I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting No. 77 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, the committee is meeting to discuss its study on the high-frequency rail projects for the first part of the meeting and committee business for the second part.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of Thursday, June 23, 2022. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application.
I wish to inform the committee members that all witnesses have been tested for sound and interpretation purposes for today's meeting and have passed the test.
The witnesses appearing before the committee today include Patrick Massicotte, president of the Chambre de commerce et d'industries de Trois-Rivières, who joins our meeting by video conference.
From Transport Action Canada, we have Terence Johnson, president. Welcome.
We also have three representatives of Via HFR: Martin Imbleau, chief executive officer; Marc‑Olivier Ranger, corporate secretary; and Graeme Hampshire, project director.
We will begin with opening remarks from all of our witnesses. We'll start off with Monsieur Imbleau.
The floor is yours for five minutes.
Although I have been in my new role for barely two weeks, I have decided to join you this evening, and I will try to answer your questions as best I can. My colleagues are obviously here to support me.
What convinced me to join the team to develop this new modern service to link communities in the Quebec City-Toronto corridor was its next-generation-of-public-service aspect. The success of this project depends on many factors, starting with its social acceptance. As much as I am here to speak, I am also here to listen. Openness and collaboration are key to its timely development. In fact, the project's acceptance requires that we listen to indigenous communities, stakeholders and our future passengers.
As you know, we are a new Crown corporation, almost 10 months old, and our mission is to revolutionize travel by delivering a superior railway service in the Quebec City-Toronto corridor. However, our mission is to bring people closer together and to open doors because that's important. It is to provide an environmentally sustainable, punctual and affordable service to improve the passenger experience, because that's required now, for tomorrow and for generations to come.
We will bring the country's three capital cities closer together, including these two major cities, to strengthen the connection between Canada's two largest economic lungs, and to serve 15 million people in a growing corridor. We will shorten the distance between cities and communities and among friends and families.
Allow me this one personal comment. I've been developing major infrastructure projects for more than 25 years, mainly in the project corridor. I'm not an expert on trains, but, in all that time, I've essentially been driving my car to Quebec City and Ottawa and taking the plane to Toronto. Why? Because the trains don't run frequently enough, aren't on time enough and aren't fast enough. We can't just add extra trains these days. We don't own the railway tracks, unlike the railway companies that carry freight. More congestion has an impact on the transportation of freight, and that's not good for the economy. I learned a little about that in a previous life. Our mandate isn't to keep doing the same thing. Providing an appealing solution is.
This project provides choice by shortening travel times and connecting communities. It's about running twice as many trains faster and on time.
Many people ask about speed—understandably so. We will reach high speeds where it's feasible, safe and affordable. For information on the current procurement process, each team bidding on the project must provide two solutions. First, they must be able to achieve speeds up to 200 kilometres an hour—so faster than current services—but, second, bidders will propose services to go even faster.
Allow me this comment. The objective is not top speed for the sake of speed. It's about saving time. Faster average speed that shortens travel time is the way to go. You all already know how frustrating it is to get to Ottawa by plane or car in crowded airports and on congested highways. Ultimately, this project is about a more flexible, faster and convenient way to travel.
On another front, passenger transportation will remain an important source of GHG emissions as the population grows unless we offer a true, better, sustainable choice that affects behaviour—or the situation won't change. As well, putting passenger trains on dedicated tracks provides more capacity for freight, so oil and grain will then reach ports faster also. In our solution, we benefit people, the economy and the planet.
I know that this project is undesirably complex. It's also ambitious, but with the participation of the private sector, we think we have chosen the right approach, and our project is gathering momentum. The government is leading the procurement process to find a best-in-class team that will work with us. In July, three bidding teams qualified for the government request for proposals. The goal is to pick one of those consortiums by next year.
As I mentioned, since I've only recently taken up my new role, I am mainly spending my time listening to you and to communities, the public and stakeholders. I definitely intend to deliver this project in a fully transparent way, and this committee will regularly be kept informed of our progress.
Thank you for listening to me. My two colleagues and I will be happy to answer your questions.
Good evening, Mr. Chair and honourable members. I am very glad to be with you in person today to describe high-frequency rail.
My journey from Chatham, Ontario, this morning, took 10 and half hours. If the promises of HFR are kept, that will be six and half—a big difference.
HFR when initially announced was supposed to quickly triage Canada's ability to run trains on time and operate enough trains to meet demand, putting Via Rail Canada back on a sound financial footing and getting it ready to build on that foundation across the country.
Transport Action members and supporters naturally had questions and concerns when this proposal was first unveiled, such as why high-speed trains would not be built as was previously studied. Past governments had balked at those costs, and HFR was supposed to provide most of the benefits.
Would smaller cities face service cuts? Assurances were forthcoming that that wouldn't be the case.
Could the timings be achieved on the proposed Havelock alignment? We later saw data that demonstrated the feasibility.
How would this project compare with upgrading the existing route?
Why diesel when electrification could eliminate all emissions?
Even with dedicated tracks for most of the distance, a passenger rail act was still going to be absolutely vital for the times when there was interaction with freight and to make the rest of the network work.
What about the rest of Canada, such as Calgary to Edmonton, for example?
Finally, would the government study delay and ultimately fail to act as did EcoTrain, ViaFast and every other study in the last 40 years while Canada fell further and further behind its global peers on rail? Eight years later, the last of those fears seems pretty accurate.
Yves Desjardins-Siciliano and his colleagues launched extensive public consultations in 2016. The information provided to Transport Canada included a business plan, ridership and infrastructure studies, all done by Systra. That was checked by international peers and a class 3 estimate was done. HFR was decision-ready by summer of 2018, but our government hesitated. Had it followed its Crown corporation's advice, HFR would already be in the final stages of construction today and would be in service by 2025.
Instead, the JPO was created with the Canada Infrastructure Bank in 2019 with a mandate to de-risk the project and a budget of $71 million. The tasks it was assigned, including further engagement with indigenous communities, do not appear to have been accomplished. Its report wasn't published. Information obtained under an access to information request was in heavily redacted form. What the public has seen wasn't worth $71 million.
In 2021, made announcements that indicated HFR was indeed finally going ahead. It looked as though the impact assessment would start that fall. Then we had an election. Things went quiet, and that IA didn't start.
Then on March 9, 2022, came the bombshell. What had been Via Rail Canada's $4-billion project to rebuild about 80 miles of track between Havelock and Glen Tay and to upgrade the rest had been turned into a megaproject with a procurement timeline stretching out towards the end of the decade, in which Via Rail was to be shoved aside and the entire Quebec-Windsor corridor outsourced to a private partner taking on revenue risk over a concession period of 30 or more years. With scope creep potentially driving the cost back to $12 billion, it was more like EcoTrain.
The long-awaited start of procurement should have been cause for celebration. Instead, morale at Via Rail took an absolute body blow from this. Nobody had been warned that it was coming. It is not clear how the rest of Via Rail services across Canada will survive without the corridor as their anchor. Nor is it clear how Via Rail is supposed to grow service to continue meeting demand and fully utilize the new fleet that will be delivered between now and the mid-2030s. The government provided no explanation for this pivot.
The page on procurement models in that JPO report was blacked out. There are some really good reasons I can think of for not doing it. Key factors, the factors that will determine long-term demand in ridership, are completely out of a private partner's control.
Will Canada become a country of 50 million, 60 million or 70 million? What will our immigration policy be in the mid-2060s? Will we get any better at distributing growth across the country, or will we stall as other countries do better than we do at accepting international qualifications? What will our housing policy be?
Cornwall and Brockville, for example, haven't set high targets for new homes, but with the frequent trains to Ottawa and Montreal that they've been promised, they could really grow. Peterborough could become a city of a quarter of a million, but only if other policies make that possible.
With gas tax revenues falling as our cars are electrifying, how are we going to price and subsidize highways? How will other competing modes be regulated? Will European-style competition be brought to the rails as was previously discussed? Asking the private sector to price these unknowable risks rather than the controllable risks of project delivery is illogical. There is a herd of public policy elephants in the room, stomping across the balance sheet. The resulting hefty risk premium will end up being paid by taxpayers and passengers, and if a private partner gets into difficulties, it can leave taxpayers to pick up the bill.
The United Kingdom's experience has been a fiasco, even with shorter time horizons for ridership forecasts. It's also notable that the proponents in the recent phase were only asked to provide a class 5 estimate, so we have gone backwards.
The only justification we've been given for this outsourcing is to import the expertise of Deutsche Bahn or SNCF. We do not need to do that.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today on the topic of high-frequency rail.
My name is Patrick Massicotte, and I am president of the Chambre de commerce et d'industries de Trois-Rivières. Our organization has 750 members and has been a major player in the city's economy for 141 years.
We are not a recent supporter of high-frequency rail. Since 1982, the Chambre de commerce et d'industries de Trois-Rivières has worked toward the creation of a new mode of rail transport that would run through our city. Over the years, we have prepared two briefs, sent many letters of support for the project to the Department of Transport and hosted conferences for numerous transport ministers, as well as Via Rail, to promote the project to our members. As you can see from all those mobilization efforts, the Chambre de commerce et d'industries de Trois-Rivières has supported this project for more than 40 years. We are still supporting it 40 years later and will continue to do so.
Trois-Rivières is well situated geographically. Our city occupies a strategic position between Quebec City and Montreal and is the economic centre of Mauricie, a growing economic region. With its proximity to the St. Lawrence River, it is a major entry point for goods through the port of Trois-Rivières, which is a highly efficient institution. Then there's our airport, which can accommodate commercial aircraft and recently underwent a $20‑million expansion. So as you can see, rail transport is the missing link that would round out the range of services provided by marine and air transport. This is one of the reasons why the high-frequency rail project is so important for our members and our entire tri‑river community.
Given the current labour shortage and uncertain economic situation, Trois-Rivières and surrounding cities and towns are fortunate to enjoy major investments through the Vallée de la transition énergétique. The Quebec government has announced the creation of this innovation zone, established from Bécancour to Shawinigan, which will help vitalize the industrial sector and provide high-quality, and of course well-paid, employment opportunities. These new labour needs clearly cannot be met by the labour pool in Mauricie and Centre-du-Québec. This is where a foundational transportation project such as the high-frequency rail, or HFR, project comes into play. I should also note that this would make it possible for workers and entrepreneurs from our region to travel quickly and easily to Montreal, Toronto and Quebec City for business development purposes and to expand their businesses. This is one of the HFR project benefits of particular interest to our members.
Trois-Rivières has considerable tourism potential given its high-quality facilities such as the Amphithéâtre Cogeco and the Colisée Vidéotron, its many festivals and its active and dynamic cultural life. The HFR project would facilitate access to this infrastructure and these cultural activities for tourists from here and elsewhere.
I will conclude my remarks by emphasizing how important it is for Canada to have a foundational rail transport service. This kind of project is fundamentally important if we want to promote our regions and reduce congestion in the major centres. A station in Trois-Rivières will promote our city's economic and social development and provide a natural boost to Quebec's development. As I mentioned earlier, the Chambre de commerce et d'industries de Trois-Rivières has been advocating this kind of project for more than 40 years. We may have been visionaries when we discussed a high-frequency passenger train that would stop in Trois-Rivières, but we are convinced now, in 2023, that it has become a necessity. The time has come for us to get this project on the rails and cement Trois-Rivières' place in the economic landscape of Quebec and Canada.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. I will be pleased to answer your questions.
Thank you to the witnesses for joining us at the end of the working day. This is a new time slot for us, and I appreciate your being here to participate with us.
It's my understanding that in 2017 the original cost estimate to proceed with this project was about $6 billion. As of the end of March in 2021, the information we've gathered is that the revised cost estimate was about $10 billion to $12 billion. The estimate doubled in cost in five years.
The cost of everything has gone up. We all know the inflationary pressures. The cost of borrowing has skyrocketed.
This question will be for the Via team first. Given those escalating cost estimates prior to the inflation and interest rate crisis, how many billion dollars more do you think it will take to actually get this project built? What is the current estimate to get the project completed?
Thank you for the question.
I cannot comment, of course, about the past estimates, but the current situation is the following.
The scope of the project could have been different and the process on which we have embarked is to find a private partner consortium to better define what the scope will be and to, of course, in that process identify and refine what the budget will be. It's difficult today to have precise numbers, or it would probably be imprudent to throw numbers out, because the scope is not defined. The corridor is, but the scope is not defined. The technology is not well defined yet.
I think we absolutely need the support of the expertise in the private corporations to support us. The process in which we are, the procurement process, is to select that partner and work in codevelopment to provide Canadians with the best economical and operational solutions in a few years to come.
Thank you for your kind words. I'll do my best, as a citizen of your constituency, not to embarrass you.
This is, first and foremost, a civil engineering project designed to build civil infrastructure, which is done locally. Building tracks and installing power lines are definitely things that are done locally. Right off the bat, the project will really maximize Canadian impacts simply as a result of geography. General contractors and firms from here generally reap the main economic benefits of these infrastructure projects.
Second, we will obviously abide by our international economic free-trade obligations. We will have to solicit bids in order to select the right companies. However, this is a civil engineering project in very large part, and, in my experience, civil engineering is mainly done by very local firms.
That's fine. So I understand that there isn't any commitment in that regard. We would obviously like there to be one. That's why I wanted to hear your opinion on the matter because we have good jobs that we want to preserve here at home. I understand that there has to be a process, but, on the other hand, if our bids are competitive, why not consider them?
My next question for you is one that's on the minds of many people. It concerns the debate that has already begun on the choice between a high-frequency train, an HFT, and a high-speed train, an HST. You say that speed isn't the issue, and you can explain that to me once again after I've finished asking my question, but many people say that an HFT would travel at a speed comparable to that of present trains and that minor amounts of time would be gained on travel between Montreal and Quebec City. That's the example I'm using in this case.
On the one hand, one wonders whether it's worth the investment to build another rail line if it doesn't save a significant amount of time. On the other hand, you wonder whether it can encourage a significant number of car and airline users to switch to the train, which, if I'm not mistaken, is the objective.
Do we think we can make those people switch if there are no time gains or if cars are still a faster means of transportation than trains?
Thank you for your question.
First, one thing I should have said in my opening remarks is that it's no longer possible to add trains to the current corridor because the tracks belong to someone else. Consequently, even though we want people to take the train instead of their cars, there's no room for more passengers. We would have to prioritize passengers over freight, which is virtually impossible on tracks that now belong to other railway companies. We therefore have to build something new.
Second, reliability is key. Referring to the example cited earlier, we departed late and we've arrived late. Reliability will be one of the major factors in convincing people to give up their cars.
Third, I want to discuss my personal experience. You obviously travel extensively in Europe. You've travelled, as I have. However, I regularly take the train when I'm in Europe. In particular, I've travelled from Paris to Brussels and from Brussels to Amsterdam on the same high-speed train service, Thalys. We covered the 300 kilometres from Paris to Brussels in an hour and a half. That's very fast. However, we travelled the 220 kilometres to Amsterdam on the same train in two hours. Why? Because the train stopped more frequently in densely populated centres. The choice is based on environmental and economic gains and the populations served.
The same is true in the corridor we're concerned with here. If you want to stop in Peterborough and Trois‑Rivières, to create wealth, you have to have a train suited to the communities that'll be served.
I'll use an example to clarify my question.
Suppose the train trip takes a predictable time, say two and a half or three hours. Suppose as well that the trip is 10 minutes shorter by car and that you won't have to wait at the station, you can depart and arrive when you want, and you won't have to wonder whether the station is located downtown or in some remote area of the city requiring you to take another form of transportation to reach your destination. In that case, how can we really make the train appealing for people who take it?
My objective is to ensure that a train is available, that people will ideally use it in large numbers, that it will link the various core areas and that it will be fast. However, if the trip takes as much time as by car, or more, I don't see why people would take the train. So I want to ensure that people are genuinely encouraged to take that train and that there's a genuine benefit in doing so.
Welcome to all of our witnesses. Thanks for being with us this evening. I'm looking forward to this study. I think it's going to be of interest to a lot of Canadians.
I'd like to start my questions with Mr. Johnson. What you had to say about this project was very enlightening, particularly all of the twists and turns it's taken since its first iteration.
I'd like to start from the perspective of being a British Columbia MP representing a rural region in the northwest of the province that's thousands of kilometres from here and that has a passenger rail system that is a mere shadow of what it used to be. When I talk to people about train service—or bus service, for that matter—so many people talk to me about their vision of having reliable and effective passenger rail service, yet the current Via Rail service through our region is terribly unreliable. It can't be used as basic transportation but only as, really, a tourist sort of opportunity.
When we look at this idea of essentially privatizing Canada's busiest passenger rail corridor and the source of some 85% of Via Rail's revenue—we're going to hand all that over, including the conventional Via Rail service along that corridor, to a private company and take it out of Via Rail's hands entirely—it would seem that our public passenger rail provider in this country is going to be left with the guts and feathers of passenger rail. I'm very concerned about what the fate of rail service in other parts of the country is going to be.
Can you kind of play the tape forward 20 years? What does this look like for Via Rail?
What this looks like, potentially, is that, if the rest of Via Rail continues to operate as a public service, it needs a very much larger subsidy to provide all the core services that are currently shared with the corridor. That, I think, would be something that we feel wouldn't actually happen at all, and you would in fact see trains like the Skeena just disappear, because the government would look at that and say, “We can't possibly subsidize that.”
The original vision of HFR was to triage the corridor, build a strong financial foundation, build from it, be able to look at Calgary-Edmonton, be able to rebuild our long-distance services and be able to support our remote services to northern and indigenous communities. The surplus of this project—all of the benefits of this project—would be for Canadians and would flow back into making our network stronger.
That is our largest concern with this. By taking revenue risk and putting it on the table, it's going to cost more, it's going to be years before we even begin to lay any track and, at the end of the day, it's going to cost Canadians more for the same train that we had a blueprint for in 2018 and could have got on with building.
Thank you to the witnesses for their time, including those who are online.
Just for a bit of context, I know that you're representing Via HFR and not Via, but maybe you have some knowledge—I hope—of the marketplace. I want to understand a bit more of the business case.
My constituency is in Hamilton. Next door to us in Brantford, train 82, which went from Brantford into Union Station in Toronto, was just recently reinstated.
There were a number of trains that fed into the Toronto GTA hub and that, hopefully, would connect to future HFR or other such train services. They were paused during the pandemic and have only just begun to be reinstated: Kitchener, London and Barrie. What is the marketplace in the feeder routes into Toronto? Do you know?
Thank you, Ms. Koutrakis. It's nice to see you again.
In a way, I think we have the best of both worlds in this instance. If this project were completely handed over to the private sector, without the supervision of a well-informed office staffed by a good team, we'd be, in a way, navigating in the dark. On the other hand, it would also be difficult to develop such a complex civil, technological and electrical project solely within government because we probably wouldn't have access to innovations and new techniques that are out there, such as technologies and construction techniques, as well as competition among various firms.
Consequently, we probably have an appropriate balance between the two here. I don't think it'll cost more because we're operating within a public-private partnership. Costs are costs: management alters the actual cost situation, and capital cost tips the balance somewhat, but it's the model itself that will essentially be the decisive factor regarding costs in this case.
Thank you for asking that question. The debate in Quebec over high-speed trains versus high-frequency trains has resumed with renewed vigour.
As I mentioned a little earlier, I think a hybrid system might be the optimal scenario. There could be high-speed trains on certain routes and high-frequency trains on others, but I'm not an expert in the matter.
As for associated costs, you have to understand that we're making these investments in order to be internationally competitive. Connectivity among the regions and major urban centres will promote regional and economic development quite significantly. When I mention the innovation zone, the battery industry, in particular, I believe you're aware of all the investments that General Motors, POSCO, Ford and others have made. Many industrial concerns are setting up in our region. Having a foundational network will foster the emergence of businesses and revitalize the economy for all Canadians.
Regarding your question as to whether the City of Trois‑Rivières is prepared to make significant investments, I don't want to speak on behalf of the city. We also haven't focused specifically on that point.
I hope that answers your questions.
The city of Trois‑Rivières has experienced significant economic growth in recent years.
In the knowledge field, the Université du Québec à Trois‑Rivières has been a leader in innovation and green hydrogen, for example. That's what encouraged the Quebec government to create the Vallée de la transition énergétique, including Mauricie and Centre‑du‑Québec, and to designate that region as an innovation zone with high growth potential. The city of Bécancour has one of the largest industrial parks in the country, which has made it possible for major industrial companies, like the GMs and Fords of the world, which I mentioned earlier, to set up there.
So we're experiencing a boom, which is why the City of Trois‑Rivières and the Quebec and Canadian governments recently provided funding to expand our airport terminal. Something's happening in our city. We have a port and an airport, and adding the train would help stimulate our economy even further.
Major investments have also been made in tourism. Many tourists come from around the world, from Europe in particular. Cruise ships dock in Trois‑Rivières, and Canadians visit the city, which has truly become a tourist destination.
Thank you, Mr. Johnson.
Thank you, Mr. Imbleau.
I'll just build on that quickly, then. Earlier on, the word “grain” came up, on moving grain. Ironically, Windsor has a port. We ship a lot of grain to, ironically, the Chicagos of the world, the Milwaukees of the world and whatnot. We talked about grain, which is awesome.
Now let's talk about the St. Thomas battery plant, and let's talk about the Windsor Stellantis battery plant. These are to the tune of $12-billion investments. Let's talk about critical minerals that one day, hopefully, will be mined in the Far North of Ontario. Let's talk not only about getting people to the locations, but about getting our critical minerals to these battery plants that are going to—are supposed to—fill about 5,000 new jobs, roughly.
Would it not make sense, then, to actually do this in reverse to ensure that Windsor is actually the starting point and we move it east? It only makes sense to me, with all of the infrastructure that's being put in place in these areas, which, by the way, aren't remote. This is actually the hub of North America.
Would you agree with me, Mr. Johnson, that this really needs to be looked at very closely to ensure we're not walking past an opportunity?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank the witnesses for coming out today to give us their testimony.
Folks, this project would be the largest transportation project in 60 years for this country. Quite frankly, it's quite exciting that we're all taking part in this process. I believe, as I said to Mr. Lewis earlier, this goes beyond party politics. This is a team effort by all parties to actually get this project off the ground and get it built to then bring our transportation system up to the year 2023 as it relates to moving people.
The second point I want to make is probably the most important point. It will further galvanize the country. There is no question. It will galvanize the country from Quebec into the west and even into the east, and strengthen a multimodal network, in particular, as it relates to movement of people.
We recognize that we have a very robust system in the movement of trade, albeit fluid and can be improved...a multimodal network. In my neck of the woods, in Niagara, we've been very blessed with a very strong Niagara ports trade corridor that takes full advantage of of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Welland Canal, as well as the main inshore line rail networks and roads, as well as air.
That said, I want to ask about and be very clear on this process and the best way to take it. Going to Mr. Lewis's comments, which I think were very appropriate comments with respect to concentrating now, yes, on the movement of people.... Equally important is ensuring that we also make the movement of trade more robust in those market-ready areas when it comes to the new sectors we are trying to strengthen, like the mineral sector in the north and, of course, with that, having the proper infrastructure in place with those growth-related areas.
I'm going to go to Mr. Imbleau—by the way, congratulations on your new position. It's the port of Montreal's loss and now Via HFR's gain.
The question is this. I would like you to be very clear on the process, both from the capital side and the operational side, and on how this is going to roll out with respect to your participation and the partners that are going to come on board to make this happen and get the job done.
Canada wouldn't be what it is today in the world without that endeavour, which was built decades ago.
Today we're in the procurement phase. We will pick, by late summer next year, one consortium with which we will codevelop the project. We'll embark on a process—us, our team and them—to find the best solution, do the alignment, do the impact assessment and find the economic balance, and at the end of that process, which will last a couple of years because it's very detailed, we will make a final investment decision.
The Government of Canada will invest in the project. The private partner will invest in the project in the proportion that needs to be determined by the process. At that point in time, the private partner will also operate facilities that will be kept on Canada's books. We will own the asset, but the operator will operate our asset at that point in time.
I appreciate that. Thank you for that direction.
In your comments, Mr. Imbleau, you mentioned how getting passengers off the current line and onto the new service would improve freight traffic. Obviously, if the tracks are not being shared, there would be more ability to move volumes quicker.
I would assume that you know how many Via trains would be coming off that current line and onto the main line. Have you done the modelling to show by what volume the current line would be reduced, how many trains would be reduced and how many passengers would move off the current line onto the HFR line? If that happens, what reaction do you anticipate from the communities that are currently served by the current corridor? Have you taken into account their level of service dropping because of a lower frequency of trains there? How will that impact feeding into the hubs?
I guess I'm a little concerned about the reduction. Have you modelled how that reduction of service on the current line will integrate with the HFR, or will those communities just see less and less service and, therefore, have to use other modes of transport to access the HFR? Are they going to be at a huge disadvantage, compared to those few communities along the route that will get stations on the HFR and will benefit from them?
I'd like to pick up where my colleague Mr. Barsalou-Duval left off, talking about mode share and travel times between major centres.
I met with Via Rail a couple of years ago, before the second iteration of the terms of reference were released and when they were still in charge of the project. They said very clearly to me that they intended to compete with car trips between major centres but that competing and stealing market share from short-haul flights was not on the table. They weren't interested in that.
Now there's some research from the OECD. This is out of France, and I'll just read a quote from it:
Once the journey time by rail exceeds the journey time by air by 1 to 2 hours, the market share drops to about 50% and decreases rapidly thereafter.
I'm wondering, now that higher speeds, at least on portions of the route, are on the table, whether this objective of reducing short-haul flights between major centres is going to be brought into the project as a key objective.
Thank you, Mr. Bachrach.
I agree with Mr. Badawey. That is a good line and a good slogan. You might want to take that down.
I want to thank our witnesses for being here this evening, particularly at this late hour, both those who attended virtually and in person.
Thank you for sharing your expertise with the committee and for contributing to this very important study.
With that I will excuse the witnesses, thank them again and suspend for five minutes as we go in camera to discuss some important issues.
[Proceedings continue in camera]