More profitable and better for the environment: Trudeau’s government should put aside the High Frequency Train (TGF) project between Quebec and Toronto to focus on high speed, French giant Alstom insists.
“As long as you put such sums, as much as possible, into the most profitable investment possible that brings economic and societal impact to the highest level,” he acknowledges. Record Michael Kiroli, President of Alstom for the Americas.
Mr. Kiroli argues that a high-speed train costs 20 to 30% more than a slower one. It might be more. But in the end, the investment is more profitable because more people are using it, he says.
“We see it in all countries that have made this choice: with speed, we are changing the mode of transport [de l’auto et de l’avion vers le train] Much more than initially imagined, ”the leader confirms.
Alstom, of which Caisse de depot is the largest shareholder with a 17.5% stake, is making the exit because it said last fall that Ottawa was “opening up” to the idea of financing a 300km/h top-speed train.
In March 2022, in a Request for Expression of Interest in the project, Transport Canada stated a top speed of 200 km/h, which is barely more than the top speed of existing VIA trains.
About fifty companies have responded to the government’s call, including several companies that have expressed their desire to exceed 200 km/h.
The result: In October, the government published an update promising to give “flexibility” to companies to offer “higher speeds on certain sectors.”
The goal is less than three hours
According to Alstom, the goal should be to reduce travel time between Toronto and Montreal from five hours to less than three hours.
“There, the usefulness of the train becomes apparent,” says Michael Kiroli. This is what happened on all lines in all countries where we had this same discussion. »
join NewspaperThe cabinet of Federal Transport Minister Omar Al-Ghabra did not comment on the possibility of converting the TGF project into a TGV.
In the spring of 2021, Newspaper She mentioned tensions within the federal government between proponents of the two scenarios. According to our sources, Michael Sabia, deputy finance minister, and Catherine McKenna, then-infrastructure minister, were sparking a TGV drive between Montreal and Toronto that could have set Quebec aside.
In December, Mr. Al-Ghabra announced the creation of a subsidiary of Via Railways to manage the TGF project. Mari-José Nadeau, former CEO of Hydro-Québec, has been named vice chair of the entity’s board of directors.
In May, Cynthia Garneau caused a stir by resigning from her position as CEO of Via Via after three years in the position.
Alstom in Canada
- Headquarters of the Americas: Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville
- Flora: Thunder Bay, La Pocatière,
- Brampton, Kingston, Saint Bruno
- Employees: 4,200
VIA fears privatization
The official documents are clear: the federal government plans not only to build a high-frequency train (TGF) for the private sector, but also to put it into operation, once completed, which worries members of the VIA railway union.
In a request for expression of interest published last year, Ottawa specified that the “private partner” would be responsible for building and operating the future rail network, for “30 to 50 years.”
“We are concerned because one of the only truly profitable lines on VIA is the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor. So if we privatize that division, that obviously means earnings would be more along the line. However, this is what allows VIA to maintain trains in other regions,” said Daniel Cloutier, director of Unifor Quebec, which represents more than 2,000 VIA employees.
“Does that mean fewer trains elsewhere or more public funding to offset profits that would be funneled to private companies?” Cloutier continues.
“Once a train is built and running, there is no reason why VIA Rail should not operate it the way it does now,” he says.
It should be noted that it is this form of public-private partnership that Caisse de dépôt has chosen to operate the Metropolitan Express (REM) network, in the Montreal region.
“Music guru. Incurable web practitioner. Thinker. Lifelong zombie junkie. Tv buff. Typical organizer. Evil beer scholar.”