still, if forecasts are borne out, there’s a good chance that the new runways, taxi strips, tarmacs and terminal buildings will  be sorely needed. The Mideast, which attracts around 52 million tourists a year, will see the greatest growth in air traffic in the world, predicts Airbus, while the number of  passengers flying through Arab airports is expected to jump to 571 million over the next 10 years.



Africa needs the economic blast that only railways can provide

Railways have historically been generators of economic growth, connecting new markets to existing ones, finding buyers in the interior for manufacturers on the coast. North America, for example, would never have become the economic powerhouse it became at the turn of the last century, had railways not laid down a dense web of lines. Indeed, by 1900, the rails blanketed the continent., their uniform gauge making possible the quick transfer of freight from Canada to the U.S. and vice versa.

But Africa is missing out on the economic blast that only railways can provide. More than 100 years after Cecil Rhodes dreamed of a Cape-to-Cairo line, the continent seems no closer than it was then to realizing Rhodes`dream.

And although dozens of rail lines run from various points on the coast to various parts of the interior, these tracks don`t even begin to suggest the likelihood of a continent-wide railway network — a network that will be difficult to build, given the different gauges that are now being used.





Too many airlines? Likely so.

Darwinian theory may have worked its will in the railway industry, where only six big outfits remain in North America. But it seems to have been stymied in the airline industry.

Forty or so years ago, there were dozens of major railways in North America. Remember the New York Central, the Pennsy, the Erie Lackawanna, the New Haven,  all now long gone? Or, how about the Southern Pacific, the Western Pacific and the Chicago and Northwestern? Long gone as well.

But  the airline industry? Well, that’s another story. If Wikipedia,  for example, can be believed, there are now 5,000 airlines that have registered with the International Civil Aviation Assc., the United Nations agency that sets standards for global air transport.

And although not all of these 5,000 outfits boast worldwide networks, as well as phalanxes of jets, there are likely dozens that actually do. The result? A fiercely competitive industry in which profit margins are wafer-thin.

Why the glut of air carriers worldwide? Hubris, probably. Each country, no matter how small and how poor, obviously thinks it’s nothing without its own national airline. At least that’s the thinking of an airline industry analyst to whom I spoke several years ago.

But North America has known no plethora of national egos. And although it does boast 50 states, 10 provinces and three territories, none seems to think its self-esteem will take a beating if it doesn’t have its own railway.

The result has been an ineluctable movement toward consolidation, amalgamation and rationalization — especially along the Eastern Seaboard, where double trackage has been cut back to single track, or where hundreds of miles of trackage have simply been torn up. or just abandoned. In fact, if Canadian Pacific Railway hadn’t been derailed in its recent efforts to merge with Norfolk Southern, there would now be one less big road in North America!




No pussyfootin’ around

There was no pussyfooting around at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport last week. When a cat that had wandered  out on the tarmac refused to get out of the way of a Ukraine International Airlines plane,  airport authorities zoomed out and sent the feline flying.

So nonchalant was the cat that it didn’t bat an eyelash despite the plane’s bright lights and rumbling engines! It just shows how purrrrrblind some animals can be!,7340,L-4813730,00.html



It’s a real gas. . . maybe!


An article in Canada’s Financial Post last fall suggested North America’s railways could save a bundle by running their locomotives on natural gas and not diesel fuel. Of course, the article appeared before petroleum prices went into a tailspin.

So, the fuel savings that railways could realize may not now be as great. Still, the idea has merit, if for no other reason that gas prices have historically trailed those for oil. Interestingly enough, starting in the 1950s, Union Pacific used locomotives powered by gas turbines, phasing them out by 1969 when they became too expensive to operate.

Hold the applause


As noted in England’s Guardian newspaper, China thinks it’s on the right track with what it says is the world’s longest freight service: an 8,100-mile haul from Yiwu, that country’s wholesale hub, to Spain — specifically Madrid. The train made its maiden run in early December.

Not only does China view the service as a new chapter in rail freight haulage between Asia and Europe, but the train took half the time — three weeks — a ship would have needed to make the same trip.

There’s only one problem: the differences in track gauge between China and Russia and between Europe and Spain. The different gauges required the train to be unloaded and reloaded three times.

And although the 30 containers which made up the train’s consist were likely easily handled by cranes, the need to transfer cargo was — and is —  time-consuming. Moreover, as several contributors to the online forum at noted, Russia is unlikely to spend the billions needed to standard-gauge its railway network anytime soon.

True, China, which is standard gauge, could get a same-gauge link to Europe by building a rail link to Iran through Afghanistan. But this is likely to happen, given the terrorism that plagues the Kabul regime, as one of’s contributors notes.

Why is Canada late to the game?

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?