General Project Questions
The High Frequency Rail (HFR) project is a proposed investment in new infrastructure to transform passenger rail service in Canada. This new sustainable train network will run on mostly dedicated tracks at higher frequencies, higher speeds and with greater reliability between Toronto and Québec City, making it faster and easier for people travelling in Canada’s most populated areas — for work or play.
The HFR project is one of the largest infrastructure projects in Canada’s history. With over 1,000 km of new passenger rail service planned between major city-centres including Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal and Québec City, HFR will help build a better future for Canadians with new trains, and mostly electrified and dedicated passenger tracks, that will serve Canada’s growing population.
HFR — with over 1,000 km of rail between major city-centres including Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal and Québec City -- will provide Canada’s most populated areas with a new rail service operating mostly on electrified and dedicated passenger tracks, at higher frequencies, higher speeds and with greater reliability.
The HFR project will provide a greener, more accessible and more convenient way for Canadians to travel as our population grows. People will be able to connect between these major Canadian cities and communities for work, school and personal travel, helping to support the Canadian economy. By using trains with electrified technology, Canadians who travel the HFR network will help Canada’s efforts to reach greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.
HFR will also benefit travellers on VIA Rail’s shared-track services between Toronto and Québec City. Arrival and departure times will be optimized for the convenience of commuters, leisure travellers and tourists alike, meaning that you can get to where you need to be when you need to be there.
Moving passenger services to dedicated tracks will also release capacity on the freight network improving current and future freight capacity and help support Canadian economic growth.
Train passengers—who travel for business or leisure—can expect more departures, improved schedules, reliability, and shorter travel times.
The HFR project will put passengers first by:
- Enhancing passenger experience with a new passenger rail service operating with reduced journey times at higher frequencies and greater reliability, making rail a more attractive option for intercity travel.
- Achieving greater connectivity for people living in and around major cities and communities between Toronto and Québec City, and to major airports and universities/ colleges in the region.
- Enabling safe journeys by using Transport Canada approved safety systems between Toronto and Québec City.
- Reducing the environmental footprint with sustainable energy resources powering trains, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and supporting Canada’s sustainable development priorities in climate resilient infrastructure.
- Supporting economic growth by creating new employment opportunities in infrastructure, in new centres of economic activity and bringing people closer to markets, businesses, and activity.
- Promoting a competitive marketplace that gives Canadians more flexibility and affordable options for intercity travel.
- Increasing equitable access to passenger services for all people regardless of physical ability or socio-economic background.
High Frequency Rail will make a meaningful contribution to addressing climate change priorities in the transportation sector by offering a mostly electric-powered passenger rail service in Canada’s most densely populated region. This transformative project will provide a sustainable transportation alternative for generations to come. Passenger rail travel currently accounts for only 2 percent of all trips through the region; cars account for 94 percent. There will be a direct environmental benefit to shifting some of those who use cars to a greener passenger train service.
With electrification on the HFR dedicated tracks, dual-powered trains may still be required for portions of the route owned by third parties, such as freight railway companies, that are not yet electrified, and when HFR trains travel through these track segments they will run on diesel or battery.
The HFR Team is led by Transport Canada and includes members from Public Services and Procurement Canada, Infrastructure Canada, VIA HFR and VIA Rail. Each organization has clearly defined roles and responsibilities during the procurement phases. The HFR Team is also supported by multiple advisors, including the Canada Infrastructure Bank, who offer a wide range of experience and expertise and who are committed to collaboration and project optimization. The Department of Justice is the legal counsel to the Government of Canada.
At this time, the route HFR will travel is not yet finalized. The Government of Canada has announced that Canada’s new rail service on dedicated passenger tracks would travel between Toronto and Québec City, passing through Peterborough, Ottawa, Montréal and Trois-Rivières. Technical analysis and discussions with communities and Indigenous Peoples are ongoing to further our journey towards a final route selection.
Some of this work will be done in collaboration with a Private Developer Partner (PDP). To deliver this ambitious vision and project, the Government of Canada is proposing a co-development approach to implement the HFR project. After the conclusion of a competitive procurement process, which has already commenced, and through the RFQ and RFP stages, the government will engage the selected PDP to further advance and optimize the design and scope of the HFR project.
We believe that High Frequency Rail offers a better strategy for improving intercity passenger rail services between Toronto and Québec City. By using dedicated passenger rail tracks, the HFR project will decrease journey times, increase reliability and passenger comfort, representing significant improvements over the existing offering.
Dedicated tracks for HFR trains will also mostly separate passenger and freight rail operations, creating more sustainable transportation capacity for both people and goods.
A project of this complexity involves a multi-phased procurement process that would culminate with the selection of a private partner to co-develop and execute the project.
Click to view the project delivery model.
While it is too early to determine exact service levels, the introduction of High Frequency Rail (HFR) will allow VIA HFR to provide more responsive service to communities on VIA Rail's existing local service routes between Toronto and Québec City.
Introduction of the HFR project will allow a re-design of existing operating frequencies on VIA Rail’s shared-track infrastructure between Toronto and Québec City. Arrival and departure times can, with the HFR project, be optimized for the convenience of travellers, meaning that with improved schedules you can get to where you need to be when you need to be there.
Meaningful, inclusive and accessible consultation, engagement and communication—with Indigenous Peoples and the public—are key to building a High Frequency Rail (HFR) system that maximizes benefits for all Canadians. Our team has already started to engage communities and Indigenous Peoples to understand views and gather feedback that will help guide the future of the HFR project. In addition, to support and encourage the participation of Indigenous Peoples, Transport Canada is making grant funding available through the Community Participation Funding Program – High Frequency Rail (CPFP-HFR).
Decisions remain and your input is essential to help guide the final design for the HFR project. You can stay informed by signing up for Project updates at www.tgf-hfr.ca or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The participation of Indigenous Peoples is essential to the success of the HFR project. As such, we have already started to engage Indigenous Peoples to gather an understanding of expectations and views with regards to the HFR project, and with an aim to defining socio-economic development opportunities in future stages of the procurement and the co-development phases. To enable these conversations, and to support and encourage participation of Indigenous Peoples, Transport Canada is making grant funding available through the Community Participation Funding Program – High Frequency Rail (CPFP-HFR).
As part of the Procurement process, the Government of Canada will seek a Private Developer Partner that prioritizes and values meaningful relationships with Indigenous Peoples. For example, during the Request for Proposal (RFP) stage, the Government of Canada is planning to evaluate the Indigenous participation plans of proponents to encourage collaboration opportunities with Indigenous Peoples, businesses, communities and organizations.
The Government of Canada is committed to an ongoing dialogue with Canadians and building nation-to-nation, government-to-government relationships with Indigenous Peoples. Input and feedback from Indigenous Peoples throughout the life of the project will be essential to developing an effective project that creates mutually beneficial socio-economic development and project participation opportunities.
At this early stage of the project, the Government of Canada is proactively reaching out to engage more than 40 First Nations, Innu and Métis communities, groups and other entities. Initial outreach includes providing an introduction to the High Frequency Rail project; inquiring about how parties would like to be engaged going forward; and providing Indigenous Peoples an opportunity to express initial views and feedback on the project.
Indigenous Peoples, members of the public, and other key stakeholders who may have input, questions or concerns about the project, can provide their feedback through the High Frequency Rail project website.
Indigenous Peoples, members of the public, and other key stakeholders will also have the opportunity to provide input over the coming years through the Impact Assessment, which will likely be needed for the High Frequency Rail project. Information on this engagement process will be forthcoming.
The participation of Indigenous Peoples is essential to the success of the proposed High Frequency Rail project. To support and encourage the participation of Indigenous Peoples in discussions related to the development of the High Frequency Rail project in the Toronto to Québec City corridor, Transport Canada is making grant funding available through the Community Participation Funding Program – High Frequency Rail (CPFP-HFR). This funding program may be accessed by eligible recipients following receipt of an invitation to participate in project-related engagement and consultation activities from Transport Canada and/or the HFR Team. Please contact email@example.com for more information.
No. The Government of Canada will retain ownership of VIA Rail, its subsidiary and its assets.
The Government of Canada will ensure that workers are protected. As part of this process, the Government will require any private sector partner to respect VIA Rail employees, their collective agreements and benefits, and to demonstrate how it will work with VIA Rail employees and unions. These criteria will be mandatory during the procurement process and any proposal that does not meet them will be deemed unacceptable by the Government of Canada.
The government will also continue to ensure that intercity passenger rail service is operated in the public interest and will establish service level requirements. Issues such as equity and affordability will be addressed through mechanisms such as a fare policy.
Your voice matters, and we are committed to engaging the public and Indigenous People throughout every phase of this once-in-a-generation project. Anyone interested in sharing their views on the project, asking questions or signing up for project updates is encouraged to visit the HFR and You page.
To develop and implement the HFR project, Canada announced, in December 2022, a wholly-owned subsidiary of VIA Rail which is named VIA HFR – VIA TGF Inc.
This new organization will oversee and manage the implementation and delivery of the Co-Development Phase. It will act as a dedicated project office and be a strong public sector counterparty to the eventual Private Developer Partner (PDP). Once established, this Project Office will take over the lead of several key project activities and will work collaboratively with the Private Partner to co-develop and optimize the HFR project.
VIA HFR would be funded by the Government of Canada and be comprised of a Board of Directors and a management team with world-class expertise. This organization will have the flexibility, independence and corporate agility required to advance this large infrastructure project in a timely manner, on behalf of the Minister of Transport.
To ensure project continuity, certain members of the HFR Team will transition to this new entity. This will leverage the institutional knowledge and expertise of the organizations behind the HFR Team to ensure that the HFR project provides the best possible services to Canadians.
Once HFR is in service, VIA Rail is expected to continue operating its existing services outside the Corridor. Aside from supporting the VIA subsidiary in the development and implementation of this project, VIA Rail will continue to be Canada’s national passenger rail provider now and into the future.
We have also initiated discussions with regulatory agencies to confirm the environmental regulations that will apply and the associated studies that will be needed to support these requirements.
Study plans are being developed in consideration of the existing technical assessments of the Project area and include:
- Air Quality
- Acoustic Environment
- Terrestrial Ecology
- Fish and Fish Habitat
- Surface Water
- Human Health and Community Safety, including GBA+
- Cultural Heritage
- Visual Assessment
Field work to conduct preliminary analysis will be conducted in 2023 to properly assess and mitigate impacts.
As part of building a greener, more accessible and sustainable transportation project, we have initiated outreach and engagement activities with communities and Indigenous Peoples who may be interested in or affected by the HFR project. These engagement activities will continue throughout the next several years of project development, including for the purpose of various regulatory reviews such as the federal Impact Assessment required under the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Transportation Agency’s review required under the Canadian Transportation Act.
For more information on our plans and commitment related to the Impact Assessment Process please visit our What’s Happening page.
For more information on Canada`s Impact Assessment Policy, please visit the Government of Canada's website.
The HFR project has potential to reduce Canada’s environmental footprint by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It will offer people an option with a much lower carbon footprint than cars or planes. And in this digital age, with more of us working from home, the HFR project has the potential to create more opportunities for people to live in the community of their choice by making travel, including commuting, a greener, more accessible and more convenient option.
As part of building a greener, more accessible, and sustainable transportation project, we have also initiated outreach and engagement activities with communities and Indigenous Peoples who may be directly affected by the HFR project. Your input is essential to help guide the final design for HFR, including curve optimizations, locations for stations, maintenance facilities and temporary work areas, bridge and tunnel designs, and any necessary mitigations to avoid or minimize environmental or social impacts.
The Government of Canada has contracted external advisors with expertise in railway planning, engineering, and operations to analyze options that will support the commitment to improve passenger rail service in Southwestern Ontario. The results of this work are expected at the end of 2023. After that, the Government of Canada will be able to further explore the feasibility of integrating Southwestern Ontario into the High Frequency Rail project; this is expected to include collaboration with VIA HFR and the private developer partner during the co-development phase.
We are committed to shortening journey times and achieving higher speeds in the corridor.
The Government of Canada’s investments in High Frequency Rail are only the beginning of efforts to reinvigorate passenger rail in Canada.
There are many systems around the world that integrate high speed and high frequency.
Through a progressive public-private partnership, the Government of Canada will work with the private developer partner to assess sections of the High Frequency Rail service for potential high-speed rail, where it provides value for the additional investment.
There will be ongoing assessments as to how the service can be improved over the course of the project. This responsible approach will ensure Canadians get good value for money.
The two systems differ in speed, infrastructure requirements, and station locations.
Speed: Between two major cities a high-speed train would run at a top speed of 300 kilometres per hours, with operating speeds of 255 kilometres per hour. A high-frequency train would top the speedometer at 200 kilometres per hour, with operating speeds of 177 kilometres per hour. For the HFR project, the private developer partner will have the flexibility to explore opportunities for higher speeds than 200 kilometres per hour on segments of track where it makes financial and operational sense.
Infrastructure requirements: Compared to High Frequency Rail, a full high-speed rail system would require more time and money to build a fully enclosed (fenced) corridor, a straighter alignment with full, double tracking, as well as complete grade separation. In the latter case, this means over 1,000 public and private crossings between Quebec City and Toronto would need to be grade separated with viaducts and tunnels. As a result, building an end-to-end high-speed rail system would be more complex, costly, and time consuming than High Frequency Rail.
Stops and Stations: High-speed rail systems are usually designed to optimize travel between two major cities, with limited stops in between. Stations are also usually located outside of city centres. On the other hand, High Frequency Rail would be capable of serving smaller communities between major cities and reaching busy downtown stations.
Given the size, scale and complexity of the HFR project, the Government of Canada has chosen a multi-phased procurement process that involves an innovative public-private partnership (P3) model as this is the right thing to do. The collaborative approach is intended to promote innovation, drive better service for passengers, reduce risk and improve risk management, and ultimately achieve better value for Canadians.
Yes, the Government of Canada will outline mandatory requirements, such as those related to safety and to minimum project outcomes that are important to Canadians.
For example, project outcomes will include: producing a significant modal shift to passenger rail; providing barrier-free access to services according to the latest accessibility standards; and improved on-time performance across the Corridor. There will be flexibility to explore innovations to maximize project outcomes, such as including higher speeds on some segments to bring more benefits to Canadians.
More information on project outcomes and other elements of the project can be found in this presentation from the 30th Annual CCPPP Conference.
The RFQ represents a major step in the procurement process that would conclude with the Government of Canada selecting a private developer partner next year to design and develop the High Frequency Rail project.
The specific purpose of the Request for Qualifications is to identify and qualify up to three top respondents. These top respondents will then be invited to participate in the Request for Proposals process, which will eventually lead to the selection of the private developer partner. This private developer partner will collaborate with VIA HFR to design and develop the High Frequency Rail project.
The Request for Qualifications document provides an updated overview of the High Frequency Rail project, and describes:
- The procurement process including the evaluation criteria, security requirements, proposal development funding support, and key principles of the deal structure;
- The roles and responsibilities of the private developer partner; and
- The project outcomes that the private developer partner will have to meet or exceed.
For the most up-to-date RFQ document and latest information on the process, you are invited to visit Request for Qualifications Posting.
Now that the Request for Qualifications has been released, next steps include:
Click here to view the next steps.
For the most up-to-date RFQ document and latest information on the process, you are invited to visit Request for Qualifications Posting.
There was a high level of interest in the project from both domestic and international parties, with formal responses from a total of 54 parties. Responses confirmed support for the overall approach, sought clarifications on some elements of the project, such as roles and responsibilities, and suggested ways to enhance the design of the procurement process. The results of this process were included in the Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEOI) Update issued on October 31, 2022. Read the RFEOI update.
The Request for Qualifications is an important next step in the formal procurement process for the High Frequency Rail project.
The Government of Canada is using a staged, decision-making approach to leverage input collected throughout the procurement process and to inform the next steps and decisions to advance the High Frequency Rail project.
For example, the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) will result in a short list of potential private developer partners who will then be invited to participate in a Request for Proposals (RFP) process. At the end of the RFP process, the government would select a private developer partner to work with VIA HFR to co-develop and optimize the High Frequency Rail project.
Some future phases of the project are subject to further Government of Canada decisions, including a decision on the Impact Assessment. These are required before establishing a binding agreement between Canada and the private developer partner to fully implement the project.
The new intercity passenger rail service will not carry passengers before 2030. The HFR project will transform intercity passenger rail to meet the needs of travellers. We are building momentum and have achieved the following milestones:
- In March 2022, the Government of Canada launched the procurement process with the Request for Expressions of Interest.
- In November 2022, a wholly owned subsidiary of VIA Rail (VIA HFR) was established as a project office dedicated to work collaboratively with the private developer partner to design, develop and optimize High Frequency Rail.
- In February 2023, the Government of Canada released the Request for Qualifications, which brings the project one step closer to finding a private developer partner.
Following the Request for Qualifications, the next key steps will include launching a Request for Proposals in August-September 2023, and then selecting a private developer partner.
This will lead to the critical step: the collaborative design and development of the new system between VIA HFR and the private developer partner, followed by construction, and then operation – with ongoing public engagement and Indigenous consultations, throughout the life of the project.
The goal is for the High Frequency Rail service to carry passengers by the early 2030s. There may be opportunities to launch partial service along certain segments earlier, where this can be done while respecting regulatory processes and approvals.
You can download an official version of the Request for Qualifications on Canada Buys.
We have also provided an unofficial PDF version as of February 17, 2023, that you can download here: Request for Qualifications Document (PDF).
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