Skip to main content

VIA Rail Canada wanted high-speed rail 40 Years Ago

VIA Rail Canada 1984 High-Speed Rail in Canada Study

high-speed passenger rail in Canada

Is there a future, a potential, for high-speed passenger rail services in Canada? That was the question the federal government posed to VIA Rail Canada in 1981.

After three years of intensive effort, VIA had completed one of the most comprehensive studies ever made of any aspect of the passenger railway system in Canada.

The feasibility study thus depicted possible approaches to using high-speed passenger rail advances in Canada, yet tailored specifically to Canadian conditions and needs.

Pierre A.H. Franche, then President and Chief Executive Officer VIA Rail Canada in 1984 stated, “There is little doubt that consideration of high-speed rail will be a key part of longer-range national plans for modernizing Canada's passenger railway system.”

1984 High-Speed Rail Study Conclusions

The 1984 feasibility study indicates that the Canadian government could, if it wished, provide Canada with a high-speed rail railway service between Montréal, Ottawa and Toronto with speeds up to three hundred kilometres an hour.  It would cost $2.1 billion.

There would also be an improved level of service of 155 kilometres an hour between Québec City and Montreal and in Southwestern Ontario, while at the same time improving VIA’s financial position. Those improvements would cost $75 million. 

Québec City and Montreal and in Southwestern Ontario Recommendations

Windsor - Montreal High-speed rail options

The revenues generated by these services would cover all of the operating and maintenance costs and allow for the repayment of the total capital invested at a 2.8 per cent real rate of return. Incrementally, the real rate of return would be 5.4 per cent.

For Montreal to Quebec City the study suggested improvements to get the line up to 155km/h.

Edmonton-Calgary Passenger Rail

In the case of the Western Corridor between Edmonton and Calgary, the total travel market, from which rail passengers would have to be attracted, was found to be insufficient to recover, on a commercial basis, the investment necessary to provide a high-performance rail service. Commercially, the most economic solution is to continue twice a day frequency service for Edmonton -Calgary according to the Business Plan using Budd Rail Diesel Cars with track speeds of 155 km/h..

edmonton-calgary montreal-quebec city trains

Fast forward to now, 40 years later. Will we finally get high-speed rail in Canada? Time will tell. Visit High Speed Rail Canada website to read the complete 1984 VIA Rail Canada study.