Government of Canada launches process to identify and qualify up to three top candidates to build High Frequency Rail between Québec and Toronto

News release

February 17, 2023        Montréal        Transport Canada

Canadians have been clear that they want clean air, an efficient transportation system, and an economy that works for everyone and creates good middle class jobs. High Frequency Rail will do just that. In addition to reducing pollution, it will provide better and faster service between the major centres of Québec City, Trois-Rivières, Montréal, Ottawa, Peterborough and Toronto. As Canada’s largest infrastructure project, it will also create jobs for the next decade.

Today, the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Omar Alghabra, and the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Quebec Lieutenant, the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, announced a major step in the procurement process for the High Frequency Rail project: the launch of the Request for Qualifications (RFQ).

The purpose of the RFQ is to identify and qualify up to three top candidates who will be invited to participate in the Request for Proposals (RFP) process, anticipated to begin in summer 2023. The procurement process will help select a private developer partner to work in collaboration with VIA HFR, the newly created subsidiary of VIA Rail, to design and develop the High Frequency Rail project.

The Request for Qualifications is the next step following the Request for Expressions of Interest that opened in March 2022. The Request for Qualifications launches the formal procurement process and outlines:

  1. The context and features of the High Frequency Rail project (e.g., current challenges in the Corridor, purpose of the project, and objectives);
  2. The procurement process, including the evaluation criteria regarding how proposals will be evaluated, security requirements for candidates, funding support for proposal development during the RFP process, and key principles of the commercial agreement for the execution phase;
  3. The key players in the project (e.g., VIA HFR, private developer partner, VIA Rail, Government of Canada) and how they will work together; and
  4. Project outcomes that the private developer partner will be expected to meet or exceed (e.g., shorter journey times, more frequent departures, more reliable service, etc.).

The High Frequency Rail procurement process is designed to encourage innovation, provide flexibility, and identify the optimal solution for the project. Therefore, RFQ respondents will have the flexibility to consider alternatives to meet or exceed the project results described in the Request for Qualifications. This would include opportunities to increase speeds beyond 200 kilometers per hour on some segments of the High Frequency Rail project, if it is cost effective to do so.

To qualify as a candidate for the RFP, RFQ respondents will be required to demonstrate a capacity for reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples by developing the project to create mutually beneficial, socio-economic development opportunities.

In addition to leveraging the knowledge and expertise of international private sector companies that have experience developing large-scale infrastructure projects, delivering the High Frequency Rail project will require substantial Canadian expertise, Canadian labour, and Canadian companies throughout all phases of the project, including construction and operations. The Government of Canada will be encouraging the private developer partner to maximize economic benefits to Canadians and Canadian suppliers while respecting Canada’s rules-based approach to international trade. 


“The Request for Qualifications represents an important step in the procurement process for the High Frequency Rail project. HFR will reduce pollution in the transport sector, provide better and faster service to travellers and create good jobs for the middle class.”

The Honourable Omar Alghabra
Minister of Transport

“With the new step announced today, the High Frequency Rail project is becoming more and more a reality for Quebec. Quebecers deserve a world-class rail system and that is exactly what we are doing in addition to creating good jobs and helping to grow our economy.”  

The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Quebec Lieutenant

“Our government is committed to conducting an open, fair, and transparent procurement process to help deliver High Frequency Rail for Canadians. With this Request for Qualifications, Canada is inviting the best developers, operators and designers to compete for an opportunity to present their design and implementation proposal for this significant project.”

The Honourable Helena Jaczek
Minister of Public Services and Procurement

“Today’s announcement marks a milestone towards making High Frequency Rail a reality, and an opportunity for the private sector to demonstrate how it can contribute to providing better, faster and safer rail service in the Corridor that will improve the competitiveness of our cities by effectively bringing them closer together.” 

Annie Koutrakis
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Quick facts

  • High Frequency Rail will transform intercity passenger rail in the Québec City to Toronto corridor through a variety of ways, including, but not limited to:

    • Providing more frequent services;
    • Offering more reliable and improved on-time performance;
    • Shortening journey times. For example, travellers will save at least 90 minutes between Toronto and Ottawa;
    • Adding new services to Peterborough and Trois-Rivières; and
    • Providing a greener rail system travel option using electrified technology.
  • As with any large-scale infrastructure project, the Government of Canada is using a phased approach to leverage input collected throughout the procurement process and to inform the next steps and decisions regarding the implementation of the High Frequency Rail project.

  • The Government of Canada is implementing a robust cost management strategy for every phase of the project to ensure costs are contained. This strategy will include annual cost updates, recurring due diligence reviews, and open-book reporting to manage costs and to report changes. Partners will also be incentivized to innovate and seek cost reductions to create better value for money, while protecting the public interest.

  • Budget 2022 provided Transport Canada and Infrastructure Canada with close to $400 million over two years, starting in 2022-23, to continue advancing key project activities and undertake the procurement phase of the project.

  • The next steps in the High Frequency Rail procurement process include:

    • Evaluation of Request for Qualification submissions and identification of Qualified Respondents: April-July 2023
    • Launch of Request for Proposals: August-September 2023
    • Evaluation of Request for Proposal submissions: summer 2024
  • The Government of Canada is committed to engaging the public, including communities currently served by VIA Rail between Québec City and Toronto, and forming meaningful, nation-to-nation relationships with Indigenous Peoples, to inform the project’s design and development on an ongoing basis. Anyone interested in sharing their views on the project, asking questions, or signing up for project updates is encouraged to visit the VIA HFR website.

  • The Government of Canada is committed to exploring options to enhance intercity passenger rail service in Southwestern Ontario, including increased frequencies. Work is being undertaken to better understand the operating environment in Southwestern Ontario, and to explore options for enhancing service west of Toronto, including London and Windsor.

Associated links


Nadine Ramadan
Press Secretary and Communications Advisor
Office of the Honourable Omar Alghabra
Minister of Transport, Ottawa

Media Relations
Transport Canada, Ottawa

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