The Globe and Mail in a recent editorial suggested that the strongest argument for high speed rail (HSR) linking urban centers in Southern Ontario comes from the Ontario Government's report, Ontario in the Creative Age, which was written by Professors Richard Florida and Roger Martin of the University of Toronto.
Messrs Florida and Martin have done less than an honest job of relaying the message on HSR from a study, which they had commissioned as a background paper for their report. The Florida-Martin report pushes high-speed rail as the preferred option for mobility, implying that it may be a financially viable alternative, which is certainly not the case.
In the background paper for the Florida-Martin report, the authors made no claims about the financial viability for HSR in Ontario. In fact, the engineering professors at the University of Toronto, who wrote the background paper, observed that the discussion of financial feasibility of HSR in Southern Ontario was beyond the scope of their study.
It should come as no surprise that HSR comes at a great financial cost and with very limited societal benefits. A series of comprehensive reports commissioned by Transport Canada and the provincial governments of Ontario and Quebec estimated that HSR linking Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto would have cost approximately $11 billion in 1995. Current estimates would hit $20 to $30 billion.
The 1995 report was full of caveats and observed that High-speed Rail represented "a high financing risk for each party involved", and that a 100% private venture was "neither viable nor financeable" because the borrowing costs for the private sector "would significantly exceed the HSR project's financial returns", and finally the tax payers are most likely to doll out 70% or more towards the capital costs of the project.
Studies have shown that commuting by car, buses, air, and regular rail service is going to be significantly cheaper than travelling by HSR. Hence the environmental benefits of HSR are also unlikely to realize because commuting by car will not be significantly affected by the provision of high-speed rail, which will be too fast to afford for most commuters.