Zoom zoom

Bill Belliveau is making the case for high speed rail around New Brunswick.  Live in St. Stephen, work in Saint John.  Live in Miramichi, work in Moncton, etc.   Belliveau is a thoughtful guy and mostly makes sense.  This idea also has some merit in the long term but as I have said before with the exception of highways – governments in New Brunswick rarely build infrastructure out front of growth.  When was the last time the government invested in rail?  How about ports?  Even airport investments are done begrudgingly.

High speed rail around the province would only cost something like five years’ worth of annual EI payments in New Brunswick.  I have no idea what the real number would be but we spend $700 million in a typical year on EI in New Brunswick mostly as a seasonal wage supplement and I figure that $3.5 billion would go a long way towards the cost of a high speed rail system.

As Belliveau speaks, I hear bureacrats all over Fredericton shuddering.  The idea of building 1,100 kms worth of track from Edmundston to Tracadie down to Moncton and Saint John and then down to St. Stephen and up to Edmundston is a frighteningly expensive concept with huge annual subsidies to run it forever.

I think we need to have a serious economic renewal that generates thousands of new jobs around the province.  Then we can start thinking again about how to manage growth rather than how to manage decline.

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5 Responses to Zoom zoom

  1. Frederic S. Gionet says:

    As I see it, the gamble was placed on our current highway system (which is a phenomenal improvement over the 2 lane suicide trail the TC was only a decade or so back) to the detriment of alternative forms of transportation. While I would love to spend my time during a Moncton-Fredericton commute working from an Internet-enabled, Euro-type train, I believe we must make the most of what we have at this point. Rail is simply not feasible to carry a handful of workers from all parts of the province. Dreaming is cheap though, and I always support those who envision Utopian societies as models for which to ascend.

    In the meantime, I think the focus should be to be on the forefront of emerging technologies and business…or at least grab our part of the action. A few good starting points can be found here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_emerging_technologies

  2. Tyler MacLeod says:

    An interesting thought. Why a provincial wide rail though? Would smaller steps be feasible? A Fredricton to Moncton rail to start, then add in other cities as the project succeeds. If that is going well, then you could start connecting communities to cities later.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is an old idea that gets recycled every now and again. Sounds great but we are lacking the political will to force centralization of things like universities, airports and health services. A major attraction of an effective HSR would be the opportunity for reduction of redundancy and duplication of assets like 4 airports when we can probably barely justify one for our population. If we we were able to couple the HSR concept with redundancy reduction, the costs savings would make the economic viability of a HSR more attractive.
    Unfortunately, even with the rail, I expect that every community would expect a university campus, hospital and airport regardless of the economic viability or size of the community.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I know that this comment is off-topic, but the Miramichi+Euro-train comments sparked my memory. What happened to all those ideas of using Ireland as a model of development for New Brunswick??? There is nothing like one day after the other to bring people down to earth…

  5. David Jonah says:

    Good economic development has to build on something that exists, either as a strength of as a potential accelerator of other spin offs such as spawning additional investment or aggregation.

    Light rail expertise exists in one company in Moncton, Industrial Rail which has continued to flourish and prosper in the old Gorden railyard where self propelled rail cars and even full trains are being refurbished in one of New Brunswick’s great success stories. should we decide to build such a network of rail, we have a local company that has grown based on the talents of the old Moncton rail refurbishing model. Who knew ?

    On top of that, an industrial textile company on Mill Road was purchased as a vertical integration to use the old textile spinning plant to create the special fibers needed to refurbish seats and interiors in the Industrial Rail component rail cars. This is what i am talking about. Not that I think a high speed rail link for a population of 700,000 makes economic sense per se, but it is the right kind of thinking. We could perhaps make a case for linking the Miramichi to Moncton with a first stage connection and perhaps then Fredericton to drive the brain trust and employee base that will be needed to get the new solar plant off the ground in the old Miramichi Paper plant.

    What will impress me more, however, is if we have NBPower become the catalyst to install these solar panels in every household and business roof in New Brunswick to drive the sales channel for this new product coming from Scandanavian investment group on the Miramichi. This is what it takes to harness public policy and capital to help create a marketplace and economy of scale.

    Now if these panels can somehow power enough electricity to help fuel these new high speed trains, or we can learn how to build the levitation motors that are required to power these new super trains made by a revamped and invested Industrial Rail investment program, then we are gaining traction withsomething more than simply putting sand on a steel rail under a steel wheel, which was the first one hundred years of traction in rail roading. Primitive, but effective.

    That is what we need now. A primitive and basic plan for growing a new electronic and green based economy but highlighting and building on what naturally exists here as natural human expertise here now, since the natural resource of fiber appears to be cheaper to access everywhere else, but here.

    industrial Rail is more about the future in New Brunswick than anything else i have seen, except the gift of having some scary smart Swedes and Danes come in here and teach us how to make lemonade out of wood fibre lemons.

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