After a long wait, Via Rail has announced the company which will help it modernize its passenger rail service that runs from Quebec City to Windsor, Ontario. The company has chosen Siemens over Bombardier, Inc. in a $989 million contract. Siemens could gain an additional $500 million more if it chooses to add 16 trains apart from the 32 chosen last week.
The decision to add more will be made by the federal government says Via Rail Chief Executive Yves Desjardings-Siciliano. More trains will be required to increase the frequencies of trips between Quebec and Toronto, and possibly to Ontario so it is very likely that more trains might be sanctioned by the government.
Siemens will build the new trains at its headquarters in California which are expected to be usable by 2022 with deliveries staggered until 2024. It will meet Via Rail’s current capacity of 9,100 seats. Aside from the recently signed agreement, Via Rail and Siemens also announced a 15-year technical services and parts agreement worth $355.5 million.
Even before the announcement, rumors were strong regarding Via Rail’s siding with Siemens. Siciliano says that Via Rail’s decision to bypass Bombardier is justified mainly because of Canada’s free trade agreements with the EU and the U.S.
“The opinions of our experts were that Via Rail is named in these (free trade) agreements and is prohibited from demanding Canadian content. We have complied with the rules,” says Siciliano.
Bombardier is clearly disappointed with Via Rail’s decision. It even went as far as calling the agreement as “inconceivable.” Bombardier also claims that Via Rail refused to consider a revised proposal twice.
“We will take the time necessary to analyze the Via Rail process and its decisions, and evaluate our options,” says the company in a statement.
What is next for Via Rail’s HFR
Via Rail is now waiting for the announcement of the 2019 transport budget by the Liberal government. Siciliano is hopeful that the budget will green light a multibillion-dollar expansion of the current passenger rail network. Siciliano’s confidence is not without reason as the cabinet has expressed its support for the upgrade to the train system.
Siciliano is also confident that the decision will be made early next year. The project will receive the funds either through traditional infrastructure funding or through Canada’s Infrastructure Bank.
Via Rail’s proposed project dubbed as High Frequency Rail (HFR) hopes to reduce the waiting time of passengers on stations. To do this, the company is going to give priority to freight trains on the current lines which are primarily owned by CN Rail. This would increase the frequency and efficiency of trips.
Canada’s train network is in need of an upgrade. Via Rail and Siemens are working towards making commuting better and more efficient. All that is left now is to see the budget allotment for HFR. So far, outlook on the project remains positive as the proposed upgrade has its merits for commuters in Canada.
(Featured image by James St. John via Flickr. CC BY 2.0)