high frequency rail

New high frequency train service will slash travel time between Toronto and Montreal

Canada's federal government is officially moving forward with plans to create several new "high frequency rail lines" between Toronto and Québec City, shortening travel times by 25 per cent on some routes as trains get the freedom to soar at speeds of up to 200 km/h.

Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra formally announced the news during a press conference in Quebec on Tuesday after hinting on Monday that Canada's High Frequency Rail (HFR) project would soon "increase reliability, frequency and provide faster trip times in the QC City—TO corridor."

Alghabra confirmed Tuesday that Canada is taking the first steps in the procurement process to build the new train service, which would include stops in Kingston, Ottawa, Montreal, Drummondville and nearly two dozen other communities along the way.

These steps include engaging Indigenous groups and communities for feedback, as well as working with the private sector and partner rawilways to determine logistics. 

"Working with VIA Rail, the High Frequency Rail proposal would be the largest transportation infrastructure project seen by Canada in decades," reads a release from Transport Canada issued Tuesday.

The federal government says it expects to launch a request for proposals as part of the procurement process this fall.

Among the "key benefits to travellers" listed in the Transport Canada release are:

  • shorter travel times and faster trains that would reduce average trip times between Toronto and Ottawa by up to 90 minutes;
  • more reliable on-time arrival performance up to 95 per cent from a current average of 67 per cent;
  • more direct routes with improved connectivity between cities and to other modes of transportation;
  • new services to certain communities, such as Peterborough, Trois-Rivières, and Laval, and new stations in targeted locations including near Jean Lesage Airport;
  • more frequent departures between cities; and
  • a cleaner travel option using electrified technology.

Right now, VIA Rail passenger trains can run at a maximum speed of about 160 km/h, but it's not so much a speed boost that will make travel faster as it is the creation of dedicated tracks.

VIA currently shares tracks along the Québec City—Windsor Corridor with freight trains, leading to significant and frequent delays that it cannot prevent.

"Our train schedules and frequencies are dependent on the access we are granted by the infrastructure owners," explains the Crown Corporation's website. "By running on dedicated tracks, VIA Rail would offer more frequencies while reducing trip times by 25 per cent and improving on-time performance to over 95 per cent."

If all goes well, travel times between Ottawa and Toronto would go from four-and-a-half hours to just over three hours. Based on a 25 per cent reduction, the time it takes to get from Toronto to Montreal would similarly shorten from over five hours to less than four.

Lead photo by

Via Rail Canada

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