Proposal for High Frequency Rail in the Québec City – Toronto Corridor
July 6, 2021: The Government of Canada is taking the first steps in preparing for the procurement process of VIA Rail’s High Frequency Rail project.
August 13, 2021: Cynthia Garneau, President and CEO of VIA Rail, published an op-ed about High Frequency RailHFR
We are currently sharing the tracks we operate on with freight trains who have right-of-way over our passenger trains. This not only impacts our on-time performance due to heavy congestion on the tracks, but it also means that our train schedules and frequencies are dependent on the access we are granted by the infrastructure owners.
In 2019, VIA Rail’s ridership reached over 5 million passengers, its highest annual ridership in the last three decades. This performance came after five consecutive years of growth (between 2014 and 2019), with an overall ridership increase of 32%. However, we are now approaching the limits of our network's potential to serve the growing demand for our sustainable mode of transportation.
High Frequency Rail is VIA Rail Canada’s proposal to transform passenger rail service in Canada. It will create new trains on dedicated tracks between major centres (Québec City-Montréal-Ottawa-Toronto).
New routes will be established by upgrading discontinued and lower density rail infrastructure, as well as building new tracks between Toronto-Peterborough-Ottawa, Ottawa-Dorion-Montréal and Montréal-Trois-Rivières-Québec City.
The High Frequency Rail project involves separating passenger and freight rail operations, creating more capacity for sustainable transportation for both people and goods, as well as the opportunity to optimize current services along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence Seaway.
The proposed HFR network
With High Frequency Rail, VIA Rail would be building a modern passenger rail service for a more connected, more sustainable, and more mobile Canada. High Frequency Rail would allow for:
- Connecting new communities to major urban centres;
- More daily departures, including in the communities served on our existing route;
- Shorter trip times;
- Considerably improved on-time performance;
- Substantial economic impact, including the creation of thousands of jobs;
- Significant contribution to the reduction of road congestion and thus, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
By running on dedicated tracks, VIA Rail would offer more frequencies while reducing trip times by 25% and improving on-time performance to over 95%.
The dedicated tracks would allow VIA Rail to have control over frequencies, speeds, and traffic priorities. For example, trains could travel at speeds of up to 200 kilometres per hour (124 miles per hour), reducing travel times from Ottawa to Toronto to as low as 3 hours and 15 minutes from current travel times of approximately 4 hours and 30 minutes.
The new High Frequency Rail network will be almost completely electrified to provide Canadians with the sustainable and more environmentally friendly transportation solution they are looking for.
In addition, it would give VIA Rail the flexibility to enhance the capacity of the entire network and transform Drummondville and Kingston into regional transportation hubs for trains serving the Montréal - Québec City and Montréal - Toronto routes. Establishing a regional hub in Kingston and Drummondville will improve services through better scheduling adapted to the needs of the surrounding communities, hence contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gases and road congestion, and to increased productivity.
How we choose to get there matters
The impact of High Frequency Rail would extend far beyond travel: It would make VIA Rail a more relevant contributor to Canada’s sustainable development and prosperity. High Frequency Rail would expand VIA Rail services to more communities while contributing to the reduction of road congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.
We’re not the whole solution, but we are proud to be a part of it.