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A High-Frequency Rail Project Between Toronto, Montreal & Quebec City Is Moving Forward

It could mean faster, more reliable service. But there are challenges.

VIA Rail train in a Toronto rail yard.

VIA Rail train in a Toronto rail yard.

The Government is moving forward with a plan to bring high-frequency rail to the Toronto-Quebec City corridor. On Wednesday, Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra announced the beginning of a process to seek private sector partners and input on the project through what's called a Request for Expressions of Interest.

First announced in the summer of 2021, the proposed high-frequency rail service would mean shorter travel times, as well as faster and more reliable trains, the government said.

To get it done, officials need to figure out how and where to build new tracks for the exclusive use of passenger rail. Right now, VIA Rail shares tracks with CN.

Transport Canada says the new passenger rail path could mean new stops in Laval and Trois-Rivières.

But the project also poses challenges. Alghabra said at a press conference Wednesday that high-frequency rail service wouldn't use the Mount Royal Tunnel, now occupied by the new REM light metro, to reach the Gare Centrale in downtown Montreal. That means planners need to find a way to get trains around the mountain if they want high-frequency service to reach the station.

The project, which the government is calling "the largest transportation infrastructure project that Canada has seen in decades," could also take as many as 10 years to complete.

Officials nevertheless expressed optimism on Wednesday.

"High-Frequency Rail is a transformational project that promises to fundamentally change the way Canadians travel in southern Ontario and Quebec, improving accessibility, and providing more travel flexibility," Minister Alghabra said in a statement.

"The Request for Expressions of Interest marks the first major step in the development and advancement of this project."

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