High-speed rail in Canada
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A possible international high-speed rail link between Montreal and Boston or New York City is often discussed by regional leaders, though little progress has been made. On another international line between Vancouver and Seattle, work is in progress to improve the existing Amtrak Cascades service, though it will not reach speeds normally associated with high-speed rail.
On April 10, 2008, a lobby group, High Speed Rail Canada, was formed to promote and educate Canadians on the benefits of high-speed rail in Canada. All current and past Canadian high-speed rail studies are posted on their website.
Early high-speed rail in Canada
CN Rail placed some early hopes with the UAC TurboTrain, in its Toronto–Montreal route during the 1960s. The TurboTrain was a true HST with the train sets achieving speeds as high as 201 km/h (125 mph) in regular service. CN's, and later Via Rail's, TurboTrain service were marred with lengthy interruptions to address design problems and having to cope with poor track quality (accounted for by dual passenger-freight use); as such, the trains were operated at 161 km/h (100 mph). The TurboTrain featured the latest technology advances such as passive coach tilting, Talgo attachment for rigid coach articulation and gas turbine power.
Beginning in the 1970s, a consortium of several companies started to study Bombardier Transportation's LRC, which was a more conventional approach to high-speed rail, in having separate cars and locomotives, rather than being an articulated train. Pulled by heavy conventional-technology diesel-electric locomotives designed for 201 km/h (125 mph) normal operating speed, inspired by the British InterCity 125, it entered full-scale service in 1981 for Via Rail, linking cities in the Quebec City–Windsor Corridor, but at speeds never exceeding the 170 km/h (110 mph) limit mandated by line signalling. It was the world's first active tilting train in commercial service.
A study by the Van Horne Institute concluded that "high speed rail would bring significant benefits to the Calgary–Edmonton corridor and Alberta as a whole". The report also stated that the project would "generate between $3.7 and $6.1 billion in quantifiable benefits". The study considered three options:
- Upgrade of an existing Canadian Pacific freight route to allow trains up to 240 km/h using Bombardier's JetTrain, costing approximately $1.8 billion.
- A new dedicated passenger route, known as the "Green Field" route, also using the JetTrain, and costing approximately $2.2 billion.
- An electrified version of the Green Field route, using TGV-style trains running at 300 km/h, costing approximately $3.7 billion.
The report also found that there was little incremental benefit in running at 300 km/h rather than 240 km/h, and therefore recommended the first option.
On September 22, 2006, the government of Alberta announced that it was deploying video cameras along a stretch of the Queen Elizabeth Highway to measure the number of cars that travel between the two cities.
The Calgary Herald announced on April 18, 2007, that the provincial government had purchased land in downtown Calgary for a possible station or terminal. On April 7, 2011, Premier Ed Stelmach said that the land being purchased for the new location of the Royal Alberta Museum could be used as the Edmonton terminal.
In 2011, Alberta premier Alison Redford said that the high-speed rail was a priority for her, saying "such an initiative could unite the province and send a message to Canada and the world about Alberta’s progress." However, during the 2012 Alberta provincial election campaign, none of the four main party leaders would say that they deny the need for one, but are saying that it is a "maybe." In other words, it may take years to resolve the issue.
The Standing Committee on Alberta’s economic future studied the feasibility of high-speed rail between Calgary and Edmonton in 2014. The committee also held hearings on the subject in early 2014 in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton.
The report released in May 2014 stated that although Alberta was not ready for high speed rail, the government should start planning for it by acquiring land along a transportation corridor.
In 2015, the provincial NDP government stated it was reviving the possibility of a bullet train operating between Edmonton and Calgary. The Minister of Infrastructure Brian Mason, said the government had issued a request for proposal to undertake the planning and implementation of a study "to determine the future needs for the QE II highway" due to high traffic volumes. "The high-speed train between Edmonton and Calgary is something that we're beginning to ask about," said Mason. The line would cost between $2.6 and $7 billion depending on the type of technology used. Annual operating costs of a high-speed rail line are estimated to be any where from $88 million to $129 million. Via Rail has stated that such projects 'pay for themselves.' and that the government should invest more in the Canadian rail industry. The Liberal government of Canada has also endorsed and prioritized in investing heavily in National and Provincial infrastructure projects.
The Quebec–Windsor Corridor is the most densely populated and heavily industrialized region of Canada. With over 18 million people, it contains approximately half of Canada's population, the national capital, and three of the five largest metropolitan areas in Canada (Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa–Gatineau). It is already the focus of most Via Rail service. There have been several proposals for a high-speed service, such as ViaFast, but no action has been taken so far. However, the former leader of the Liberal Party, Stéphane Dion had said that he was in favour of developing a high-speed rail system as a way to fight climate change. A high speed line along this corridor could potentially provide international HSR services to the United States by connecting to the proposed Chicago and Ohio Hub Networks of the United States High Speed Network. The intercity traffic in the area is currently served by several highways, Via Rail, and several airports. This corridor's population density is comparable to the Rhône River valley where the French TGV operates.
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. Recently, Bombardier and Via have proposed high-speed services along the Quebec City–Windsor corridor using Bombardier's experimental JetTrain tilting trains, which are similar to Bombardier's Acela Express, but powered by a gas turbine rather than overhead electric wires. These trains resemble the first TGV prototype (TGV001) powered by a gas turbine that were tested on the Strasbourg–Mulhouse line. After promotional stops in the USA and Canada, no government purchased the Jet Train. As of August 2012, the Jet Train now sits idle. The prototype is stored serviceable at the AAR/FRA Transportation Technology Center at Pueblo, Colorado, USA.
On January 10, 2008, Dalton McGuinty (Premier of Ontario), and Jean Charest (Premier of Quebec) announced their two provinces will conduct a joint $2 million feasibility study into the development of high-speed rail in the Quebec City–Windsor Corridor. The federal government has agreed to participate in the study. In February 2009, The EcoTrain Consortium, consisting of firms Dessau, MMM Group, KPMG, Wilbur Smith & Associates and Deutsche Bahn International, were awarded a contract to update the feasibility studies for high-speed rail (HSR) in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor. The study was expected to take a year, but was delayed. Michael Ignatieff, then-leader of the Liberal Party said in 2011 that he would agree to fund the Quebec corridor and described it as a means to unite the country, similar to early railway projects in Canada. His NDP counterpart, Jack Layton, had also pledged to fund the route.
When the results of the study were released October 17, 2011, by the citizens group High Speed Rail Canada, it revealed results for two technology alternatives: diesel traction and electric traction. Diesel traction would provide speeds of 200 km/h and would cost $18.9 billion for an entire Windsor–Quebec City system; a Montreal–Ottawa–Toronto system would cost $9.1 billion. Electric traction would provide speeds of 300 km/h and would cost $21.3 billion for an entire Windsor–Quebec City system; a Montreal–Ottawa–Toronto system would cost $11 billion. The study further revealed that a Montreal–Ottawa–Toronto system is the most economically viable section and could generate a positive net economic benefit using either diesel or electric traction.
After the report had been released, politicians and Chamber in Windsor area argued that having the less-expensive "higher speed rail" connection between Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor must be part of the consideration. Detroit is already part of higher speed rail initiative in the United States to connect to Chicago, Illinois, and to St. Louis, Missouri. They suggested that a study to include cross-border connection would account for greater economic impact.
In an interview with CBC Radio on April 15, 2014, Ontario Minister of Transportation Glen Murray announced that high-speed rail will be constructed between London, Kitchener, and Toronto within 10 years. Still in the planning stages, discussed stops included the downtown cores of these cities, and Terminal 2 of Pearson Airport. Further details were released by Murray in a speech April 30, 2014, in London Ontario. Select results from a study prepared by a London, England based consultancy, First Class Partnerships, was released to the public. The FCP study considered a range of options including continuing the existing service with LRC trains, incremental upgrading of the existing line with faster and more diesels, and construction of new sections of line. However the full FCP study was not publicly released.
In an interview with 'International Rail Journal' on May 2, 2014, FCP disclosed a few further details. Unlike the earlier EcoTrain study, which proposed to build a completely separate line for HSR, FCP proposes to share the existing rail corridor from Toronto to Georgetown which is being upgraded with 4 to 6 tracks and will be electrified for use by GO regional trains and the shuttle service being developed between Toronto's Union Station and Pearson Airport. In addition the FCP noted substantial traffic potential for a HSR line between Kitchener/Waterloo and Toronto. This contrasts with EcoTrain, which dismissed that corridor as being too short a trip to be attractive for HSR. FCP also noted the route from Kitchener to London would be across "open countryside" and reduce land acquisition issues. Murray said that next step is to prepare an Environmental Impact statement, and that the line might be implemented within 8 years.
The project faces significant technical and political challenges. HSR trains will need to share tracks with GO regional, freight, and airport express trains. Between Bramalea and Georgetown, HSR trains will share the corridor with the Canadian National Railways main line.
On October 2014, High Speed Rail Canada announced that it would release to the public a number of feasibility studies done on the corridor. One was the FCP study of a line between London and Toronto and the other was a study was done by the SNCF and funded by cities along the Quebec–Windsor Corridor for a HSR line between Windsor and Quebec City.
On December 5, 2014, the MTO has approved to start an Environmental Assessment on the best route for a high speed rail connecting Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, London and Windsor for 2015. On October 30, 2015 the Government of Ontario announced that David Collenette would be the Special Advisor for High-Speed Rail. Collenette delivered the Special Advisor's Final Report to the provincial government on December 2, 2016,
On May 19, 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, based on the recommendations on Collenette's report. The environmental assessment for this will reportedly be coordinated with the Metrolinx project to enable two-way, all day GO transit trains to Kitchener and will be sharing that corridor. Premiere Wynne also says that design and planning will commence "immediately" along with the assessment.
Other proposed routes
The Pacific Northwest Corridor is one of ten high-speed rail corridors proposed by the United States federal government. If the 750 km (466 mi) corridor were completed as proposed, 180 km/h (110 mph) passenger trains would travel from Eugene, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington, in 2 hours 30 minutes, and from Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2 hours 50 minutes.
(Montreal–Boston or New York via Albany)
In 2000, the United States Federal Railroad Administration proposed an accelerated line (200 km/h (124 mph)) between Boston and Montreal in order to link with the Acela Express and Northeast Regional service from Washington, D.C. to Boston and to serve northern New England communities along the route. The first phase of the study, which included public hearings, was conducted in 2002 with the participation of the states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The second phase of the study was cancelled after New Hampshire withdrew its support.
In the 1970s, the mayor of Montreal, Jean Drapeau, announced his project to build a TGV (high-speed line) to New York in order to replace the slow and unreliable Adirondack service operated by Amtrak. More recently, Mayor Bourque tried to revive the TGV to New York project. The topic has also been discussed between the governor of New York and the premier of Quebec, but no progress has been made since a pre-feasibility study conducted in 2003. The line is problematic because most of the investment would need to be made through the sparsely populated Adirondack Mountains north of Albany. Between Albany and New York, relatively fast and frequent rail service is already available.
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