Trains on railway tracks in Canada
Planned or In Progress Projects of Urban Rail Transit in Canada

Urban rail transit in Canada encompasses a broad range of rail mass transit systems, including commuter rail, rapid transit, light rail, and streetcar systems. For Canadian urban centers, developing public rail transit infrastructure is both an obligation and a potential opportunity to shape growth, with significantly positive economic and social impacts. Recent projects, achievements, and experience feedback show what works best and why. Canada’s railway transport approximately $320 billion of goods annually, moving 50 percent of the country’s exported goods. Annually, approximately 3,800 locomotives and 33,300 dedicated railroaders transport goods and people across nearly 43,000 kilometers of rail track, which also extends to several points in the United States. Proactive maintenance ensures safe and efficient transportation.

Rail is one of Canada’s most capital-intensive industries. Canadian railways are vertically integrated, including ownership of the track, real estate, and rolling stock, which illustrates the need for significant investments. On average, Canadian railways invest between 20 and 25 percent of their revenues back into their networks each year — more than $20 billion in Canada over the past decade. These significant investments support the demand for Canadian products by transporting them to global markets. The railway industry contributed a total of $17.6 billion to Canada’s real GDP in 2018 and sustained 182,000 jobs through its economic footprint. Through its operations and investments, the rail industry helped lift incomes in Canada by $10.1 billion and generated a combined $7.2 billion in revenues for the federal and provincial/territorial governments. Furthermore, on a GDP per worker basis, the rail industry grew 53.9% from 2009-2018, compared with the industrial average of 8.5%. In this article, some Projects of Urban Rail Transit in Canada that are Planned or In Progress will be discussed.

1- Green Line LRT, Calgary

  • Project Type: Light rail transit

  • Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

  • Operator: Calgary Transit

  • Length: 40km

  • Investment: $4.9bn

  • Started: 2016

  • Expected Completion: 2024

The city selected PCL Construction as the construction management contractor. Stage one of construction is expected to be completed in 2026 or 2027. Stage 1 of the Green Line LRT is important to expanding Calgary’s rapid transit network. It will provide seamless connections with the existing Red and Blue LRT lines and four MAX BRT routes. Calgarians will have fast, frequent, and reliable transit services to communities, employment hubs, tourist destinations, and essential services. Stage 1 builds the first 20km core of the 46km full vision of the Green Line LRT. The Green Line LRT will play an important role in shaping the City’s future. It is both a transit system and a platform for long-term city building. This will encourage redevelopment and investment opportunities in Calgary businesses and communities.

However, the alignment and general design of future expansions have been approved by the city council, and the timeline and funding of future extensions have not yet been determined. Construction stage one builds the most complex and expensive segment of the line first - allowing incremental, relatively simple expansion of the line as funding becomes available. The full build-out of the line is estimated to require an additional CA$ 2–3 billion. In 2019, several potential stage two build-outs were evaluated for variable amounts of potential future funding.

2- Réseau Express Métropolitain (REM) LRT, Montreal

  • Type: Automated light rail transit
  • Developer: CDPQ Infra, a subsidiary of Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec
  • Length: 67km
  • Start of Construction: 2018
  • Investment: $6.3bn
  • Expected completion: 2023

On 28 June 2016, CDPQ Infra launched two public tenders in parallel: one for "Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) and a second, for "Rolling Stock, Systems and Operation and Maintenance Services" (RSSOM). Following a prequalification phase, Caisse's subsidiary announced, on 10 November 2016, the qualified candidates that would be allowed to submit a bid:

  • For the EPC contract, the competitors were the Groupe NouvLR consortium composed of SNC-Lavalin Grands Projets, Dragados, Aecon, Pomerleau, EPC, and AECOM and the KiewitEurovia consortium formed by Kiewit Corporation, Eurovia, WSP Global and Parsons Corporation.
  • For the RSSOM contract, three companies and consortia competed: Bombardier Transportation alone, Alliance Montréal Mobilité (composed of Parsons Corporation, Hyundai Rotem, RATP Dev, and Thales Canada) and the Groupe des Partenaires pour la Mobilité des Montréalais (associating Alstom and SNC-Lavalin O&M). Ansaldo STS-Hitachi and China Railway International Co. were not allowed to bid.

According to the media, the final bids were submitted to CDPQ Infra on 27 October 2017. On 10 November 2017, the date of the planned announcement of the selected contractors, the procurement process was "postponed indefinitely," according to Caisse's subsidiary, to provide more time for the analysis and evaluation of the bids received. On 8 February 2018, CDPQ Infra finally announced its selection: Groupe NouvLR consortium for the EPC contract (SNC-Lavalin Grands Projects, Dragados, Aecon, Pomerleau, EBC, and AECOM) and the Groupe des Partenaires pour la Mobilité des Montréalais for the RSSOM contract (Alstom and SNC-Lavalin O&M). The contracts' value is estimated to be around $6.3 billion, out of which approximately 80% account for the EPC contract.

3- Eglinton Crosstown, Toronto

  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

  • Project Type: DBFM - Design, Build, Finance, and Maintain

  • Infrastructure Type: Transit

  • Developer: Metrolinx, Infrastructure Ontario (IO)

  • Contract Value: $8.25 billion / $9.1 billion (including inflation)

Owned by Metrolinx and operated by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), the line will be part of the Toronto subway system as its fifth route. The line was conceived in 2007 during the administration of Toronto mayor David Miller as part of Transit City, a large-scale transit expansion plan. Construction of the first phase of the line began in 2011 and was originally expected to be completed in 2020; it has been delayed more than once, and as of October 2020, Metrolinx and Crosslinx (the construction consortium) have not agreed on a specific opening date. The estimated cost of the project in late 2019 was $12.58 billion.

4- Eglinton Crosstown West Extension Advance Tunnel Project, Toronto

  • Project Type: Tunnel extension project

  • Location: Toronto, Canada

  • Developer: Metrolinx, Infrastructure Ontario

  • Length: 9.2km

  • Estimated Investment: $5bn

  • Schedule: Metrolinx hopes to start tunneling in 2021

The Eglinton Crosstown West Extension is an approximately 9.2-kilometer extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT (future Line 5), from Mount Dennis to Renforth Drive. Metrolinx is actively collaborating with the GTAA and municipal partners on the proposed alignment from Renforth drive to the airport, which takes into account the GTAA's plans for a Regional Transit Centre. Tunneling is one of the first phases of work for the project. A separate advance-tunneling contract will be issued to help move the project forward on an accelerated timeline.

5- Ontario Subway Line, Toronto

  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

  • Project Type: DBF & DBFOM – Design Build Finance & Design Build Finance Operate Maintain

  • Infrastructure Type: Transit

  • Developer: Metrolinx, Infrastructure Ontario

The Ontario Line is a 15.6-kilometer stand-alone rapid transit line that will connect the Ontario Science Centre to Exhibition/Ontario Place. Over half of the route is planned to run underground through new tunnels, with the remainder running along elevated and at-grade rail corridor sections of track. Fifteen stations are proposed, with numerous connections to the broader transit network, including GO Transit rail services, the Toronto Transit Commission's subway Lines 1 and 2, and the future Line 5 (Eglinton Crosstown LRT), as well as numerous bus and streetcar routes.

On June 2, 2020, Infrastructure Ontario (IO) and Metrolinx issued two requests for qualifications (RFQs) for the southern civil, stations, and tunnels contract and the rolling stock, systems, operations, and maintenance contract – marking the first phase of procurement for the Ontario Line. The RFQ for the northern civil, stations, and tunnel contract, the northern portion of the Ontario Line from Gerrard Station to the Ontario Science Centre, is expected to be issued in early 2022.

6- GO Transit Regional Express Rail

  • Location: Greater Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada

  • Project Type: DBOM - Design Build Operate Maintain

  • Infrastructure Type: Transit

  • Developer: Metrolinx, Infrastructure Ontario (IO)

  • Investment: $12bn+

GO Rail Expansion will transform the transportation network in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area over the next decade. Metrolinx will transform the GO Transit rail network into a system that will deliver two-way, all-day service every 15 minutes over core segments of the GO Rail network. System-wide infrastructure upgrades will include: adding tracks, expanding stations, electrification of the rail network, new locomotives, and train control systems to enable more frequent service.

7- REM de l’Est, Montreal, QC

  • Investment: $10bn

  • Developer: CDPQ Infra

CDPQ Infra, together with the government of Québec and the City of Montreal, has announced a new $C 10bn ($US 7.8bn) automated Metropolitan Electric Network (REM) light metro network to better connect locations in the east of the city. The network will consist of two lines totaling 32km with 23 stations, which will converge into a single line in the city Centre. The line includes 25km of elevated tracks and 7km of underground tracks.

The project is still in its consultation phase and will soon launch public conversations with citizens and stakeholders. Quebec’s Bureau audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) will then need to review the project. In a statement, CDPQ also indicated "an advisory committee will be set up in collaboration with the Ville de Montréal so recommendations can be submitted before project design," though it is unclear when that will be. There is no timeframe for the construction, but the submission to the BAPE is forecast for 2021.

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