Seventh International Hydrail Conference (7IHC) will be held on 3 – 4 July 2012


Dalton McGuintyTHUNDER BAY – Editorial – The Seventh International Hydrail Conference (7IHC) will be held on 3 – 4 July 2012 at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. The hosts will be the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education whose mission is “providing fundamental scientific research, knowledge transfer and education to the international railway community.”

The U.K. is a particularly apt location for a conference encouraging railroads to “go wireless” because the world rash of copper thefts has been especially troublesome there. According to the Manchester Guardian, the cost of replacing stolen copper and restoring interrupted rail service is costing Network Rail, the track operating entity, many millions of pounds—especially in the vicinity of Sheffield.

With copper prices soaring, the future of hydrail—in contrast to track electrification—looks brighter everyday. Securing copper from theft during and after construction seems to have become a major and growing cost of railway operation. In a darkly literal sense, a surprising number of people are “dying to get their hands on” railroad copper.

This year Spain will become the first country to place a hydrail train or tram into regular revenue service, according to Railway Gazette. With a working paradigm in place, the mounting resistance to electrification superstructure for aesthetic reasons may gain traction faster.

In 2007, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, during a campaign stop in Thunder Bay stated, “Ontario Liberals think Ontarians can – and should – lead the development of hydrogen alternatives for the world”.

The Premier added, “The hydrogen commuter train is exactly the type of initiative envisioned when the Ontario Liberal government created the new $650 million Next Generation Jobs Fund”.

Five years later, Ontario has yet to move on the promise of this cleaner and greener alternative to either diesel or electric powered rail. The Premier said, “Innovation – together with the skills and education of our people – is key to creating and attracting the high wage, high quality jobs we want for our people today, and in the future.”

As Ontario seeks to fund new commuter rail in Toronto, the innovation of hydrail as once envisioned by the Premier could be a way forward for Ontario. However without any member of the Ontario Legislature seeking to champion this kind of innovation, Ontario is likely to see more job loses in Southern Ontario.

So far, Hydrail Conferences have been held in Denmark, Spain, Turkey and the United States. Presentations and presenters have come from Canada, Denmark, the E.U., France, Germany, Italy, India, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Turkey, the United Nations and the USA—where the conferences began.

In 2009, this international conference had been offered to Ontario, to be held in Thunder Bay. However at that time none of the elected leaders appeared willing to get on board.

The opportunities offered in 2007 by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty in his promise to “lead in the development of hydrogen alternatives for the world” was the kind of big promise that real leaders make. Sadly for Ontario, the other side of the coin in making big promises is to keep them, and in this promise, Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals have completely failed.

It kind of makes you wonder what other promises are going to be slashed that will leave Ontario even further behind the rest of Canada and the world. Facta non Verba, Mr. McGuinty!

James Murray
Chief Content Officer

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