Chapter 7: Implementation of High Speed Rail

The Special Advisor has provided numerous recommendations for the implementation of HSR in the Toronto-Windsor corridor. This chapter contains recommended next steps to reach an operational target of 2025 for HSR.

Next Steps

In parallel to the work the Special Advisor has conducted over the course of the past year, MTO has continued to advance the planning work for HSR in the Toronto-Windsor corridor. This has included supporting the Special Advisor with the development of the preliminary business case, as well as undertaking modelling and forecasting work and early preparations for the EA process. In September 2016, the Minister’s mandate letter indicated that MTO is to issue the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the EA process for HSR in 2017.

As mentioned earlier in the report, the provincial EA process for transportation projects is the TPAP. Additionally, due to the recommended speed of 250 km/h, HSR from Toronto to Windsor will also require the completion of a federal EA, the CEAA. These processes require several precursor studies to inform their scope.

To support the further advancement of HSR, the Province should undertake a number of key next steps. These include the phases of Planning, Approvals and Design, Design and Construction, and Maintenance and Operation. In addition, the Province should pursue the analysis of financing and delivery models and linkages to GO RER planning and extensive external engagement in parallel with the above phases. (See Figure 7.1.)

Figure 7.1: Next Steps for HSR

Next Steps for HSR

Planning Phase

This report and the preliminary business case are the first initiatives to be completed in the Planning phase of HSR. A modelling and forecasting study is also underway that will analyze the modal splits within the corridor in more detail and be used to verify some of the assumptions that were used in the preliminary business case. The completion of the modelling and forecasting study is anticipated in late summer 2017.

In addition, to effectively inform the work required under the Approvals and Design stage, it is recommended that the Province undertake preliminary investigations into appropriate Building Information Modelling (BIM), HSR infrastructure and rolling stock standards, procurement strategies, vehicle specifications and regulatory frameworks under the current planning phase. This work would complete the preparatory planning studies.

The completion of the Planning Phase will provide the Province with a key decision point for the rollout of this ambitious project. 

Parallel Work (Finance and Delivery Models, Linkages to RER, Stakeholder Engagement)

As illustrated in Figure 7.1, there are also three requirements that will continue through more than one of the phases. These include

  • A detailed study of the appropriate financing and delivery models.
  • The integration with and linkages to GO RER.
  • Engagement with Indigenous communities, municipalities, and key stakeholders (e.g., Hydro One, CN, CP and regulatory bodies of the Government of Canada).

Finance and Delivery

As detailed in Chapter 6, further study of appropriate financing and delivery models is required in conjunction with IO to determine the best configuration of project contract(s) to ensure VfM and efficient execution. It is expected that a number of competitive procurement packages will be needed for the project. The overarching delivery strategy will be to seek to maximize economies of scale, capture innovation from the private sector and minimize interface risks. Over the project’s lifetime it is equally important to have a clear focus on minimizing the project’s lifecycle costs and allowing for expansion of the HSR network and service pattern.

Linkages to GO RER

As described in Chapter 3, HSR will share tracks with GO RER between Toronto and Kitchener; therefore, coordination with GO RER service delivery and infrastructure provision is key to the efficient rollout of HSR. A working group should be established to ensure that planning assumptions are aligned between the two projects, infrastructure rationalization opportunities are realized, construction is coordinated and service is optimized. As planning progresses and more opportunities for efficient delivery are recognized, the business cases for both HSR and the Kitchener corridor portion of GO RER will require revision.


Hydro One

Engagement with key power-supply stakeholders is also critical; it should be undertaken as a next step and should continue through to the Operations and Maintenance phase.

Hydro One will be the supplier of electric power (i.e., traction power) for the electrified HSR system; therefore, MTO must perform various electrical/induction studies in coordination with Hydro One to ensure proper functioning of the infrastructure and public safety. Indeed, connection to Ontario’s power grid is a rigorous process governed by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).

Also, the existing hydro right-of-way between Kitchener and London is protected for future hydro expansion; however, the HSR train between these two cities could run adjacent to but outside of the current hydro corridor. It is recommended that MTO work closely with Hydro One throughout the duration of the project.

Federal Bodies

Federal bodies will have a role to play in the EA process and potentially with the operational aspects of HSR. Average operational train speeds of over 200 k/hr require a federal CEAA approval process. While it is understood that the provincial TPAP can run in parallel with the CEAA process (indeed, CEAA documentation is often included as an appendix to the environmental project report developed for the TPAP), internal discussions are required prior to consultation with the CEAA. This will ensure both authorities have been briefed on the current developments and are comfortable with the agreed approach.

While operations on this section of the corridor are contained within Ontario, it is possible that in the long term development of the corridor could expand into Quebec and the United States, given proposals currently under consideration by VIA Rail for HFR between Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal, and Amtrak’s plans for some form of HSR in the Detroit-Chicago corridor. Since this project represents the first HSR undertaking in Canada, a briefing should be conducted at an early date with Transport Canada to discuss the appropriate regulatory scheme for HSR and what cooperation is required with VIA Rail, which owns some stations on the HSR line and a small portion of the required track west of Chatham Station.

Indigenous Communities, Municipalities, and other Stakeholders

As detailed in Chapter 2, engagement with Indigenous communities, municipalities and stakeholders is critical to the success of the HSR project. Recommendations described in Chapter 2 should be put into action in the near term.

Furthermore, the stakeholders, municipalities, and Indigenous communities that met with the Special Advisor throughout his term will be engaged again and expanded upon. Indeed, as the project progresses it will be essential for MTO to continue engaging with these groups, as well as many others, such as additional Indigenous communities, environmental groups, and others.

Canada’s two national railway companies will also need to be engaged extensively. CN and CP are key stakeholders since there would be interface with the CN and CP corridors west of London. It is likely that agreements with these companies for some sections of the HSR corridor will be required.

Approvals and Design Phase

Following the completion of the Planning phase, the next major step required is the procurement of services for the Approvals and Design phase, which include EA approvals, engineering design, property acquisition support, as required, and subsequent procurement support. EA approvals will include the TPAP and CEAA processes outlined above as well as identifying other environmental impacts and obtaining the requisite approvals (like potential amendments to existing TPAPs in the Kitchener Corridor or EAs required for any upgrades to Hydro One’s supply networks).

The extent of design work required will depend on the configuration of contracts for the next procurement phase, subject to the VfM analysis discussed above. At a minimum, design work should include a Reference Concept Design (RCD) as a basis for environmental impact assessment as well as a proof of concept for subsequent design stages. It is recommended that the Province consider the inclusion of exercisable options to complete design work for the whole corridor as well as to design direct access to Pearson Airport. The options would be aimed at future capacity and speed improvements that could be implemented in phases.

Design, Construction, Operations and Maintenance Phases

The Design and Construction and Maintenance and Operation phases will be pursued in the future. Design and Construction should generally start by 2022 to ensure HSR is operational by 2025. Maintenance and Operations will commence following operations.


Based on the phases described above it is recommended that the Province pursue the following recommendations as next steps to implement HSR in Ontario.

Recommendation 30: EA Funding and Procurement Approvals

The Province should continue to seek funding and procurement approvals required to obtain consultant services for the EA and associated design work in 2017.

Recommendation 31: MTO-Metrolinx Working Group

The Province should establish a formal working group with representatives from MTO and Metrolinx to ensure alignment between planning for HSR and GO RER.

Recommendation 32: Hydro and Electricity-Grid Stakeholders

The Province should develop a plan to ensure timely engagement with key hydro and electricity-grid stakeholders. To support this, it should retain a technical consultant to identify proposed connection points, facilitate technical coordination with Hydro One, and provide advice regarding a potential ministerial agreement.

Recommendation 33: Studies to Inform Environmental Assessment Scope

The Province should proceed with the required studies as soon as possible to inform the consultant scope for the Environmental Assessment in 2017.

  • Ensure that the procurement protects for interoperability with systems and technologies used elsewhere (e.g., the United States), recognizing the longer-term potential for an international service.

Recommendation 34: Provincial-Federal Environmental Assessments

To support the environmental assessment process, after internal provincial discussions between MTO, MOECC, and others as appropriate, the Province should arrange a discussion with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to ensure all parties are aware of the details of Ontario’s HSR plans.

Recommendation 35: Coordination with Transport Canada

The Province should establish a formal working group with Transport Canada to discuss the appropriate regulatory scheme for HSR and seek advice regarding requirements for potential future connections to the United States.

Recommendation 36: Coordination with National Freight Rail Companies

The Province should arrange briefings with the national freight rail companies to discuss Ontario’s HSR plans and seek their input.

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