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Canada’s High Frequency Rail project begins Request for Proposal phase

OTTAWA — The Canadian government’s slow-moving process of developing its proposed High-Frequency Rail passenger route between Toronto and Quebec City is taking its next step.

Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez announced Friday the start of the Request for Proposals process for the rail project, with a deadline announced only as “summer 2024.” Those proposals will come from three consortia previously selected during the Request for Qualifications phase [see “Timeline for Canada’s high-frequency rail corridor grows longer,” Trains News Wire, July 21, 2023]. At the time the three groups were selected, Transport Canada had said the Request for Proposals would launch in September.

According to Friday’s announcement, the three consortia will be asked to develop two different proposals regarding speed. One will require maximum speeds of 200 kilometers per hour (124 mph); the other will require high speed segments for faster travel travel times. The announcement and a background document on the RFP process do not define “high speed,” but the European Union defines “high speed rail” as operating at a minimum of 250 kph (155 mph) on purpose-built lines and about 200 kph on existing lines which have been upgraded. The proposals will also require a business plan and management plan for development, construction, and operation of the project.

A three-month evaluation period will follow the submission of the proposals; a consortium is expected to be selected in late fall 2024 to work with VIA HFR, the VIA Rail Canada affiliate created to manage the project, on design and development.

“The launch of the Request for Proposals for the High Frequency Rail project marks a significant milestone,” Rodriguez said in a press release. “In the future, more Canadians will choose to travel by rail, because the HFR will lead to faster train journeys, more frequent departures and greener travel. I look forward to seeing how the teams participating in this process will approach the challenge of connecting communities, honouring Indigenous Reconciliation, and improving travel in the Québec City to Toronto corridor.”

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