Ontario and Quebec are reviving old plans to run high-speed trains between Quebec City and Windsor, Ont., the premiers of both provinces announced Thursday.
Dalton McGuinty of Ontario and Jean Charest of Quebec said they will spend $2 million to study the project and expect to have a report ready in a year. It will focus on the development of a high-speed rail system linking major cities such as Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.
The federal government has agreed to participate in the study, the premiers said, speaking at a joint news conference in Ottawa.
They said high-speed rail studies were done in 1995.
"We think it's time to conduct our own study that takes into account some of the new realities," McGuinty said. "We think it is time for us once again to consider in earnest what we might do together, working in concert with the federal government."
McGuinty and Charest said since 1995, the congestion on roads has increased, the urgency for reducing carbon emissions has risen and technology has advanced, all of which will add new angles to their study.
"I think it's important to remember the context has evolved greatly since the 1990s, if only in terms of the environment and the need to reduce greenhouse gases," Charest said.
He said the 1995 study pegged the cost of a high-speed rail link at $18 billion, and he said he suspects the cost hasn't changed greatly, although the figure would now have to be expressed in 2008 dollars.
Given that inflation has been about 27 per cent since 1995, the cost would now be about $23 billion.
The premiers were asked by reporters if Quebec and Ontario can afford a high-speed rail link, given the pressures they already face to fund subways, buses and other forms of urban transport.
"I think the real question is can we afford not to carry out this kind of project, given the impact of increased greenhouse gases … and of course the gridlock on our roads by both trucks and cars," Charest said.