Feds stand by high-frequency rail project as calls grow from Quebec for high-speed trains

Click to play video: 'Political push for high-speed train between Quebec and Ontario'
Political push for high-speed train between Quebec and Ontario
There is a growing momentum, this time by politicians, to build a high-speed rail between Quebec City and Toronto. Two Montreal city councillors have adopted a motion calling on the federal government to build the new link. For now, Ottawa is committed to increasing train frequency on the busy corridor. But some say anything less than a high-speed train is a waste of taxpayers’ money. Global's Tim Sargeant reports – Feb 16, 2023

The Canadian government is convinced the best way to serve the Toronto-Quebec City travel corridor is with a high-frequency rail system, but Ottawa is willing to listen if private companies are able to shave travel time for train riders, too.

Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced Friday morning at Montreal’s Central Station that the project was entering a new phase: the request for qualification.

With the next step, private companies will be able to submit their proposals to construct the rail service. The trains must be able to reach speeds of up to 200 km/h between Ontario and Quebec.

But since the announcement of the transit project, there has been a political push from Quebec to demand the feds instead consider launching a high-speed train service between the two provinces.

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The Quebec government as well as municipal leaders from Quebec City and Laval have all expressed interest in the idea. They argue it would encourage drivers to ditch their car to use the train.

On Thursday, a pair of Montreal city councillors tabled a motion calling on the city to formally request the Canadian government support high-speed rail service. Craig Sauvé said it’s possible to do, but it’s a question of “political will.”

Alghabra said Friday that the proposed high-frequency train system remains the best option, but he said he is open to the idea if companies are able to offer trains that exceed 200 km/h.

The transport minister outlined two conditions, however. All proposals must respect the allocated budget and cannot exclude any community outlined in the original plan.

The high-frequency train system means a Toronto-Montreal trip will take about four hours and 10 minutes. This shaves off 55 minutes at the very least, according to Alghabra.

The rail line is set to provide service among major centres of Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, Montreal, Ottawa, Peterborough and Toronto.

with files from Global News’ Tim Sargeant and Kalina Laframboise


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