Prepared by: AECOM
June 30, 2015
This report on the long-term outlook for inter-city passenger rail in Canada focuses on the Windsor-Quebec City Corridor. It examines ridership trends, multi-modal competition, freight rail congestion projections, demographic, societal and technological trends, considerations for public subsidies and private sector investment such as governance, regulatory and procurement frameworks, cross-border travel, current VIA plans for dedicated track in the Corridor, the Ontario government’s study on a possible London-Toronto high speed rail line, and the interface of inter-city passenger service with commuter rail. The assessment is guided by the policy considerations of minimizing public sector subsidies and encouraging private sector investment in passenger rail, the report also examines current VIA Rail plans for a dedicated network in the Corridor. Ridership has been declining since 2008, the report forecasts inter-city ridership ranging from a continued decline down to 2.6 to a return to growth up to 4.9 million passengers by 2036. Factors influencing ridership include: track capacity constraints due to freight and commuter trains, relatively low frequencies, lengthy journey times, less attractive pricing policies, and increased competition from other modes. Based on the experience in the United Kingdom, the authors conclude that private-public partnerships may not be sufficient to reverse the long-term decline in VIA Rail ridership along the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor; however, private sector practices for marketing, ticket pricing, etc., may contribute to reversing the forecasted decline.