High-speed rail in Canada

High-speed rail in Canada

Although Canada does not have high-speed rail lines, there have been two routes frequently proposed as suitable for a high-speed rail corridor:

* Edmonton to Calgary via Red Deer

* Windsor to Quebec City via London, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal

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. 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 10th 2008, a new Canadian National Citzens Advocacy Group High Speed Rail Canada [http://www.highspeedrail.ca] was formed to promote and educate Canadians on the benefits of high speed rail in Canada. [ [http://www.marketwire.com/mw/release.do?id=842335 High Speed Rail Canada Citizens Advocacy Group and Website Forms ] ]

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 200 km/h 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 (accounting for dual passenger-freight use); as such, the trains were operated at a more realistic 160 km/h. 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 200 km/h normal operating speed, inspired by the English HST125, 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 limit mandated by line signalling. It was the world's first active tilting train in commercial service.

In 1998, the Lynx consortium, including Bombardier and SNC-Lavalin proposed a 320 km/h 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. As yet, no government support for this plan has been forthcoming, and Bombardier continues promoting the JetTrain especially for Texas and Florida routes.

Quebec City-Windsor

The Quebec-Windsor Corridor is the most densely-populated and heavily-industrialised region of Canada. With over 16 million people, it contains approximately half of Canada's population, the national capital and three of the four largest metropolitan areas in Canada (Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa–Gatineau). It is already the focus of most VIA Rail service. Currently the area is served by several freeways, VIA Rail, commuter and local transit, and several airports. This corridor population density is comparable to the Rhône River valley where the French TGV is very profitable.

There have been proposals for a high-speed service, such as VIA Fast, but no action has been taken so far. However, the leader of the Liberal Party, Stéphane Dion has said that he is in favour of developing a high-speed rail system as a way to fight climate change. [ [http://www.global-cool.com/en/2007/01/16/canada-sees-climate-change-dollar-signs/ Global Cool » Canada Sees Climate Change Dollar Signs ] ]

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. [ [http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20080110/viarail_snowfall_080110/20080110/ CTV.ca |Via Rail says snowfall behind spike in ridership ] ] [ [http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/01/10/rail-study.html Governments revive plans for high-speed trains between Quebec, Ontario ] ] [ [http://www.nationalpost.com/news/canada/story.html?id=228684 Ontario-Quebec to study rapid rail link ] ]

It is possible that any high-speed rail development would be connected with the Ohio Hub and the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative.


The most advanced proposals are in the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor in Alberta. The cities are approximately 260 km apart (About 3 hours by car), and are connected by the Queen Elizabeth II Highway.

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 CAD $ 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 Jet Train, 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 found that there was little incremental benefit in running at 300 km/h rather than 240 km/h, and so recommended the first option.

On September 22, 2006 it was announced the Provincial government was deploying video cameras along a stretch of the Queen Elizabeth Highway to determine just how many cars travel between the three cities. [cite news |title=High-speed rail topic of survey |url=http://calsun.canoe.ca/News/Alberta/2006/09/22/1879651.html |date=2006-09-22 |publisher=Calgary Sun]

Some figures quoted for the cost of the project are far larger than the above. For example, "Vue Weekly" gives the cost as "$ 3 - $ 5 billion". [cite news |title=Railing against traffic and congestion on Highway 2 |url=http://www.vueweekly.com/articles/default.aspx?i=4800 |date= |publisher=Vue Weekly]

The Calgary Herald announced on April 18, 2007 that the provincial government had purchased land in downtown Calgary for a possible station or terminal. [cite news |title=Land bought for rail terminal |url=http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/city/story.html?id=43b5d9a6-87ea-4b58-87d8-4714f6a6137e |date= |publisher=Calgary Herald] The provincial government also maintains ownership of the top deck of Edmonton's High Level Bridge so a potential high speed rail line can reach downtown Edmonton.

The Calgary Herald has put on a "special topic section" about the prospect of a high-speed rail in Alberta over the 2007 Thanksgiving long weekend. It is called [http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/features/train/index.html "On Track: Alberta's Bullet Train Debate."]

Montreal - United States

In order to link with the Acela Express and Acela Regional service from Washington, D.C. to Boston, and to serve northern New England communities along the route, the United States Federal Railroad Administration proposed in 2000 an accelerated line (200 km/h) between Boston and Montreal as one of several high speed rail corridors identified across the country. Public hearings and the first phase of a study were 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. [ [http://lcn.canoe.com/infos/regional/archives/2001/01/20010114-081729.html Pierre Bourque intéressé par le projet d'un TGV entre Montréal et New York] ] The topic has also been discussed between the governor of New York and the premier of Québec, but no progress has been made since a pre-feasibility study conducted in 2003. [ [http://www.mtq.gouv.qc.ca/portal/page/portal/entreprises/transport_ferroviaire/projet_train_haute_vitesse_montreal_new-york Projet de train à haute vitesse Montréal-New York] ] 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, fast and frequent rail service is already available.


External links

* [http://www.railwaypeople.com/rail-projects/quebec-windsor-corridor-jet-train-canada-30.html Quebec - Windsor Corridor Jet Train, Canada]
* [http://www.vanhorne.info/files/vanhorne/HSRFullReport(1062004).pdf Calgary / Edmonton High Speed Rail] - a report by the Van Horne Institute (2.45MB PDF)

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