Canada launches RFQ for new electrified high frequency rail link between Québec and Toronto

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The Government of Canada has announced the launch of a request for qualifications (RFQ) to identify candidates to assist with the design and development of the High Frequency Rail project, which will connect Québec City and Toronto with a new electrified rail link.

According to Transport Canada, the purpose of the RFQ is to identify and qualify up to three top candidates who will be invited to participate in the Request for Proposals (RFP) process, anticipated to begin in summer 2023. The RFQ is the next step following the Request for Expressions of Interest that opened in March 2022.

The procurement process will help select a private developer partner to work in collaboration with VIA HFR, the newly created subsidiary of VIA Rail, to design and develop the High Frequency Rail project.

“Canadians have been clear that they want clean air, an efficient transportation system, and an economy that works for everyone and creates good middle class jobs. High Frequency Rail will do just that. In addition to reducing pollution, it will provide better and faster service between the major centers of Québec City, Trois-Rivières, Montréal, Ottawa, Peterborough and Toronto. As Canada's largest infrastructure project, it will also create jobs for the next decade,” Transport Canada noted.

The RFQ outlines the context and features of the High Frequency Rail project; the procurement process, including the evaluation criteria regarding how proposals will be evaluated, security requirements for candidates, funding support for proposal development during the RFP process, and key principles of the commercial agreement for the execution phase; and the key players in the project.

The RFQ also includes the key project outcomes the private developer partner will be expected to meet or exceed, such as shorter journey times, more frequent departures, more reliable service, etc.

The High Frequency Rail procurement process is designed to encourage innovation, provide flexibility, and identify the optimal solution for the project. Therefore, RFQ respondents will have the flexibility to consider alternatives to meet or exceed the project results described in the Request for Qualifications. This would include opportunities to increase speeds beyond 200km per hour on some segments of the High Frequency Rail project, if it is cost effective to do so, Transport Canada noted.

“The Request for Qualifications represents an important step in the procurement process for the High Frequency Rail project. HFR will reduce pollution in the transport sector, provide better and faster service to travelers and create good jobs for the middle class,” said The Honourable Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport.