high frequency train The project is "real", says the Minister of Transport
PHOTO ALAIN ROBERGE, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra during a press conference about high frequency rail, March 22, 2022
(Ottawa) The high-frequency rail project is starting to take a little more shape. So much so that the federal government plans to launch a call for tenders next fall to companies wishing to carry out this project, the largest in the country's history.
Posted at 8:00 a.m.
JOEL-DENIS BELLAVANCETHE PRESS
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra is adamant. The high-frequency train, which should connect Quebec and Windsor, is well underway, even if there are still several steps to go.
“The high-frequency train is no longer a vague concept. It starts to take shape. It's real,” said Minister Alghabra in an interview with La Presse
to provide an update on this file.
Several companies interested
This project, in which Ottawa has already invested or set aside a billion dollars, is obviously arousing a lot of interest from businesses. In the spring, the Department of Transportation issued a call for Expressions of Interest. In all, 54 companies responded to the call while some requested clarification on certain elements of the project, including the roles and responsibilities of government and the private sector.
At the beginning of next year, Ottawa intends to launch a call for qualifications before proceeding to the formal call for tenders in the fall. Mr. Alghabra indicated that he would not be surprised if a consortium formed by companies showed up during the call for tenders.
The federal government has decided to create this year VIA TGF, a subsidiary of VIA Rail, to oversee the execution of the project. The members of the board of directors of this subsidiary will be appointed shortly.
“It's such a massive project — the biggest infrastructure project in the country's history — and you have to go through several steps before you break ground,” he insisted.
He said the high-frequency train, which will be largely electrified except in urban centers due to existing infrastructure, will have its own corridor of new and dedicated tracks that will stretch some 1,000 kilometers.
The first phase will connect Quebec and Toronto, with stops in Trois-Rivières, Montreal, Ottawa and Peterborough. The second phase will connect Toronto and the city of Windsor. The Minister challenges companies to come up with a project that would allow the train to reach a cruising speed of 300 km/h.
"We hope that the construction will start in 2027 or 2028. And that the project would be finished in the early 2030s, either 2032 or 2033." - Omar Alghabra, Federal Minister of Transport
The Minister points out that the idea for such a project was launched in 2017, but has started to really gain momentum in the last two years.
“Right now, we are focusing on phase 1 of the project, the corridor between Quebec City and Toronto. The second phase of the project between Toronto and Windsor will come later. »
Mr. Alghabra refused to give an estimate of the costs of the project, as he had declined to do last March during a press conference at the Montreal maintenance center of VIA Rail, where he had formally invited the private sector to take part adventure.
“The cost remains unknown because things are changing rapidly. And it would be irresponsible of me to put forward a figure knowing that it will not hold water later, ”he said.
"It's a project that's going to be expensive, that's for sure. It is the largest infrastructure project in Canadian history. And there is a lot of work to do." - Omar Alghabra, Federal Minister of Transport
Currently, Canada is the only G7 country that does not have high-speed rail. The federal government assessed this option, but ruled it out because of the prohibitive cost (at least $65 billion for the Quebec-Toronto corridor) and the risks associated with operating a TGV during the winter season.
In an interview, Mr. Alghabra said he is very impressed with the rail network in France. “The French model is a very good example for us to follow as far as I am concerned. France has a very good rail network that connects regions and urban centers.
We are learning from France and that is very useful for us,” he said.
He recently met in Montreal with his French counterpart, Clément Beaune, on the occasion of the International Civil Aviation Organization conference. The main topic on the agenda was the high frequency train file.
Mr. Alghabra also indicated that he met with the leaders of Amtrak, in the United States. Amtrak also plans to build a new high-speed link between Philadelphia and Washington.