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Canada plans to build a new high-frequency rail service connecting Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto

Canada plans to build a new high-frequency rail service connecting Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto
/ Via Rail

The federal government is planning to build an all-new multi-billion-dollar high-speed frequency rail service connecting Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto by the end of the decade.

The plan will greatly reduce travel times between city hubs and make train service more reliable.

The government is not describing the project as "high speed" rail, however, since vehicles would still fall short of the speeds typically associated with high-speed rail networks in Europe and Asia.

Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra made the announcement to passengers on board a VIA Rail train travelling from Toronto to Montreal on Monday.

"It will increase frequency for passengers like yourself and transform the connection between these cities," Alghabra told passengers over the train's PA system.

“This high-frequency rail project would be one of the largest infrastructure projects in Canada in decades and will transform travel in this busy transportation corridor,” Alghabra said during a news conference in Quebec Tuesday morning.

“Quebecers and all Canadians deserve a fast, reliable train service.”

The official Canadian Government press release said the following:

The Government of Canada is committed to modernizing intercity rail services for travelers to better meet their transportation needs while promoting job creation and economic growth.

Today, the Minister of Transport, the Honorable Omar Alghabra, the President of the Treasury Board, the Honorable Jean-Yves Duclos, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, the Honorable François- Philippe Champagne, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Joël Lightbound, President and CEO, Infrastructure Bank of Canada, Ehren Cory, and the Mayor of Quebec, Régis Labeaume announced that the Government of Canada is in the early stages of preparing the procurement process to create a new rail service in the Toronto-Quebec corridor.

These steps include:

  • consultation with indigenous groups and communities to obtain their views on the project.
  • consultation with private sector stakeholders to determine capacity and to obtain their views on the best service delivery model. The Government of Canada plans to finalize the service delivery model and launch the process to select a private sector partner in the fall.  
  • the acceleration of talks with partner railway companies to negotiate the establishment of exclusive routes allowing access to and out of the heart of cities.
  • The request for proposals made as part of the procurement process is expected to take place in the fall of 2021.
  • The high-frequency train proposal in the Toronto-Quebec corridor involves building passenger-only rail lines that will provide many benefits to passengers, including:
  • shorter travel times and faster trains that would reduce the average travel time between Toronto and Ottawa by up to 90 minutes;
  • more reliability for arrival times, up to 95% of arrivals on time compared to a current average of 67%;
  • more direct routes and an improved link with other modes of transport;
  • new services for certain cities, such as Peterborough, Trois-Rivières and Laval, and new stations in specific locations, particularly in the vicinity of Jean-Lesage International Airport;  
  • more frequent departures between cities;
  • a cleaner travel choice thanks to technology using electricity;

The high-frequency train proposal would be the largest transportation infrastructure project Canada has seen in decades. 

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