The federal government has announced it will be launching a procurement process that could see a multi-billion-dollar high-frequency rail corridor operating between Toronto and Quebec City by the end of the decade.
“This high-frequency rail project would be one of the largest infrastructure projects in Canada in decades and will transform travel in this busy transportation corridor,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said during a news conference in Quebec Tuesday morning.
“Quebecers and all Canadians deserve a fast, reliable train service.”
Alghabra, who noted discussions on improved rail service in this busy corridor began in 2016, said officials are looking to open a request for proposal in the fall.
While the final budget will depend on the project’s final scope — something officials noted will be informed by consultations with the private sector, Indigenous communities and municipalities — he said the final cost could be between $6 billion and $12 billion. Alghabra said project construction is slated to be finished by 2030.
When asked by reporters about the choice to pursue high-frequency rail (where trains would travel up to 200 kilometres per hour) versus high-speed rail (which would see trains travel considerably faster), Alghabra said high-speed rail would be much higher in cost and would take longer to complete.
A major issue facing the corridor is the competition with freight rail, which can impact service reliability for passenger trains. The proposal, if ultimately approved, would see dedicated corridors.
During the announcement, Alghabra said service reliability under high-frequency rail could increase to as much as 95 per cent from the current 67 per cent, which would allow for increased train frequency.
“(To ensure) that a three-hour trip doesn’t become a three-and-a-half- or four-hour trip,” he said.
Under the high-frequency rail proposal, Alghabra said it would shave about 30 minutes between Quebec City and Montreal (the current travel time is around three hours and 15 minutes) and 90 minutes between Quebec City and Toronto (the travel time, minus a layover, currently is around eight hours and 15 minutes).
Officials said the investment would mean more direct train trips and would see new services to communities such as Peterborough, Trois-Rivières and Laval. They also noted there would be new stations created as part of the project, such as one near Jean Lesage Airport in Quebec City.
Improved rail service along the corridor has long been talked about and when asked by reporters how this latest proposal will ultimately come to fruition, Alghabra reiterated there was $500 million in the latest budget for the project.
“I understand a lot of people have been dreaming this project,” he said.
“We are here not only to commit through our words, but through our actions.”
The announcement also came amid increasing speculation a federal election is in the offing later this year.
More to come.
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