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VIA Rail Renaissance rail cars to be modified and investments in Ottawa-Montreal rail upgrades made

VIA Rail Renaissance  Trains
VIA Rail Renaissance  Trains

The Canadian Government is set to invest C$102.5m ($77.6m) over the next two years to improve the safety and efficiency of passenger operations on the Ottawa-Montreal rail corridor.

The announcement was made by Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt and Via Rail president and CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano.

The investment will support several infrastructure projects which aim to increase the reliability of the service by reducing delays for users.

"This investment will keep our rail transportation system safe and efficient for Via's Rail customers."

The funding follows Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper's C$5.8bn ($4.4bn) announcement for infrastructure investments in November last year.

Following completion of these projects, travel time between Ottawa and Montreal will improve as these infrastructure improvements will reduce delays.

Over the next two years, these infrastructure projects are expected to create more than 2,000 jobs.
The government provides more than C$300m ($228m) in annual funding to support Via's operations.

The funding will be used by Via Rail to modify Renaissance car fleet for use on Ottawa-Montreal services to provide a consistent level of service, improve access for passengers with disabilities, and replace older equipment.

 The Renaissance rail cars were originally from the United Kingdom. They were built  for a proposed, "Nightstar" overnight service between the United Kingdom and continental Europe via the Channel Tunnel.

The video above is from VIA Rail in 2002 of the Renaissance equipment, still in "Nightstar" colours, when the train entered service in Canada.

The project will also see track and structures upgraded, with continuous-welded rail replacing jointed track at various locations, while a new passing loop will be built at Barrhaven to improve operations at the Ottawa end of the line.

In order to improve the efficiency and safety of operations, signalling and centralized traffic control will be modernized, while Ottawa station will be repaired with increased platform heights to improve access for passengers.

Specifically the funding will be used for:

  • Enable the Renaissance car fleet for use on the Ottawa-Montreal line and thus, provide customers with a consistent level of service west of Montreal while replacing older equipment. 
  • This fleet will also enhance the accessibility service for travelers in wheelchairs and/or with service animals‎.
  • Upgrade tracks and bridges between Montreal and the Ottawa area.
  • Build new track siding and make changes to the turnout to allow more fluid movement of trains in the Barrhaven area (Ottawa).
  • Repair Alexandria piers and abutments to avoid the risk of compromising the structural capacity of the bridge and to ensure the safe passage of freight and passenger trains.
  • Upgrade centralized traffic control signals to improve the efficiency and safety of operations.
  • Upgrade signal systems to improve reliability, efficiency and safety of operations.
  • Repair Ottawa Station infrastructure (main electrical power supply and distribution), and build high level platforms to improve customer safety, travel experience, and accessibility, as well as eliminate some delays.
  • Repair rail bridges in the Ottawa area.
  • Replace culverts between Ottawa and Montreal to ensure structural integrity.
  • Change/upgrade mechanical & electrical systems at the Ottawa Station to safely keep the trains ready to go without having to run a generator.
  • Replace bolted rail with continuous welded rail in the Beachburg, Alexandria and Smith Falls subdivisions and other track upgrades within the city limits of Ottawa.


  1. The Renaissance work seems pretty vague. Nobody I've read yet seems to know what deficiencies this will address particularly in respect of Ottawa.


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