Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Quebec Monorail (moteur roue - moh tar rooo)

Philippe Couillard has proposed building a monorail from Montreal to Quebec to deal with traffic issues between the two cities. The proposal is to use Trensquebec's theoretical monorail idea to create a 250km/h overhead style monorail. I'm all for high speed rail links between cities, what puzzles me is how a crackpot idea got enough traction to end up being proposed by the premier of Quebec.

Many people seem to think of convention rail as being very slow. It certainly doesn't help that most of the experiences we have with rail involved waiting at rail crossings in our cars while an incredibly slow freight train passes by. The definition of conventional rails goes up to 200km/h for pre-exisitng track and 240km/h for new track. High speed rail is typically 300km/h. Even VIA rail trains, that aren't known for their speed, are going 150km/h. It's quite humbling when you're passed by a VIA train while driving along the 401.

The biggest problems with going fast on existing rails in North America is the entire system is setup and optimized for freight. The track quality is not great, the signaling is all setup for low speeds, the bends are tight, there's level crossings all over the place and the mile long freight trains inch by at 50km/h. There are so many freight trains that VIA will be unable to provide service in the near future as it will be too crowded to run passenger trains. All this is why VIA trains go at 150km/h instead of 200km/h.

The solution is new track. VIA has proposed a very inexpensive solution they call high frequency rail. The proposal creates a VIA dedicated line so that they can run their trains at 150km/h to +180km/h speeds with no random delays (like today) thanks to freight trains blocking the way. What people have noticed in europe is that the frequency of the trains and sticking to a schedule is more important to ridership than max speed. With VIA's proposal it gets that.

Then there's Trensquebec. The biggest issue with them is there's no technology. It's not a real project. There's not even a prototype train on prototype track. There's also their suspiciously low cost estimates (it should be higher than the high speed rail proposals) as well as their suspiciously high operating speed (I would estimate ~200km/h max if that). At this point I think it's a big con. Quebec should be teaming up with the federal government and private industry to back VIA's proposal.

No comments: