Canada takes next steps to further explore VIA Rail’s High Frequency Rail proposal in Quebec

From: Transport Canada

A modernized passenger rail system with a dedicated track would significantly improve the movement of people in Canada’s most densely populated regions and busiest transportation corridor, from Quebec City to Toronto.

Today, the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, and the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities announced that the Government of Canada and Canada Infrastructure Bank are committing a total of $71.1 million in funding to further explore VIA Rail Canada’s proposal for High Frequency Rail in the Quebec City-Toronto Corridor.

The Ministers were joined by Cynthia Garneau, VIA Rail Canada President and Chief Executive Officer, and Pierre Lavallée, Canada Infrastructure Bank President and Chief Executive Officer.

The funding will be used to establish a Joint Project Team and fund work to preserve the option of interoperability with regional transit providers in Montreal and Toronto.

The Joint Project Team, between Canada Infrastructure Bank and VIA Rail Canada, will be established using the $55 million in funding from Canada Infrastructure Bank. This Joint Project Team will explore the possibility of High Frequency Rail in Quebec City-Toronto Corridor, focusing on the following activities throughout 2019 to 2020:

  • finalizing legal and regulatory work related to safety and environmental assessments;
  • consulting with stakeholders and Indigenous communities;
  • examining required land and track acquisition; and
  • completing the technical, financial and commercial analysis required for a final investment decision on High Frequency Rail in the Corridor.

The balance of the funding, $16.1 million, including $5 million still available from Budget 2018, is for Transport Canada and VIA Rail Canada to support VIA Rail Canada’s contributions to the important work of the Joint Project Team. It will also fund technical work to ensure the interoperability and integration of High Frequency Rail with operating tracks used by local and regional transit providers in Montreal and Toronto. This includes track work in Montreal’s Mont-Royal Tunnel to enable VIA Rail Canada’s heavy rail trains to operate on this segment of the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) light rail system. This important piece of preliminary work is needed so that the different rail systems work together should High Frequency Rail proceed in the future.

As with any large scale infrastructure project, advancing in a phased approach will ensure there is sufficient rigor before the Government of Canada can make a final investment decision for VIA Rail Canada’s proposal. This exploratory work is a responsible next step and will require Canada Infrastructure Bank and VIA Rail Canada’s expertise, as well as external advisors.

A recent market sounding exercise revealed that there is significant interest in the marketplace about VIA Rail Canada’s proposal for High Frequency Rail. The Government of Canada is therefore proceeding in a phased approach to ensure that the right conditions are put in place to achieve the greatest amount of success, and to encourage private sector involvement.

“I’m pleased that the Government of Canada is conducting additional exploratory work on High Frequency Rail. Our government supports a modernized passenger rail system that has the potential to increase reliability, frequency, service and provide faster trip times in the Quebec City – Toronto corridor. This would allow Canadians to get to their families faster and better connect our businesses, while reducing road congestion, and providing a low-emission travel alternative.”

The Honourable Marc Garneau

Minister of Transport

“I welcome this innovative partnership as a great example of how the Canada Infrastructure Bank can work with partners like VIA Rail Canada to advance potential projects that are in the public interest. Determining the viability of High Frequency Rail is a high priority for the federal government, and the Canada Infrastructure Bank and VIA both bring invaluable expertise to this next phase of planning and pre-procurement work. This is critical work towards a final investment decision on the High Frequency Rail project in in the future.”

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne

Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

“Canada Infrastructure Bank has a mandate to provide advice on transformational projects, and we are proud to partner with VIA Rail Canada. We will bring our specialized expertise in infrastructure and innovative financing to support planning and pre-procurement work over the next two years.”

Pierre Lavallée

Canada Infrastructure Bank President and Chief Executive Officer

“High Frequency Rail is part of VIA Rail Canada’s transformation towards a more modern passenger service for a more connected, more sustainable, and more mobile Canada. Consistent growth in ridership since 2014, thanks to our employees’ excellence in operations and service, has created a solid foundation for our proposed High Frequency Rail project. We look forward to working with the Canada Infrastructure Bank in this critical step for improving passenger rail to the benefit of Canadians.”

Cynthia Garneau

VIA Rail Canada President and Chief Executive Officer

Quick facts

  • The Quebec City-Toronto Corridor market represents the greatest potential for intercity passenger rail in Canada, given the thousands of Canadians who travel by train each year through Canada’s most densely populated regions and busiest transportation corridor.

  • Approximately 72 per cent of VIA Rail Canada’s passengers travelled through the Quebec City-Toronto Corridor in 2018, which accounts for 66 per cent of the network’s revenues.

  • Ridership within the Quebec City-Toronto Corridor is the most diverse, consisting of students, seniors, tourists and business travellers who do not typically travel by train outside of this area.

  • The Canada Infrastructure Bank was established as a Crown corporation in 2017 with a mandate to invest $35 billion over 11 years to attract private-sector investment to revenue-generating infrastructure projects that are in the public interest.

  • The Canada Infrastructure Bank, which is overseen by the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, works at arm’s length from the Government of Canada to help communities across the country build even more infrastructure.

/Public Release. View in full here.