What’s HappeningNewsExploring Pathways to Success for Fast, Modern, Integrated and Sustainable Rail Services

Exploring Pathways to Success for Fast, Modern, Integrated and Sustainable Rail Services

May 13, 2024

TAC Sponsor Spotlight Article

In some markets, high-speed rail (HSR) networks have been safely, affordably and efficiently moving people while transforming surrounding communities for decades. In others, they remain out of reach—their planning, construction and expansion weighed-down by cost and time pressures, and a lack of critical public support and long-term political will.

In Canada there has been discussion around several HSR routes, most notably the proposed route between Edmonton and Calgary via Red Deer, and HSR connecting Windsor and Quebec City through London, Kitchener-Waterloo, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. In 2021, AECOM and EllisDon formed Prairie Link, a partnership to advance the development of the HSR connection between Edmonton and Calgary in Alberta. Prairie Link has proposed the project through a submission to the Government of Alberta’s Unsolicited Proposal Framework and Guidelines.

In 2022, VIA Rail, the Canadian Crown corporation that operates intercity passenger rail service in Canada, established VIA HFR – VIA TGF Inc. (VIA HFR), a separate organization to manage the development and delivery of high-frequency rail (HFR) in Canada—the largest transportation infrastructure project in Canada since the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway. This initiative is focused on building a fast, frequent and reliable train system where shared passenger and freight rail operations are separated to create more capacity for sustainable transportation for both people and goods. VIA’s HFR aims to create new trains on dedicated tracks between Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. The HFR network will include mainly new, electrified and dedicated tracks extending over 1,000 km at speeds that could eventually reach 200 km per hour or more.

In February 2023, a Request for Qualifications was launched and in July, three bidding teams were invited to respond to a Request for Proposals. It is expected that VIA HFR will select its private-sector development partner by the end of 2024. Since 2020, AECOM has been the Owner’s Engineer to VIA’s HFR Joint Project Office (JPO), providing general technical and engineering support for all workstreams and specific planning and engineering activities including environmental assessments and site investigation studies. More recently, our transit and rail professionals have been supporting the VIA HFR procurement process.

Understanding the HSR market

Today’s global push toward energy transition and low-carbon modes of transportation to reduce harmful environmental impacts and improve access to mobility are driving the development of innovative transit and rail solutions around the world. As integrated transportation networks continue to evolve, solutions such as HSR and HFR will progress from vision to reality and play a crucial role in this ongoing transformation.

To better understand the HSR market, AECOM conducted a global study in 2023 which culminated into our recently released From Vision to Reality: a new high-speed rail playbook. This report presents original quantitative and qualitative research conducted with 112 senior decision-makers involved in HSR projects worldwide. Informed by AECOM’s 30 years of global expertise in HSR design and delivery, the report investigates the latest industry trends and outlines best practices for the successful delivery of HSR systems.

Research presented in the report found that economic growth, technology, adaptability and on-time completion prove the most critical success factors in the first year of HSR operation. In the five-to-ten-year period post launch, top success factors shift to passenger experience and adaptability while the impact of project delays becomes less important.

Success factors also varied widely by region:

  • Europe’s primary success factors included a reduction in air/vehicle traffic, use of the latest technology, and future adaptability.
  • In North America, key success factors were regional economic growth, use of the latest technology, and passenger experience.
  • For the Asia and Pacific region, on-time completion, low environmental impact, and social benefits comprised the top key success factors.

The report takes both a global and region-specific approach to a spectrum of key HSR topics, including passenger experience, economic and social benefits, emissions reductions, regulatory and political factors, land use and funding concerns. Data is presented over immediate and five-to-ten-year timeframes and is supported by interviews from leaders across major HSR organizations, including Adif, High Speed 1, Brightline, the California High-Speed Rail Authority, NEOM, and China Railway Construction Company International (CRCCI).

In response to industry headwinds, the report explores several best practices to streamline HSR delivery and facilitate the expansion of HSR networks globally:

  • Long-term decisive political leadership
  • New funding models
  • Greater trans-regional and international cooperation
  • New design and construction
  • Increased collaboration and industry outreach
  • User-centric design and engagement
  • Design to cost (DTC) and disciplined cost control

As Engineering News-Record’s top Transportation and Rail & Mass Transit firm year after year, AECOM is the trusted delivery partner on some of the world’s largest, most transformative rail projects. In the HSR market, our work includes California High-Speed Rail, HS1 in the UK, and Taiwan High-Speed Rail. In Canada, we are Metrolinx’s Project Delivery Partner on the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension, and Technical Advisor on the Finch and Hamilton LRT projects. We are also providing technical design leadership for the full length of the approximately 10-kilometer tunnel works and the three complex interchange stations along the Ontario Line Subway.

Read the HSR Report | Watch our HSR video

Thanks to AECOM for being a TAC sponsor. Learn more about the company by reading its sponsor profile at aecom.com/en-ca/.