CDPQ Infra wants to be part of the construction of the Quebec-Toronto high-frequency train

Three consortia have been selected and will be able to submit proposals for the federal government’s future high frequency train (TGF) between Quebec and Toronto. CDPQ Infra, the subsidiary of the Caisse de depot et placement du Québec which manages the Réseau express métropolitain (REM), is one of the companies interested in carrying out the project.

Passing through Montreal’s Central Station on Thursday, Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra revealed the names of the consortia that have qualified and will have to submit their high-frequency train proposal by summer 2024.

Of the four consortia that expressed an interest, three were able to complete this qualification stage. CDPQ Infra, SNC-Lavalin, Systra Canada, Keolis Canada are part of the consortium called Cadence. This is the first time that CDPQ Infra has taken part in a qualification process for a transportation project other than the REM, said Emmanuelle Rouillard-Moreau, communications advisor for the CDPQ subsidiary.

Two scenarios

The consortia will have to submit a main proposal for the project, with trains capable of running at speeds of up to 200 km/h. But they will also be asked to come up with a second proposal with shorter travel times, with no limit on the speed of the trains. Without wanting to promise a high-speed train (TGV), hoped in particular by the Quebec government, Ottawa remains open to the idea that the train could, on certain sections, reach speeds exceeding 200 km/h.

Minister Alghabra described the train project as the largest infrastructure project in Canadian history, but he was careful not to comment on its estimated cost, saying he did not want to interfere with the ongoing process.

“It’s four to five times bigger than the REM,” said the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez. Remember that the REM, which is due to enter service on July 31, should cost at least $7 billion.

Between Quebec and Toronto, the future TGF will make stops in Trois-Rivières, Montreal, Laval — via the north shore of the St. Lawrence —, Ottawa and Peterborough in particular. When the project was announced in 2021, Minister Alghabra mentioned a commissioning of the TGF for 2030. On Thursday, he was talking more about the mid-2030s.

Canadian content

Ottawa will not set minimum Canadian content requirements. “The good thing is that all the consortia have Canadian partners,” limited himself to saying Minister Alghabra.

Pablo Rodriguez, however, said that Canadian content was an “absolute priority” and that this issue would be the subject of negotiations with the chosen consortium.

Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for the high-frequency train project at Transport Canada, Vincent Robitaille believes that the chosen formula, which relies on bidders’ proposals to specify the nature of the train project, will be beneficial. Especially since the government will also hold the intellectual property rights of the proposals that will be made to it by the three consortia. “Even if we select partner 1, we will be able to get ideas from partner 3. We use competition to find the best solution,” summarized Mr. Robitaille.

The challenge of winter

The Canadian climate, snow and temperature changes also represent an issue for the implementation of a train running at more than 200 km/h, points out Vincent Robitaille. “In the consortia we have, Canadian representation is very important with people who know our climate. But we cannot take a TGV in France, deploy it in Canada and think that it will cost the same price. It’s not true, it’s more complicated and expensive. That doesn’t make the TGV impossible in Canada, far from it, but it has to be done differently. »

Composition of the three consortia

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