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Funding secured to explore Quebec City–Toronto high-frequency services

Posted: 28 June 2019 | | No comments yet

The Government of Canada and Canada Infrastructure Bank have announced funding to take the next steps in exploring a modernised passenger rail system with a dedicated track along Canada’s most densely populated region and busiest transportation corridor.

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The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, and the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities announced that the Government of Canada and Canada Infrastructure Bank are committing $71.1 million in funding to explore VIA Rail Canada’s proposal for high-frequency rail in the Quebec City–Toronto Corridor.

The Ministers were joined by Cynthia Garneau, President and Chief Executive Officer of VIA Rail Canada, and Pierre Lavallée, Canada Infrastructure Bank President and Chief Executive Officer.

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. The team will explore the possibility of high-frequency rail along the Quebec City–Toronto Corridor, focusing on the following activities throughout 2019 to 2020:

  • Finalising legal and regulatory work related to safety and environmental assessments
  • Consulting with stakeholders and Indigenous communities
  • Examining required land and track acquisition
  • Completing the technical, financial and commercial analysis required for a final investment decision on high-frequency rail in the Corridor.

Cynthia Garneau said: “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. 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 $16.1 million balance of the funding, 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.

Marc Garneau said: “I’m pleased that the Government of Canada is conducting additional exploratory work on high-frequency rail. Our government supports a modernised 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.”

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 advisers.

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.

Pierre Lavallée said: “Canada Infrastructure Bank has a mandate to provide advice on transformational projects, and we are proud to partner with VIA Rail Canada. We will bring our specialised expertise in infrastructure and innovative financing to support planning and pre-procurement work over the next two years.”

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