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Toronto-Montreal vs Seville-Madrid Passenger Rail Lines Comparison


Toronto-Montreal vs Seville-Madrid Passenger Rail Lines Comparison

After a recent visit to Portugal and Spain, and a lot of reflection, I am even more committed to advocate for a modern passenger rail system in Canada.

Currently VIA Rail has a $6 billion dollar plan to have a rail corridor from Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal on a largely abandoned rail corridor. High Speed Rail Canada has exposed the major flaws in the plan in previous articles.

I do believe it is good to give a factual example of comparing the Seville to Madrid High Speed Line with the current and future proposed VIA Rail line Toronto to Montreal.


The population of Toronto is 2,731,571 (source: Statistics Canada).  The wider Greater Toronto Area (GTA) population was 6,417,516 at the time of the most recent (2016) census.

The population of Montreal is 1,704,694. The population of the wider Montreal metropolitan area is 4,098,927 (2016 data).

Madrid has almost 3.2 million inhabitants and a metropolitan area population of approximately 6.5 million.

Seville has a population of 703,021 inhabitants and a metropolitan population of about 1.5 million.

Fastest direct trips booked two weeks in advance

VIA Rail - Toronto - Montreal 

- (distance 541km approx)

Train 62 - lv 920 arrive 1420
Duration -  5hrs.
Cost  -$101.70 (includes 13%hst),
Speed - 160 km/h maximum speed

2017 VIA Rail overall rail ridership -  4.39 million

Renfe - Madrid to Seville 

- (distance 534km approx)

AVE 02120 lv 1200  arrive 1432
Duration - 2hrs 32min
Cost- $62.00 (taxes included),
Speed -  300 km/h. maximum speed

2017 Renfe overall ridership -  474.4 million


The federal government has given the okay for VIA Rail Canada to replace their aging fleet of trains at a cost of approximately $1.5 billion.

VIA Rail states, without supporting data, that  there will be a reduction of up to 25% trip time between Toronto and Montreal. (Source VIA Rail website). Even though the train will still travel at the same slow top  speed of 160km/h. ( Source: 2016 VIA Rail annual meeting question and answer ) and will now stop at Tweed, Peterborough, Sharbot Lake and Ottawa. ( Source: VIA Rail HFR map).

Add in the fact that VIA (if they adapt the required technology) will share the Montreal Mount Royal Tunnel with the Réseau électrique métropolitain (REM) trains. The REM trains, according to their website could be running every 2.5 minutes. This fact puts more doubts on VIA Rail announced reduction in trip times.

It is highly unlikely that VIA Rail can achieve their stated trip time reductions. As stated in a previous High Speed Rail Canada article after the $6 billion has been spent on new trains and rail infrastructure the travel time at best would be 4hrs between the two cities if a 20% reduction would be achieved.

My trips on the RENFE AVE high speed and AVANT medium distances high speed rail lines in Spain were amazing and more articles on the subject will come.

There is no reason that Ontario/Quebec cannot have high speed lines like the AVE and AVANT trains in Spain.

We do face significant challenges in Canada.

1.The current VIA Rail President does not support high speed rail..

2.Lack of education about high speed trains has resulted in the majority of the Canadian public and politicians not understanding the benefits of high speed rail and the fact it is the norm in many parts of the world.

3.Due to our seriously neglected and outdated national passenger rail system, VIA Rail, we are in a cultural vacuum. This has resulted in decision makers and some passenger rail advocates recommending outdated solutions based on our past rail history instead of focusing on modern solutions from other countries. These countries have had efficient, effective and modern passenger rail systems in place for decades.

High Speed Rail Canada will continue to educate Canadians on the benefits of high speed rail to help address the challenges mentioned above. Feel free to browse our website or contact us at

Paul Langan,
Founder High Speed Rail Canada

For a PDF version of the article click HERE.


  1. I have traveled the AVE F Class on this route, Madrid-Seville, as well as Madrid-Barcelona, and I can attest to the superior equipment, speed, convenience of schedule frequency and center city depots, on-board services, food & beverage service, and fare reasonableness.

    Although VIA provides a good formerly Business Class, named VIA1, on corridor services, the only answer for VIA is to secure from Ottawa and the provinces involved
    the requisite funding to build a dedicated mainline track and signaling exclusively for VIA services. Indeed, Amtrak would be in even worse shape today if was not gifted the Northeast Corridor to own and operate.

  2. In discussions of the subject, I have hardly ever heard a mention of the climate benefit. A modern high speed train system is essential to get more people out of jets and cars. If execs and politicians and taxpayers were thinking logically, they'd see the absurdity of the current ViaRail train situation - say Toronto-Vancouver - where passengers pay a fortune to be shunted aside regularly for hours as countless freight trains go by because Via "borrows" CN's freight rails. Just ridiculous.


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