High-Frequency Rail: The Derailed Dream of a Connected Canada

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|March 06, 2024

The High-Frequency Rail (HFR) project was once a beacon of hope for a more connected, efficient, and environmentally friendly travel option in Canada. Originally conceived to cut through the congestion of cargo traffic, it promised a renaissance of rail travel between Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto. However, the government's deviation from a publicly-funded undertaking to a Public-Private Partnership (P3) model has cast a long shadow over the project's future.

The ballooning costs—from billions to tens of billions—and the shift away from public control raise critical questions about the motives and the eventual impact of such a pivot.

HFR's promise was clear and its benefits manifold. Envisioned as a dedicated passenger line, it was set to alleviate congestion and provide an efficient alternative to road traffic. Yet, the fiscal responsibility that was the cornerstone of the project has been sidestepped. The price tag, once estimated at a manageable $3 to $5 billion, has now inflated to over $12 billion under the P3 model.

This isn't just about dollars and cents; it's about the direction and control of a project integral to our nation's infrastructure. The HFR project was not simply a line on a map, but a commitment to future-proof our transportation system, making it greener and more efficient.

As private entities stand to gain from what was once a public investment, the union continues to scrutinize the implications for service quality, fare accessibility, and the broader economic and environmental benefits that were at the heart of HFR.

The resignation of VIA Rail's CEO in the wake of the government's announcement only adds to the concern and uncertainty surrounding the project's new direction. With the spectre of previous P3 disappointments like the Ottawa LRT and Eglinton Crosstown looming large, it is incumbent upon us to hold our decision-makers accountable for the future they are engineering. 

The story of HFR and VIA Rail is still being written, and your voice can influence the narrative.

Share this message, sign the petition, write your MP and let's demand a commitment to a High-Frequency Rail that delivers on its original promise: a public good that serves all Canadians, not just the vested interests of a few.


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Unifor is a Canadian union with a modern, inclusive approach to serving members and improving our workplaces and communities.