“This train has yet to leave the station, but this is the furthest we have ever come on the idea of a passenger train,” says MP Maryam Monsef of an announcement made on Tuesday (June 25th) that she says “marks a significant milestone moving forward.”
Monsef announced that the Government of Canada and Canada Infrastructure Bank are committing a total of $71.1 million in new funding to complete additional planning activities over the next two years to advance VIA Rail’s proposal for High Frequency Rail in the busy Quebec City-Toronto Corridor, which runs through Peterborough.
Historical photo of Via Rail train in 1981 at what is now Peterborough Chamber courtesy Peterborough Chamber
“This project would bring significant economic growth to our community and the affected regions along the corridor,” says Monsef. “It also requires a significant investment. That’s why we have taken each step forward in a measured, thoughtful way. We are not interested in creating buzz that leads to no results.”
“We began by working with Via Rail to determine their business case, which we have determined would be good for the middle class and those working hard to join it. The next step is making sure we move forward in the correct way. That requires meaningful indigenous consultations and environmental assessment.”
Historical photo of Via Rail station courtesy Peterborough Chamber
The new funding will be used to establish a Joint Project Team and fund work to preserve the option of interoperability with regional transit providers in Montreal and Toronto.
The Joint Project Team, between Canada Infrastructure Bank and VIA Rail, will be established using the $55 million in funding from Canada Infrastructure Bank. This Joint Project Team will coordinate the next steps required in developing this project, focusing on the following activities throughout 2019 to 2020:
· finalizing legal and regulatory work related to safety and environmental assessments;
· consulting with stakeholders and Indigenous communities;
· examining required land and track acquisition; and
· completing the technical, financial and commercial analysis required for a final investment decision on High Frequency Rail in the Corridor.
Photo from announcement of funding at Peterborough Chamber courtesy Maryam Monsef
The balance of the funding, $16.1 million, is for Transport Canada and VIA Rail to support VIA Rail’s contributions to the Joint Project Team. It will also fund technical work to ensure the interoperability and integration of High Frequency Rail with operating tracks used by local and regional transit providers in Montreal and Toronto.
Photo courtesy Maryam Monsef
"Today's announcement is a significant next step for the VIA Rail High Frequency Rail proposal,” says Stuart Harrison, CEO at Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “This is no longer about feasibility, it’s about the process to approval. There are a lot of people in Peterborough who have been working on this project, and we are very appreciative of the commitment from the Canadian Infrastructure Bank and Federal Government.”
"I am excited to see the VIA Rail Canada project moving forward,” adds Peterborough Mayor Diane Therrien. “The project has been in the works for a long time and will be of great benefit to the region.”