High-speed rail in Canada

From TrainSpottingWorld, for Rail fans everywhere

Although Canada does not have high-speed rail lines, there have been two routes frequently proposed as suitable for a high-speed rail corridor. The first is in Alberta, between the cities of Edmonton and Calgary via Red Deer. The second is in Ontario and Quebec, between Windsor, Ontario and Quebec City.

Canada placed some early hopes with the United Aircraft Turbo train, in the 1960s. The train sets achieved speeds as high as 200 km/h in regular service, but for most of its service life (marred with lengthy interruptions to address design problems), it ran at a more realistic 160 km/h.

Beginning in the 1970s, a consortium of several companies started to study the Bombardier LRC, which was a more conventional approach to high-speed rail, in having separate cars rather than being an articulated train. Pulled by heavy conventional-technology diesel-electric locomotives designed for 200 km/h normal operating speed, 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.

In 1998, the Lynx consortium, including Bombardier and SNC-Lavalin proposed a 300 km/h high-speed train named the Jet-Train from Toronto to Quebec City via 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 small jet engine rather than overhead electric wires. These trains ressemble 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 half of the Canadian population, and three of the four largest cities in the country including Toronto and Montreal. It is already the focus of most VIA Rail service. Currently the area is served by Highway 401 in Ontario and Autoroute 20 in Quebec, VIA Rail, commuter and local transit, and several airports. 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, Stephane Dion has said that he is in favour of developing a high-speed rail system as a way to fight climate change. [1].


The most advanced proposals are in Edmonton-Calgary 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:

  1. 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.
  2. A new dedicated passenger route, known as the "Green Field" route, also using the Jet Train, and costing approximately $ 2.2 billion.
  3. 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 22nd 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.[2]

The current conservative government in Alberta has made no commitment to the project.

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".[3]


Links and references

High-speed rail
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