Government of Canada takes next steps to further explore VIA Rail’s High Frequency Rail proposal in the Quebec City-Toronto Corridor
June 25, 2019 Peterborough Government of 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 Maryam Monsef, Minister of International Development and Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Member of Parliament for Peterborough—Kawartha, on behalf of the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, 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 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.
“This project would bring significant economic growth to our community and the affected regions along the corridor. It also requires a significant investment. That’s why we have taken each step forward in a measured, thoughtful way. We are not interested in creating buzz that leads to no results. We began by working with Via Rail to determine their business case, which we have determined would be good for the middle class and those working hard to join it. The next step is making sure we move forward in the correct way. That requires meaningful indigenous consultations and environmental assessment. This train has yet to leave the station, but this is the furthest we have ever come on the idea of a passenger train. Today’s announcement marks a significant milestone moving forward.”
The Honourable Maryam Monsef
Minister of International Development and Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Member of Parliament for Peterborough—Kawartha
“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
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.
Office of the Honourable Marc Garneau
Minister of Transport, Ottawa
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