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Deja vu all over again: another passenger rail announcement

Deja vu all over again: another passenger rail announcement

They were careful not to call it high speed rail, instead referring to a proposed rail service from Toronto to Quebec as “high frequency,” but still it felt like something Canadians had seen many times before. That was the upshot of a news conference in Montreal today to announce the government was issuing a Request for Expressions of Interest seeking the advice and views from industry on the High Frequency Rail project. In other words, the government is basically throwing the question of if and whether high speed rail can work in Canada back to the private sector.

The announcement appears to take the high-speed rail question in Canada back to the drawing board calling for proposals to:

  • communicate the Government of Canada’s plan for advancing the project;
  • seek feedback from experienced private sector companies to help shape the High Frequency Rail project; and
  • provide information to industry so interested parties can prepare for subsequent phases of the procurement process, including the Request for Qualifications and the Request for Proposal. 

Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra acknowledged that the public has seen many of these rail announcements over the decades.

Long history of high-speed rail announcements

Canada has passed the half century mark in its discussion of high-speed rail. It stared in CN TurboTrain, in its Toronto–Montreal route during the 1960s. CN’s, and later Via Rail’s, TurboTrain service was marred with lengthy interruptions to address design problems and having to cope with poor track quality (accounted for by dual passenger-freight use. The units were plagued by technical and reliability issues and were ultimately retired by 1982.

A 1995 study explored “medium-fast” (200–250 km/h) and very fast (more than 300 km/h) technologies. It produced three reports of which nothing materialized

In 1998, the Lynx consortium, including Bombardier and SNC-Lavalin proposed a 320 km/h (200 mph) high-speed train from Toronto to Quebec City via Kingston, Ottawa and Montreal based on the TGV and the French Turbo-Train technology.[26]

In 2000, Bombardier developed the JetTrain. After several promotional stops in the United States and Canada, no government purchased the Jet Train.

In 2008, Dalton McGuinty (Premier of Ontario), and Jean Charest (Premier of Quebec) announced their two provinces would conduct a joint $2 million feasibility study into the development of high-speed rail in the Quebec City–Windsor Corridor.

 Ahead of the 2014 Ontario general election, Ontario Minister of Transportation Glen Murray announced that high-speed rail will be constructed between London, Kitchener, and Toronto within 10 years

On December 5, 2014, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation approved starting an environmental assessment on the best route for a high speed rail connecting Toronto, Kitchener–Waterloo, London and Windsor for 2015.

In 2017, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Transport Minister Steven Del Duca announced the first steps in having a high-speed rail route in place by 2025 from Toronto to London, extending to Windsor by 2031

With the election of a majority government for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, the future of the high-speed rail proposal inherited from the Liberal Party became uncertain. The 2019 provincial budget paused all funding for the high-speed rail proposal.

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