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VIA RAIL: The Mysterious High Frequency Rail Plan

One thing has been constant about VIA RAIL in my over thirty years of rail advocacy. Their secrecy and arrogance to the taxpayers and the advocates that support them has not waivered.

One classic example is VIA Rail still not releasing an uncensored  version of the taxpayer funded study VIAfast from 2002.

A more recent example is the secrecy regarding details of the VIA RAIL High Frequency Rail (HFR) plan.

VIA RAIL President Yves Desjardins-Siciliano has been pushing the idea of HFR (or how it should be known as Lots of Trains Moving at Speeds from 1975) to the public and politician of all levels.

When you ask for details of this HFR proposal they send you generic slides and press releases. When you ask VIA RAIL for a map for where there this HFR line will go, you get nothing.

We can only speculate that VIA RAIL is suggesting their rail line runs along the old Ontario/Quebec Rail Line. In the early days it was known as the Scottish Line due to the heritage of people living along the line. We would know it better as the former CP rail line. It ran from Smith Falls through Tweed, Havelock, Peterbough into Toronto.

Here is a  LINK to the schedule of the line from October 29, 1967, it still lists some of the original station stops but no trains were running there. The full line saw its last freight train in 1967. In 1971, between Tweed and Perth was torn up and in 1987 the line was further abandoned from Tweed to Blairton.
Will VIA RAIL HFR and slow trains bring back the ghost village of Bathurst Ontario along the line!

CP long gave up on the line in 1914 when they switched to the newly opened Lakeshore line. The line became a secondary line to them.

Does VIA RAIL have a plan to resurrect this line? They certainly have been pumping up the politicians along the way. Two recent stories suggest that VIA RAIL’s HFR proposal is going to be approved in the next federal budget.

Perth Mayor John Fenik thinks a link from Smith Falls to Perth will happen.

Over in Peterborough Ontario at a town hall the subject of passenger rail came up again.

All this banter is amazing considering VIA RAIL have never done a study to show where the line would go and the true costs of what it would take to bring back this long abandoned line.

Our guess is the Trudeau government will do, what all federal governments have done in the past, and put money in the budget for consultants to do a study of VIA RAIL’s proposal and that is all.

Thanks to the Canadian Railroad Historical Association for their excellent back issues on the history  of this line.


  1. It's about time that Canadians realize that the current gridlock experienced on a daily basis on our highways can only be reduced or alleviated by a fast, frequent and modern passenger rail system. Studies indicate that a double-tracked rail line can carry as many people as a 16-lane highway. As such, a properly funded passenger rail system would consequently cost the taxpayer a lot less than constructing new highways or widening existing highways. Unfortunately, lobbyists for the automobile, bus and airline industries will continue to influence politicians to ensure that the Canadian public will not be made of these facts! It is so sad that Canada is at least fifty years behind other countries when it comes to providing its citizens with proper mobility with passenger rail!

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  3. You say;

    "CP long gave up on the line in 1914 when they switched to the newly opened Lakeshore line which saved over 150 miles off the original Ontario/Quebec Rail Line. The line became a secondary line to them."

    This figure of 150 miles is totally incorrect. A 1892 timetable show the distance at 344 mile from Toronto to Montreal but that involved using the North Toronto Sub and backing down the line from the Junction to Old Union Station. The distance when it went down the Don valley was about 339 miles versus 335 for the Lakeshore alignment. The actual difference is distance is only about 4 miles.

    The plan is flawed but don't fight it with grossly inaccurate statements like the one I quoted.

    1. Yes,thanks, it has been corrected! No intent to be misleading. The plan is bad enough on its own.

  4. Baby steps? I get that HFR is not high speed rail, but perhaps HFR will go a long way towards building a base of support for high speed rail?


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