High frequency train | A design that will go through Quebec

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), SNC-Lavalin, WSP Global, CIMA+: the design and operation of the high-frequency train (TGF) which is to link Québec City to Toronto will pass through Montréal, in light of the identity of the companies that make up the consortia eyeing this multi-billion dollar project.

What there is to know :

  • Ottawa hopes to put the TGF into service, between Quebec and Toronto, in a decade.
  • Three consortia are finalists for design and operation.
  • We should know the winner in a year.

Of the 19 names found among the 3 groups selected by Ottawa, at least 10 companies or institutions are established in the metropolis or operate a branch there. The consortium in which we find the woolen socks of Quebecers is particularly established in Quebec. In addition to SNC-Lavalin, the team is completed by the Canadian branches of Systra and Keolis, whose offices are located in Quebec.

“With the way the consortia are structured, we really ensure Montreal’s leading role as Canada’s rail capital,” says transportation planning expert at the University of Montreal Pierre Barrieau, pointing out that the metropolis is also home to VIA Rail’s head office. I was afraid that we would lose this expertise. »

The TGF, which will run on rail tracks reserved for passenger trains that can travel up to 200 km / h, reached a new milestone on Thursday. At a press conference on Thursday, federal ministers Omar Alghabra (Transport) and Pablo Rodriguez (Canadian Heritage) revealed the identity of the consortia that will have the right to bid.


Federal Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra, in a press conference with his colleague from Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez (on the right), and members of the board of directors of VIA TGF (on the left).

“The Quebec economy is by far the majority within the consortia,” says Mr. Barrieau.

This is the case for consulting engineering firms. Two of the three potential operators (Keolis and RATP Dev Canada) are in Quebec. Only Deutsche Bahn has a presence in Toronto. We come out winners.

Pierre Barrieau, transportation planning expert

Listen to Messrs. Alghabra and Rodriguez, the contracts for TGF will not contain minimum Canadian content requirements. The two ministers limited themselves to pointing out that there were Canadian companies in the three finalist groups. The Minister of Canadian Heritage added that local content was a “top priority”, but that this will be negotiated with the winning consortium.

This means that the rolling stock could be assembled outside the country, as is the case for the Metropolitan Express Network (REM) cars, assembled by Alstom in India.

Open secret

The presence of CDPQ Infra, a subsidiary of the woolen stockings of Quebecers, in the consortia is not a surprise in itself. The pension plan manager had publicly expressed interest in the TGF project last winter.

In Quebec, the Caisse is still working to complete the REM, the commissioning of the South Shore branch of which is scheduled for July 31. In this project of at least 7 billion, the Quebec institution owns the network, in addition to being the project manager and having participated in the financial arrangement. It remains to be seen what its role will be in the framework of the proposal that will be prepared for the TGF.

“We see that the big names in Quebec are present, and I find that interesting and comforting,” says Michel Archambault, professor emeritus in the department of urban and tourism studies at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM).

We are talking about a historic project that could disrupt the way of traveling over longer distances in Canada.

Michel Archambault, professor emeritus in the department of urban and tourism studies at UQAM

Persistent questions

As a new chapter of the TGF is written, the same questions persist. It is still unclear how much the project will cost. The range of 6 to 12 billion previously offered by Mr. Alghabra no longer holds and the latter no longer wants to indulge in the game of forecasts.

At a press conference, Mr. Rodriguez estimated that the project was “four to five times larger” than the REM, which will cost at least 7 billion. Should we conclude that this means that the bill for a TGF would fluctuate around 30 billion? When questioned, the two ministers quickly distanced themselves from this hypothesis.

“Although we have an idea of ​​the total cost, I would not like to offer an erroneous figure that I would have to correct later,” Mr. Alghabra said.

In recent months, voices have been raised, particularly in Quebec, asking the Trudeau government to consider a high-speed train (TGV), which can travel up to 300 km/h, rather than the current project. This request is too expensive, he retorts. It would be necessary, for example, to build many viaducts and tunnels to avoid level crossings, underlines Ottawa.

The speech, however, has softened.

Mr. Alghabra opened the door to high speed – more than 200 km/h – on certain sections of the route. Previously released indicators, such as the top speed of 200 km/h and a travel time of approximately 4:10 between Montreal and Toronto, are now starting points.

The consortia will be invited to present a “reference” scenario and a more “ambitious” option – in which it will be possible to identify sections where the speed of the trains will be higher than 200 km/h.

“I don’t know if he [le ministre] is really open or if he only says that so that the debate can take place,” said Mr. Barrieau.

Ottawa has also put a brake on the schedule of the TGF. In response to a question, Mr. Alghabra said he anticipates commissioning in the middle of the next decade. Last winter, the minister rather referred to the beginning of the 2030s.

The three consortia

Cadence: CDPQ, SNC-Lavalin, Systra Canada, Keolis Canada

Intercity rail developers: Intercity Development Partners, EllisDon Capital, Kilmer Transportation, First Rail Holdings, Jacobs, Hatch, CIMA+, First Group, RATP Dev Canada, Renfe Operadora

QConnection rail partners: Fengate, John Laing, Bechtel, WSP Canada, Deutsche Bahn

Learn more

  • Summer 2024
    Period during which the evaluation of the proposals submitted by the three consortia eyeing the TGF will take place.

    SOURCE: Government of Canada

    120 km/h
    Limit at which VIA Rail trains can currently run.

    SOURCE: VIA Rail

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