Government of Canada pursuing high-frequency rail service between Toronto and Quebec City

July 7, 2021
The proposed project includes separating freight and passenger rail traffic into dedicated corridors with immediate next steps including the start of the procurement process.

The government of Canada is continuing its commitment to explore and potentially deliver high-frequency passenger rail service between Toronto, Ontario and Quebec City, Quebec, with the start of the procurement process to build new train service.

Canada’s Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra made the announcement after making the nearly 11.5-hour trip using existing VIA Rail service.

“Canadians deserve a fast and reliable train service. Today, we are taking the first steps in preparing for the procurement process to build a new train service in the Toronto to Quebec City Corridor. High Frequency Rail in the Toronto to Quebec City Corridor is a massive transportation project with the potential to transform passenger rail service by offering faster, more reliable, more frequent and cleaner transportation service,” said Minister Alghabra.

The proposed project would separate freight and passenger rail traffic by upgrading abandoned and lower density rail infrastructure for passenger rail use. This will boost on-time performance to more than 95 percent and reduce trip times by 25 percent. Additionally, the new service would provide more direct routes, provide new services to communities such as Peterborough, Trois-Rivieres and Laval, include new stations, including near Jean Lesage Airport and utilize electrified technology, providing a cleaner travel option.

VIA Rail proposed the project in 2016 as it faced constraints in operating and financial performance on the popular corridor.

Transport Canada, Infrastructure Canada and Finance Canada have been working with VIA Rail and the Canada Infrastructure Bank to conduct an assessment of the proposal and have developed a phased approach to deliver on the proposal.

“Since proposing High Frequency Rail more than five years ago, VIA Rail has been working tirelessly to ensure it becomes a reality. We are thus pleased with the decisive steps that have been announced as it brings us closer to that objective and we look forward to continuing to work closely with the federal government as a strong partner in delivering High Frequency Rail. It’s time to provide Canadians with a nation-building, growth-generating and environmentally friendly project which will transform the way present and future generations live and travel,” said VIA Rail Canada President and CEO Cynthia Garneau.

The federal government anticipates finalizing a delivery model and launching a request for proposal for the procurement process in fall 2021. Immediate next steps for the project 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; and accelerating dialogue with partner railways to negotiate dedicated routes in and out of city centers.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.

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