On Wednesday March 9th, Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra announced the “next step” in the development of High Frequency Rail (HFR). This was followed by the publication of a Request for Expressions of Interest. This document seeks feedback from private sector partners interested in designing and constructing HFR and then assuming operation of both HFR and existing VIA Rail corridor services between Windsor and Quebec for a term of 30 years or longer. This represents a significant change in scope from the proposal originally presented by VIA Rail in 2015.
The Request for Expressions of Interest defines high frequency rail as an electrified network with class 7 (125 mph / 200 km/h) track, up from class 6 (110 mph / 170 km/h) as previously proposed, and specifies travel time and service level targets, but does not provide any new details regarding routing into the city centres. The document does not provide answers to the questions about the project that we had previously posed to VIA Rail and the Joint Project Office, although the Minister’s announcement appeared to rule out shared use of the Mount Royal Tunnel.
The Request for Expressions of Interest is expected to be followed by several more phases of procurement, including a co-development phase, following similar model to the GO Expansion project, with the new route opening in the early 2030s.
We would like to hear opinions from our members and supporters to ensure our reaction to these new developments reflects the consensus of your views. Therefore, please read the document above and share your thoughts using the survey link below:
Transport Action board members have already begun a series of meetings with the High Frequency Rail team at Transport Canada to seek clarifications and understand the reasoning behind these changes, and how they fit into a strategic vision of the future of rail and passenger transportation in Canada.
As a result of these meetings, we now understand that the route design produced by the Joint Project Office will serve as a reference case upon which the private sector is invited to improve, and that the government is committed to continuing to serve the existing corridor routes, addressing one of our longer-standing concerns. These meetings will continue over the next couple of weeks.