Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities François-Philippe Champagne 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.
“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,” said Cynthia Garneau, VIA Rail president and CEO. “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.”
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.
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.
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.