Chapter 3: The Business Case for High Speed Rail

HSR in Southwestern Ontario would operate between Toronto's Union Station and Pearson Airport, Guelph, and Kitchener-Waterloo on a corridor shared with commuter services, including GO RER. West of Kitchener, HSR would operate on new, dedicated track to London, Chatham, and Windsor. This mix of services would allow rail to capture a significant mode share in the corridor and serve a wide range of markets from commuter to leisure to business. This chapter contains the Special Advisor's recommendations for station locations, alignment, speed, and implementation.

HSR will be a new and unprecedented transportation infrastructure initiative for Ontario. The Special Advisor clearly found that HSR has the potential to transform travel in the Toronto-Windsor corridor and help the Province in achieving its transportation, economic development, and environmental goals, a finding that was supported by the business case analysis.

Vision for HSR

The vision for HSR in the Toronto-Windsor corridor, shown in Figure 3.1, was developed to guide the assessment of various implementation options and delivery of the HSR system. Ultimately, the vision underpins the Special Advisor's recommendations regarding stations, alignment, speed, phasing, and implementation considerations, which are detailed below.

It encapsulates three foundational principles: to transform mobility choice in Southwestern Ontario; to catalyze economic development; and to support regional integration and development. A series of objectives expands upon each principle.

Figure 3.1: Vision for HSR in the Toronto-Windsor Corridor

Graphic Produced by Steer Davies Gleave

The Foundational Principles in Detail

The objectives articulated under each of the three foundational principles reflect the challenges and opportunities in the corridor. Each principle is described in more detail below.

Transform Mobility Choice in Southwestern Ontario

Based on input from communities in the Toronto-Windsor corridor and an assessment of transportation trends, economic profiles and the government's objectives for transportation in the corridor, it is clear that a change from the overwhelming reliance on automobile use is required. The automobile's dominance along the corridor can be understood from two perspectives:

  • There is a lack of reliable, competitive travel options.
  • Rail as a means of travel is less attractive than it once was.

Existing rail services do not provide adequate trip frequencies or travel times to effectively compete with the automobile, even despite highway congestion and unpredictable travel times that automobile users often face. Although the Province's GO RER program on the Kitchener corridor can be expected to expand travellers' reliance on and expectations of the regional rail market, the Toronto-Windsor corridor still lacks an intercity rail alternative.

For HSR to be successful it must provide a fast, frequent and comfortable travel option that will be the best alternative to existing modes. The provision of such a service will create new travel markets between cities within and adjacent to the HSR network. Additionally, it will shape mode share in the corridor by providing a convenient alternative to automobile use. HSR will also provide options for rural residents to access larger centres on the network.

HSR should be implemented with careful consideration of its fiscal impacts and long-term sustainability. It should be implemented based on a sound business case, provide value for money, and build on and complement existing and planned rail infrastructure and services.

Catalyze Economic Development

HSR will be a transformative investment in transportation infrastructure for Ontario, which in turn will trigger economic growth and development. Communities along the corridor have highlighted HSR as being critical to the economic potential of the corridor and its long-term prosperity.

In particular, London and the Region of Waterloo have advocated strongly for frequent and fast rail services to support the growth of their high-tech industries. In North America, the Toronto-London portion of the Innovation SuperCorridor is one of the top regions in terms of the rate of technology start-ups and growth in technology employment. Currently this corridor lacks the required frequent, efficient transportation linkages to support Ontario's position as a leader in the knowledge economy.

HSR will improve travel speeds and frequency of service to foster substantially stronger economic integration between cities throughout Southwestern Ontario.

Support Regional Integration and Development

HSR should be delivered as part of an integrated solution for transportation in the corridor. This means ensuring that regional transportation, urban development and economic plans consider the possibility of HSR and protect for its development and operations.

Stations on the network should be developed within urban cores in such ways as to maximize the economic, social and environmental benefits of HSR. The Province should work closely with communities to ensure the presence of adequate first-mile/last-mile linkages and plans for leveraging the potentially wider economic benefits of the service.

HSR will support provincial policies that manage growth and development by linking existing urban areas and encouraging their growth and revitalization, which will in turn mitigate urban sprawl.

Directly supporting the urban structure of the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (2006), and connecting communities without adding pressure on the Greenbelt, HSR is well aligned with the Provincial Policy Statement, which guides municipalities across Ontario in planning where and how to grow. HSR directly supports transit-oriented development, for example, a key principle of these plans.

By linking cities, encouraging the continued protection of the Greenbelt, and making living in Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Chatham or Windsor more viable options for Ontarians who need to commute or travel to the GTHA for business and leisure, HSR will support where and how the Province wants to grow.

Stations, Alignment, and Speed

This section provides details on the business case for HSR, including key station locations, the preferred alignment for the service, and how fast the trains should travel to provide the optimal service to attract ridership. To assess the viability of HSR service, the Special Advisor directed Steer Davies Gleave (SDG), an internationally respected transportation consultancy, to conduct a detailed business case analysis of two comparative HSR scenarios: a dedicated HSR system operating at top speeds of over 300 km/h (Scenario A), and an HSR system operating on a combination of mixed conventional and dedicated railway at top speeds of 250 km/h (Scenario B).

Stations and Alignment

As mandated by the Province, the Special Advisor pursued an analysis of HSR stops at Union Station, Pearson Airport, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, and Windsor. Following community engagement in the corridor, cross-jurisdictional research, and the business case analysis it became apparent that a case can also be made for recommending HSR stops in Guelph and Chatham. This would offer a seven-stop HSR system connecting economic hubs, increasing regional interconnectivity and spanning nearly 400 kilometres across Southwestern Ontario. Figure 3.2 illustrates the Special Advisor's recommended HSR stations and alignment, which are consistent with Scenario B, as well as other passenger rail services in the corridor following the implementation of HSR.

Figure 3.2: Proposed Future Southwestern Ontario Passenger Rail Network

Proposed Future Southwestern Ontario Passenger Rail Network, including high speed rail between Toronto and Windsor and existing rail (Via, GO, and UP express).

Source: MTO

It is proposed that HSR be implemented in two phases. Phase 1 would connect Toronto to London and Phase 2 would extend HSR to Windsor. In addition to offering a prudent approach to HSR implementation, phasing major construction projects is also a best practice that has been applied in comparable jurisdictions. The benefits of a phased approach include spreading capital costs out over time and allowing revenue and ridership generation to begin in earlier phases.

Recommendation 10: Phased Implementation

The Province should proceed with a phased approach to implementing HSR to maximize benefits and reduce costs.

  • Phase 1 would be implemented from Toronto to London with a target operational date of 2025.
    • This phase would build on GO RER investments between Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo.
  • Phase 2 would be implemented from London to Windsor with a target operation date of 2031, as demand for HSR develops.

The following section details the Special Advisor's station recommendations for the Government's consideration, and includes considerations for associated infrastructure requirements and rationale. Through the EA process, the stations and alignment would be finalized following engagement and consultation with Indigenous communities, land owners, and municipalities in the Toronto-Windsor corridor to address issues and seek input from all affected parties. Throughout the HSR project, measures should be taken to protect environmentally and culturally sensitive lands, agricultural land, and areas of architectural significance.

Recommended Stations and Alignment

The Special Advisor recommends that the Toronto-Windsor corridor include the following HSR stations: Toronto Union Station, Pearson Airport, Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Chatham and Windsor.

Toronto: Union Station

A Union Station stop, as the eastern terminus of the HSR network, is essential to the integration of HSR with existing services and to connect Southwestern Ontario with Toronto for business and leisure travel purposes. Union Station is Canada's largest passenger railway station and a key transportation hub, connecting local Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) services to regional bus and GO train services, the UP Express and VIA Rail.

The station building is currently owned by the City of Toronto; the Province, through Metrolinx, owns the train shed, rail corridor and platforms. The station is currently undergoing significant upgrades to increase capacity, improve safety and modernize the train concourse and platforms.

In 2012, Metrolinx released its Union Station 2031 Demands and Opportunities Study, which indicated that Union Station was serving over 240,000 users per day, including GO Rail, TTC and VIA Rail passengers. The study found that, based on trends in population growth in GO catchment areas and employment growth in GO destination areas, Union Station could expect to experience at least a doubling of daily passenger boarding over the next 20 years. This analysis did not include projections for HSR passengers both boarding and disembarking, which would add significant demands on station capacity. Despite the upgrades now underway at Union Station, additional work will need to be undertaken to address capacity issues and accommodate the growth of GO RER services, which will double from the current 29 trains in the peak hour to more than 50 in 2024.

As demand for rail services is expected to continue growing beyond 2024, further expansion is needed to support this future increase. The expansion should also be designed to accommodate HSR trains, which could represent almost 10% of the service in the peak hour. One option that has been discussed to add capacity is to build a new four-track, two-platform concourse under the western approach tracks to the station around Simcoe Street.

Recommendation 11: Union Station

The Province should work to ensure that

  • Station capacity is addressed to accommodate future growth in ridership that will occur due to use by HSR, GO RER and VIA Rail services.
  • Further consideration is given to developing a new concourse and platforms west of the existing station, building them under the approach tracks.
  • A minimum of two level-boarding HSR platforms are constructed.

Moving west from Union Station, HSR trains would proceed along the Kitchener corridor toward Pearson Airport, sharing track with other rail services.

Pearson Airport

Internationally, HSR stations at airports often provide intercity connections that let air passengers access a wide and integrated network of various modes of transportation within a particular region. HSR stations at airports are typically either

  • Direct connections within the airport and integrated within a multimodal airport hub; or
  • Indirect connections, where the HSR station is connected to the airport by another mode of transportation such as a bus, LRT or subway.

The Netherlands' Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is one example of a direct connection, with an HSR station beneath the airport's terminal complex. This station is also a stop for a number of other transportation modes, creating a multimodal hub that provides integrated local, regional, and international service connections.

Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, one of three international airports serving the New York City area, is an example of an indirect connection. Passengers can use Newark's AirTrain monorail service to access the airport, but to do so requires one or more connections to and from services such as New Jersey Transit and Amtrak rather than a direct, seamless link.

In the short term, it is recommended that Pearson Airport be served by an expanded Malton GO Station, offering an indirect connection to the airport from the HSR line. Access to the airport would be via an enhanced "people-mover" system connecting the approximately three kilometres between Terminals 1 and 3 and Malton Station. A Pearson Airport/Malton HSR stop would connect HSR to GO RER services, as well as to local Mississauga Transit services. HSR would enhance service from Union Station to the airport and would expand access to the airport for cities to the west (Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Chatham and Windsor).

In the long term, it is recommended that the benefits of direct HSR access to the airport be explored, including increased ridership. Furthermore, the GTAA is currently planning for airport expansion and the development of a multimodal hub at Pearson Airport. Any planning work the Province undertakes for an HSR station directly at Pearson Airport should be aligned with the GTAA's work, to achieve efficiencies and ensure effective implementation.

HSR's infrastructure between Union Station and the airport station at Malton GO would require joint operation on tracks shared with GO RER services and UP Express. This could be addressed through track upgrades, the construction of passing tracks and/or a service priority agreement to enable HSR to overtake slower services in the corridor as necessary. The exact details of these upgrades will be defined with further analysis and design in the next stage of project development.

Recommendation 12: Pearson Airport

It is recommended that the Province

  • Expand Malton GO Station as necessary to accommodate an HSR stop.
  • Work with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) to provide a people-mover system linking HSR at Malton Station to the airport terminals.
  • Coordinate the infrastructure requirements for GO RER and UP Express with those for HSR through this segment of the corridor.
  • Work with the GTAA to provide direct access for HSR as air passenger volumes increase and to support its plans for the future Pearson Airport multimodal hub, most likely by 2031.

Guelph

The next stop westward on the HSR line, in Guelph, would bring HSR into the historic downtown train station at the intersection of Carden and Wyndham Streets. There are plans to expand the current station into a multimodal terminal to be used by VIA Rail, GO RER, and local Guelph Transit services. Accommodating HSR would require station and track expansion, including the construction of two level-boarding platforms, as well as a third passing track in the middle of the existing tracks to allow for the interoperation of GO RER and HSR services. This accommodation was encouraged by the Mayor of Guelph and city officials in discussions with the Special Advisor.

The route westwards from Guelph Station is aligned in the middle of Kent Street and is flanked by century homes of architectural significance. This severely limits train speeds through the area, although improvements are possible if some of the four level crossings before Guelph Junction are rationalized (for example through the implementation of grade separations or closures). The infrastructure requirements for GO RER will also need to be coordinated with those for HSR through this stretch of the corridor.

Recommendation 13: Guelph

It is recommended that the Province

  • Work closely with the City of Guelph to deliver on infrastructure requirements to accommodate GO RER and an HSR stop at the historic Guelph Station.
  • Ensure that all necessary measures are undertaken to protect the historically significant architecture in the station precinct.
  • Coordinate the infrastructure requirements for GO RER with those for HSR through this stretch of the corridor.

Kitchener-Waterloo

Apart from the need to rationalize some of the crossings at Guelph Junction, the route westward toward Kitchener-Waterloo is straight and can accommodate the construction of double tracks.

The City of Kitchener has plans underway to build a new multimodal station slightly to the west of the current VIA Rail station. HSR would connect to local services such as Waterloo ION LRT and Grand River Transit buses.

Recommendation 14: Kitchener-Waterloo

It is recommended that the Province

  • Work closely with the Cities of Kitchener and Waterloo to ensure that planning for the new multimodal station accommodates HSR.
  • Coordinate the infrastructure requirements for GO RER with those for HSR to Kitchener-Waterloo.
  • Work to ensure that station upgrades do not preclude future HSR service.

London

It is recommended that the Kitchener-London segment of the HSR corridor be constructed as a new, dedicated HSR line. A feasible option is to build the tracks adjacent to the existing hydro corridor to the point where they would interface with CN, and from there continue adjacent to the CN South Main line corridor into London. The hydro right-of-way is currently protected for future hydro expansion; however, there is an opportunity to build new HSR tracks beside the corridor. It would be prudent to perform various HSR engineering studies to ensure the proper functioning of HSR infrastructure and public safety.

The introduction of HSR would offer the opportunity to rebuild the existing London Station as a multimodal transportation terminal, in cooperation with the City of London and VIA Rail.

The new HSR station in London would be built by expanding the existing VIA Rail station, located on York Street in the city centre. The new station would enable connections to London's planned bus rapid transit (BRT) system, Shift, and is close to the existing Greyhound bus terminal.

Recommendation 15: London

It is recommended that the Province

  • Build a new, dedicated HSR line between Kitchener-Waterloo and London adjacent to the existing Hydro One corridor.
  • Work closely with Hydro One throughout the duration of the project.
  • Work with VIA Rail and the City of London to expand the existing VIA Rail station to accommodate HSR and ensure seamless connection with the future Shift BRT service.
  • Work with CN on requirements for the new HSR line to run adjacent to the CN South Main line into London.

Chatham

Service from London to Chatham would require a new, grade-separated, single, bi-directional, electrified track running adjacent to the existing CN Rail corridor to Chatham.

The existing VIA Rail Station in Chatham would be refurbished and a second platform built to accommodate the new HSR service and to allow for the development of a multimodal hub in Chatham, connecting HSR to Chatham-Kent's local bus and taxi services as well as to intercommunity buses.

Recommendation 16: Chatham

It is recommended that the Province

  • Work with CN to explore options to build a new electrified track, adjacent to the existing CN corridor.
  • Work with VIA Rail and the Municipality of Chatham-Kent to explore options to expand Chatham Station to accommodate HSR.

Windsor

Westward from Chatham, HSR service would continue to Windsor, veering off the CN/VIA Rail right-of-way and connecting with the CP corridor into Windsor. The service could eventually connect with Amtrak tracks in Detroit via the existing CP tunnel.

A new HSR station would also be constructed in Windsor, ideally located adjacent to the CP corridor at a point close to downtown. As with all HSR stations, coordination between HSR and local transit in Windsor to ensure first-mile/last-mile connections is essential.

Recommendation 17: Windsor

It is recommended that the Province

  • Work with CP to explore the implementation of a new track and passing tracks along the existing CP Windsor corridor.
  • Work with CP and the City of Windsor to identify options for the building of a new HSR station that will provide access to downtown Windsor.
  • Work with CP, Amtrak and the State of Michigan on plans for future expansion of the HSR service to the U.S. via Detroit through the existing rail tunnel under the Detroit River.

Speed

Once the station stops have been determined, the next important aspect of the system to be considered is optimal speeds for HSR service. As discussed in Chapter 1, the speeds, distances, number of stops and costs of HSR systems around the world vary; the types of HSR systems that countries pursue essentially depend on regional transportation contexts and policy priorities.

The Special Advisor's recommendation on optimal speed was supported by the analysis of two scenarios and their corresponding benefit-cost ratios (BCRs), as described in this section.

The introduction to this report provided a brief description of dedicated, mixed conventional and fully mixed HSR systems. The distinctions are important since each system type has characteristics that are relevant to the question of speed. For example, the Japanese HSR system, with trains operating at speeds of over 300 km/h, has a number of key factors that contribute to its success, including dedicated track, a potential market of millions of daily passengers and long distances (generally between 400 kilometres and 600 kilometres) between relatively few stops.

HSR systems in Germany and the United States, which reach speeds of between 200 km/h and 300 km/h and operate on a mix of dedicated, mixed conventional, and fully mixed railway, provide a frequent, fast alternative to both automobile and air travel and are aimed at encouraging regional integration. In many cases stops serve relatively small communities and are not very far apart; the larger number of stops and the mix of dedicated and conventional rail tracks do not typically permit the same "bullet" speeds experienced in other systems.

The Toronto-Windsor HSR corridor exhibits similar characteristics to the German and American systems described above. Distances between station stops are relatively short and HSR would interoperate with other conventional passenger rail services, particularly on the Toronto-London segment. These factors would constrain the ability of HSR trains to achieve or maintain very high speeds (for example in excess of 250 km/h).

Analysis: Preferred Speed and Alignments

In determining the preferred speed of an HSR system between Toronto and Windsor, two representative scenarios were analyzed based on the recommended station stops and an assessment of the financial and economic impacts.

  • Scenario A: Electrified HSR service operating primarily on a dedicated right-of-way and capable of achieving a top speed of 300 km/h.
  • Scenario B: Electrified HSR service capable of achieving a top speed of 250 km/h.

Figures 3.3 and 3.4 illustrate the alignments, stations, travel times and distances for each of the two scenarios. Figure 3.3 provides an overview of the HSR alignments for Scenarios A and B and describes the station stops. Figure 3.4 illustrates the alignment and travel times between station stops for both scenarios and total travel times between Toronto and Windsor.

Figure 3.3: HSR Scenario A and Scenario B Alignments and Station Stops

HSR Scenario A and Scenario B Alignments and Station Stops

Source: Steer Davies Gleave

Figure 3.4: HSR Scenario A and Scenario B Travel Times, Distances and Alignment Description


Source: Steer Davies Gleave

Scenario A (300 km/h)

In Scenario A, the 300 km/h HSR would take 115 minutes to travel between Toronto and Windsor. Due to its higher train speeds, Scenario A would require the development of dedicated HSR infrastructure for a greater portion of the alignment and would be a significant capital undertaking, including the construction of a new rail tunnel from Pearson Airport to just past Brampton, a tunnel under the University of Guelph, and a newly-built corridor between Kitchener and London, as well as between London and Windsor. The distances between HSR stations in the Toronto-Windsor corridor and relatively low population densities limits the ability of a 300 km/h service to achieve its top speed for sufficient time to maximize benefits through travel time savings and increased ridership. A summary of the costs and benefits of Scenario A is provided in Tables 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3.

Scenario B (250 km/h)

In Scenario B, the 250 km/h HSR would offer similar travel times to those in Scenario A. Scenario B is envisioned to operate primarily on the existing rail alignment between Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo. Westward from Kitchener-Waterloo, HSR would run on a newly-built, dedicated corridor from Kitchener to Windsor.

It is important to note that the interoperation with GO RER between Union Station and Kitchener in Scenario B would require the integration of service timetables and capacity as well as speed improvements on the corridor. Interoperation may also reduce the potential ridership market for HSR and limit the range of fares that HSR could charge due to the availability of GO RER services. Key considerations related to the interplay between HSR and GO RER are discussed in the next section.

Scenario Costs and Benefits

To assess the viability of the two HSR scenarios, an in-depth analysis of the costs of implementing HSR and the benefits that it would bring to the corridor is summarized below.

The analysis concluded that Scenario B could be undertaken at a significantly lower cost relative to Scenario A, would yield similar economic benefits, and would provide similar journey times and passenger demand.

The analysis generated BCRs for each scenario. The BCR is an economic tool that compares the net benefits of HSR (detailed in Chapter 4) against the net costs of the project. As a value-for-money indicator, the BCR is a critical benchmark for evaluating large infrastructure projects.

BCRs greater than one indicate that the project will yield economic benefits above its costs. BCRs less than one indicate that a project's costs outweigh its total net benefits.

Scenario Capital Costs

HSR capital costs comprise expenditures related to construction and delivery (including building or upgrading railway tracks, electrification, building stations, signalling systems and other civil engineering requirements), and expenditures related to non-capital requirements such as design, project oversight and environmental mitigation.

Due to the complexity and scale of an HSR system, international best practice is to fully assess the project in terms of economic impact and cost. The capital costs for Scenarios A and B were therefore estimated with three different ways of evaluating the service. All costs are estimated in 2021 dollars:

  1. Base direct capital costs: These costs summarize the total gross costs of procuring and operating an HSR system and form the basis for the other two cost calculations noted below. Base costs are not adjusted over time and represent the cost of implementing the entire system within one year. This category of costs is used to illustrate the total dollar value of procuring HSR at a specific time.
  2. Economic costs estimated in inflation-adjusted ("real") dollars: These costs are adjusted over the 60-year lifecycle of HSR construction and operations based on assumptions about growth rates for economic variables, for example growth in revenues, population and/or the cost of buying goods and services. Economic costs are used to assess the net economic benefits of HSR and to estimate the BCR, and are expressed in terms of present value.
  3. Financial costs estimated in non-adjusted ("nominal") dollars: These financial costs are intended to compare revenues and costs of HSR over the lifecycle of the project. These costs are increased over time based on an assumed 3% rate of inflation, as the intent is to conduct an equivalent assessment of the extent to which HSR revenues can cover operating and capital costs at the time they are incurred.

Table 3.1 provides a summary of the base direct capital costs for HSR in the Toronto-Windsor corridor. These costs do not include a contingency for cost overruns or uncertainties that may affect project delivery. They reflect only the direct costs of procuring HSR infrastructure and vehicles.

Table 3.1: Summary of Scenario A and Scenario B Base Direct Capital Costs (Without Contingency)

Base costs in million $2021 Scenario A Scenario B
Toronto-London $15,090 $4,110
London-Windsor $4,370 $3,390
Total: Toronto-Windsor $19,460 $7,500

Source: Steer Davies Gleave

Scenario B is anticipated to cost over $4 billion for the Toronto-London segment of the corridor and approximately $3.4 billion for London-Windsor. In contrast, Scenario A entails significant costs due to tunnelling, with capital costs of $15 billion for Toronto-London and $4.4 billion for London-Windsor.

Given the early stages of HSR analysis and study, and in consideration of potential uncertainties and risks to project delivery (e.g., unanticipated future infrastructure costs), the analysis included a 66% contingency (also termed an "uplift") to these base direct capital costs, in addition to other soft costs.

The 66% uplift is based on international best practices and guidance from the American Association of Cost Engineering ((AACE)1 and the United Kingdom Treasury Board Green Book for projects that are similar in scope to HSR2 . It is important to note that this uplift is significantly higher than other rail projects in Ontario such as GO RER, which assumes a 50% contingency for its cost estimates3 . This demonstrates that HSR costing has been undertaken on a conservative basis that is appropriate for this stage of the project.

Building on the base direct capital costs in Table 3.1, capital costs that include the 66% contingency are shown in Tables 3.2 and 3.3 and are listed by the three cost categories defined previously. As noted above, the base direct, economic and financial costs differ only because the growth assumptions used to calculate them are different. For example, since financial costs are increased by an assumed annual inflation rate of 3% throughout the project lifecycle, these estimates are higher than the adjusted economic costs and the base direct capital costs, which are incurred in their entirety within one year.

Table 3.2: Summary of Scenario A Uplifted Capital Costs (Including Contingency)

Capital costs in million $2021 Toronto-London London-Windsor Toronto-Windsor
Base $43,580 $12,970 $56,550
Economic $41,610 $10,630 $52,240
Financial $45,250 $12,020 $57,270

Source: Steer Davies Gleave

Table 3.3: Summary of Scenario B Uplifted Capital Costs (Including Contingency)

Capital costs in million $2021 Toronto-London London-Windsor Toronto-Windsor
Base $10,870 $10,070 $20,940
Economic $10,600 $8,940 $19,540
Financial $11,480 $9,760 $21,240

Source: Steer Davies Gleave

Soft costs include assumptions for as-yet unknown expenditures such as environmental mitigation, HSR project staffing and overhead, training and project preparation costs (for example, detailed design, consultation, etc.). These assumptions are further detailed in the appended business case.

It is important to note that if the above HSR figures were estimated using the GO RER contingency assumptions based on the GO RER initial business case, the capital cost estimates for HSR would be lower, as illustrated in Table 3.4, below.

Table 3.4: Estimate of Scenario B Capital Costs Using GO RER Assumptions (Including 50% Contingency in $2014)

Capital costs in million $2014 based on GO RER assumptions Toronto-London London-Windsor Toronto-Windsor
Base $8,000 $7,400 $15,400

Source: Steer Davies Gleave

As the EA process proceeds and more information about the corridor and procurement approach for HSR is obtained (for example, in terms of governance and financing), it is anticipated that the contingency will be reduced and that costs estimates will be refined accordingly.

A key conclusion from the capital cost assessment is that Scenario B represents the lowest capital costs across all categories of cost estimation.

For the purposes of this report and subsequent chapters, the economic cost estimates including the contingency are used since they allow for a comparative assessment of HSR costs and benefits. The economic costs are compared with economic benefits to yield the BCR, which provides a clear benchmark of the value for money of undertaking HSR.

As illustrated in Table 3.5, the analysis demonstrates a positive business case for Scenario B only in the segment between Toronto and London (BCR of 1.02), since its BCR of greater than one indicates that the economic benefits of HSR between Toronto and London outweigh the costs of delivering the service; the BCR for the entire corridor, however, is less than one.

In contrast, the business case analysis reveals that Scenario A, with a BCR of 0.36 between Toronto and London and a BCR of 0.17 between London and Windsor, is not a viable option; although it provides similar benefits to Scenario B, it also presents significantly higher costs.

Table 3.5: Summary of BCRs for Scenario A and Scenario B

Economic BCR Scenario A Scenario B
Toronto-Windsor 0.32 0.70
Toronto-London 0.36 1.02
London-Windsor 0.17 0.24

Source: Steer Davies Gleave

Travel demand, population densities and distances between cities along the Toronto-Windsor corridor do not support the additional cost associated with a dedicated 300 km/h HSR system. A pragmatic approach, whereby existing provincial infrastructure investments on the corridor can be leveraged to improve travel times and service frequencies, is required.

In summary, the assessment of costs and the BCRs demonstrate that Scenario B (a seven-stop, 250 km/h HSR service in the Toronto-Windsor corridor) yields better value for money.

Recommendation 18: Speed

The Province should implement electrified 250 km/h HSR technology for the Toronto- Windsor corridor.

  • This would offer a distinct intercity service that meets the UIC definition for HSR.
  • To reduce infrastructure costs, the Province could investigate the procurement of HSR trains with tilting capability, which can allow trains to achieve higher speeds on less optimal alignments, such as curves.

The following section and Chapter 4 examine considerations for implementing HSR and the economic benefits that the service will bring to the corridor.

Implementing High Speed Rail

This section provides details on HSR capital works and service planning and makes recommendations with respect to integration of HSR capital planning with GO RER and coordinating service planning with other passenger rail and intercommunity bus services.

Preparatory Work – HSR and GO RER Integrated Capital and Service Planning

As discussed in the previous section, HSR will be operating on a shared corridor with GO RER between Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo, so the interplay between the two services on the Kitchener corridor is a critical consideration underlying the success of HSR in Ontario. The Province will need to ensure that both initiatives are aligned, in particular by ensuring that current planning and procurements for GO RER take account of and enable HSR.

Building on its 2014 commitment for GO RER to Kitchener-Waterloo, the Province has tasked Metrolinx with providing all-day two-way service along the corridor. Several planning and procurement studies are currently underway, including freight rationalization, electrification and station upgrades. Specifically, the Province's commitment to GO RER includes

  • Fifteen-minute service between Union Station and Bramalea.
  • All-day two-way service to Kitchener-Waterloo. This service is expected to serve all stops between Kitchener-Waterloo and Bramalea and then run directly as an express to Union Station.
  • Additional peak-period service to Georgetown and Mount Pleasant.
  • New GO station stops at Breslau, St. Clair, Mount Dennis and Liberty Village.
  • Enhanced Train Control (ETC) (Request for Quote issued in June 2016).

Capital works and service planning are two key aspects of the Province's GO RER plans that, if undertaken strategically and with a long-term vision, could accelerate HSR delivery and increase the viability of expanded rail services on the Kitchener corridor. Measures to ensure that GO RER capital works protect for HSR and that service planning is integrated for all rail services are discussed in further detail below.

GO RER Capital Works

It will be critical for MTO to work in close partnership with Metrolinx to ensure an alignment of service planning and capital cost assumptions for GO RER and HSR. The following recommendations, based on the HSR business case, are essential for enabling HSR on the Kitchener corridor.

Recommendation 19: Accommodating HSR in GO RER Work

The Province should ensure that GO RER commitments, planning and capital works accommodate future HSR on the Kitchener corridor.

  • The development of GO RER with a view to its interoperability with HSR on the Kitchener corridor will support the Province in advancing both commitments.
  • The Province should
    • Ensure that electrification and railway on the Kitchener corridor is built to accommodate speeds of 250km/h.
    • Protect the Kitchener corridor and stations for future capacity expansion wherever feasible.
    • Ensure level boarding platforms are not precluded at the designated HSR/GO RER station stops.
    • Prioritize the implementation of Enhanced Train Control (ETC) and ensure that signalling systems and other technologies do not preclude HSR operations.

Service Planning

Service planning refers to the number and frequency of trains operating along a corridor within a given period. In the case of international HSR systems, trains generally run every hour; however, on certain busy international corridors there can be as many as 10 trains an hour. Service planning is based on ridership demand and the capacity available on railway corridors.

To assess ridership for HSR on the Toronto-Windsor corridor, annual demand for the service was extrapolated based on traveller preferences for time savings, fares, proximity and ability to access HSR stations, and other socio-economic variables.

The business case has forecast total HSR ridership of up to 10.6 million by 2041.

The following frequency of services is the initial recommendation to minimize costs, optimize benefits, and to meet the projected ridership demands. Detailed train service demand modelling is required to confirm the recommendation and this will take place during the EA process.

Recommendation 20: Union-Kitchener Service Frequency

Based on ridership demand and corridor capacity, it is recommended that during peak periods the Province provide, in both directions, a frequency of 3 HSR trains and 1 GO RER train between Union Station and Kitchener.

  • The Province should also provide the following service levels during off-peak periods:
    • 2 HSR trains per hour.
    • 1 GO RER train per hour.

HSR will become an essential part of the region's transportation network. As in most countries with high speed intercity services, the new service must become only one part of an integrated public transportation system. To ensure an appropriate level and mix of intercity and commuter services, it is recommended that the Province optimize its own rail services and coordinate with VIA Rail, Metrolinx, and other services that operate in the corridor, such as intercommunity bus services.

Recommendation 21: Integrated Provincial Services

The Province should align provincial mandates to optimize rail services by directing Metrolinx and MTO to collaborate on the development of an Integrated Rail Strategy for the Toronto-Kitchener corridor, which would

  • Clarify the mandates of GO RER, UP Express and HSR on the corridor.
  • Assess ridership and service frequencies.
  • Recommend how the Province might optimize GO RER, UP Express and HSR ridership to maximize the benefit to Ontarians.

Recommendation 22: Coordination with VIA Rail Services

The Province should coordinate the integration of Southwestern Ontario passenger services with VIA Rail.

  • MTO should engage VIA Rail with the objective of rationalizing VIA Rail and HSR service patterns in the Toronto-Windsor corridor.
    • On the Toronto-Kitchener corridor, HSR would replace VIA Rail service.
    • VIA Rail would continue operations from Union Station to London on the CN South Main line (not on the Kitchener corridor), serving a number of communities, including Oakville, Aldershot, Brantford, Woodstock, and Ingersoll.
    • Between Kitchener and London, VIA Rail would continue to operate on the CN North Main line via St. Marys and Stratford.
    • Between London and Windsor, VIA Rail would continue providing existing services until HSR is introduced in this segment of the corridor.
    • To ensure an integrated system, VIA Rail and HSR would enter into a codeshare agreement (i.e., a business arrangement where two operators share services) that would allow passengers to seamlessly use the two services with the same ticket.

In addition to aligning HSR with other rail service providers, the Province will also need to consider opportunities to coordinate with private bus companies. The Province's intercommunity bus consultations in summer 2016 showed that private bus companies have become increasingly concerned that subsidized public transit operators like GO Transit and VIA Rail are being given an unfair advantage. It is reasonable to assume that these concerns will only be amplified with the development of HSR.

The business case demonstrates that HSR will have an impact on bus travel in the Toronto to Windsor corridor as former or potential bus customers switch to HSR. HSR implementation, however, also has the potential to be used as a catalyst to develop a strategy and partnership with the bus industry to encourage feeder services to HSR stations and in the process, facilitate a re-opening of abandoned routes to smaller communities. This could provide a means for the bus industry to benefit from, rather than be adversely affected by, the transportation modal split that HSR will precipitate.

Recommendation 23: Intercommunity Bus

As work on the intercommunity bus modernization initiative advances, the Province should work closely with the bus industry and other stakeholders to develop a partnership strategy with HSR for mutual benefit.

References

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