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The Government of Canada is taking the first steps in preparing for the procurement process to build a new train service in the Toronto to Quebec City Corridor

The Government of Canada is committed to modernizing intercity passenger rail services in a way that will best meet the transportation needs of travellers, while also creating jobs and economic growth.

Today, the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Omar Alghabra, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Via Rail, Cynthia Garneau, and the Mayor of Trois-Rivières, Jean Lamarche, announced the Government of Canada is taking the first steps in preparing for the procurement process to build a new train service in the Toronto to Quebec City Corridor.

These steps include:

  • Engaging Indigenous groups and communities to obtain feedback on the project. 
  • Engaging with the private sector to determine capacity, and seek perspectives on the best possible delivery model. The Government of Canada plans to finalize the delivery model and launch the process to select a private partner in the fall.
  • Accelerating dialogue with partner railways to negotiate dedicated routes in and out of city centres.

The request for proposal for the procurement process is expected to launch in fall 2021.

The High Frequency Rail proposal in the Toronto to Quebec City Corridor involves building dedicated passenger rail tracks which would provide many key benefits to travellers, including:

  • shorter travel times and faster trains that would reduce average trip times between Toronto and Ottawa by up to 90 minutes;
  • more reliable on-time arrival performance up to 95 per cent from a current average of 67 per cent;
  • more direct routes with improved connectivity between cities and to other modes of transportation;
  • new services to certain communities, such as Peterborough, Trois-Rivières, and Laval, and new stations in targeted locations including near Jean Lesage Airport;
  • more frequent departures between cities; and
  • a cleaner travel option using electrified technology.

Working with VIA Rail, the High Frequency Rail proposal would be the largest transportation infrastructure project seen by Canada in decades, which is why the Government of Canada is doing its due diligence and undertaking a phased approach to put in place the right conditions to ensure the greatest amount of success for this project.

Backgrounder

As a result of having to share track owned primarily by freight rail companies, VIA Rail’s services often experience longer journey times, slower speeds, limited trip frequency, and poor on-time performance, which ultimately constrains its operating and financial performance in the Toronto to Quebec City Corridor.

In response to these challenges, VIA Rail submitted a proposal to the Government of Canada for High Frequency Rail in 2016.

Transport Canada, Infrastructure Canada, and Finance Canada have been working with VIA Rail and the Canada Infrastructure Bank to conduct an in-depth assessment of VIA Rail’s proposal. The result of this work will help inform the Government of Canada’s final investment decisions for the project.

Significant progress has been made in designing and planning an improved passenger rail service between Toronto and Quebec City that will deliver good value for taxpayers and better options for travellers.

In order to ensure there is sufficient rigour and robustness in the assessment of VIA Rail’s High Frequency Rail proposal, the Government of Canada has been moving ahead with a phased and prudent approach to support its decision-making.

  • Budget 2016 provided $3.3 million over three years for Transport Canada to conduct an initial, in-depth assessment of VIA Rail’s High Frequency Rail proposal.
  • Budget 2018 provided $8 million for Transport Canada to undertake foundational work to advance VIA Rail’s proposal. This work supported further economic analysis of key issues, including: revenue and ridership projections along with estimates for capital and operating costs. This funding also went towards:   
    • exploring opportunities to leverage private investment or a potential role for the Canada Infrastructure Bank; and
    • assessing some of the potential social, economic and environmental impacts of the project.
  • A total of $71.1million was provided in 2019 to further explore VIA Rail’s proposal. This included:
    • $55 million from Canada Infrastructure Bank to create a Joint Project Office, between the Canada Infrastructure Bank and VIA Rail, which has been focusing on key de-risking activities for the project (e.g., engaging with third parties for access to key urban areas, conducting geo-technical and surveying work to prepare for future assessments of environmental impacts, preparing to engage Canadians and Indigenous communities on the project, etc.).
    • $16.1million for Transport Canada and VIA Rail to support VIA Rail’s contributions to the important work of the Joint Project Office. This also funded technical work to explore the options for interoperability and integration of high frequency rail with operating tracks used by local and regional transit providers in Montreal and Toronto.
  • Budget 2021 proposes to provide $4.4 million in 2021-2022 to Transport Canada and VIA Rail to support their work with the Joint Project Office, which would be used to complete the necessary analysis and assessment of options to reduce possible risks associated with a project of this magnitude.
  • In addition, Budget 2021 proposes to provide $491.2 million over six years, starting in 2021-2022, for infrastructure investments which would help VIA Rail take an important step towards transforming passenger rail service in the Toronto to Quebec City Corridor. These investments would support the project by reducing some existing bottlenecks and improving fluidity and connectivity in the nearer-term.
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