The House

Will Canada ever get high-speed rail?

Canada's entire relationship with high speed rail has been the topic of countless studies. A dozen proposals have popped up over the past few decades. Faster rail is even in the minister of transportation's new mandate letter. And still, nothing. So what's the hold-up?
Bombardier's high-speed train, which it has sold to China. A similar pitch has been made for Montreal to Toronto. (Bombardier Transportation)

High-speed rail in Canada has been an unrealized dream for provincial and federal governments for decades — and one expert says we're missing out on its vast potential.

Nadine Ibrahim, the urban engineering chair at the University of Waterloo, says faster, more reliable trains could help get Canada meet its international environmental goals.

"I think it is the golden age of infrastructure. We have very little time to respond to much of the solutions to get us to the climate targets," she told The House.

Ibrahim said that high-speed rail could be pitched to commuters as an alternative to cars or planes — especially for businesspeople who travel frequently between major cities.

A Toronto-to-Montreal corridor has been studied before; there's a proposal from VIA Rail that would see trains travelling at over 200 km/h, bringing passengers from city to city in under an hour.

But the political will and the money to fund it have been lacking. It doesn't surprise Ibrahim, though it does disappoint her.

"Have you ever heard of a transportation project in this part of the world that happened so quickly? Probably not," she said.

On top of environmental benefits, the economic prosperity that would come from connecting cities with high-speed rail would make Canadian cities "economic powerhouses."

"It's the livability we want, it's the mobility that we want," she said.

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