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Canada is searching for a more competitive and modern railway

por Patricia
ruta ferroviaria de Canada

The railway network has 48,000 kilometers. the vast majority of the long distance connections are used for the heavy freight transport, although the investments in passenger lines are increasing.

Canada, the tenth world power, is a country covering a large area divided into 10 provinces, besides three autonomous territories. The railway network has 48,000 kilometers. The vast majority of the long distance connections have a standard track gauge (1,435 mm).There are small isolated branches that are used for the forest and mining industry, with narrow track gauges (between 610 mm and 1,067 mm).The railway system also includes 19 intermodal terminals and 27 border crossings with the United States.

Improvement plans

The long distances networks are mainly used for the heavy freight transport, in bulk and in containerized traffic. Many of them have reached the limits of their capacities, mainly in the Western area. For this reason, during the last years, the investments in infrastructure have been increased at a great pace. In addition, the private public co-operation has increased in a joint effort to reinforce the railway prominence in the trade flows.

In order of importance, Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia are the provinces that have the longest tracks.

Connections from North to South

Likewise, the most important distribution channels are those that go from North to South towards US. However, the Northern territories are very small. As regards the passenger lines, the service of these corridors is in charge of the public VIA Rail Company. It provides services to some 450 communities and consists of 14,000 kilometers of network. The improvement plans intended for these lines search for a greater competitiveness against other transport means, such as the airplane.

For this reason, the debate on high-speed has been tackled during the last years and it can bring new opportunities for the companies specialized in the field. In Canada, there are more than 40 companies, under federal regulation, although there are two major companies that account for the railway freight market. Canadian National Railway (CN), holding 49.1% (22,205 kilometers) and Canadian Pacific (CP), with 25.7% (11,600 kilometers).The other 25.2% (11,295 kilometers) are in the hands of

American carriers, such as RAILAMERICA, BNSF and CSX Transportation Inc. Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway (QNS & L), a subsidiary belonging to Iron Core Co. from Canada also operates. It provides services between Labrador City, Emeril Junction and Sept-Îles. In total, they all count on almost 3,000 locomotives and more than 51,000 wagons. The latest official data indicate that the railway freight transport has reached 300 million tons. A national transit that focuses on five corridors of a special importance. The “West Coast”, which is a key area for the intermodal transport and the “Western Corridor”, is the most occupied and represents a hub in Vancouver. The “Continental” and the “Atlantic” Corridor and the “Central” are linked to them with the most demanded routes between Ontario and Quebec.

Federal funding on the rise

The Federal Government has made a great effort in terms of transport over the last years. The aim was to respond to the infrastructure deficiency that drags the country, both in terms of freight and passenger services. In 2014, the “Building Canada Plan” was implemented; a program aimed to reinforce the economy and to improve the competitiveness where the railway started to have a greater presence. Until this date, the highway and freeway sub-sectors have been the main engine of growth.

At present, “Investing Canada” is implemented with different amounts and stages to „revive“ a more modern, efficient, environmentally-friendly and a safer transport that would meet the Canadian society’s needs. It is expected to be an essential part of the country’s economy. For this, in 2016, the Federal Government approved a historical investment in infrastructures of 186,000 million Canadian dollars (131,200 M€). This amount is intended to fund various federal and provincial initiatives for the next 10 years during which the railway will have a leading role. The first phase of the program is awarded 120,000 million Canadian dollars (84,200 M€). The investment will be focused on the achievement, among other aspects, of the “Transportation 2030” federal program. The main objectives are the development of infrastructures related to the environment and the improvement of public transport.

Main initiatives

The most important projects will be in the field of mining and crude oil extraction. The provinces of Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, due to their large populations and wealth, benefit from the most amounts.

The “Fall Economic Statement” proposes an additional investment of 81,000 million Canadian dollars (57,153 M€) for the next 11 years. The funding includes 21,900 million Canadian dollars (15,400 M€) for the green infrastructure as inter-provincial transmission lines. Moreover, 10,100 million dollars (7,156 M€) are awarded for a goodwill and transport for the most efficient corridors of the international markets.

Safety and impetus into trade

The Federal Government has also committed to improve the railway safety. The Transport Department (Transports Canada) has awarded from the 2016 budget an investment in the amount of 143 million Canadian dollars (100 M€) so that the Canadian railway operations and the dangerous freight transport may be the most efficient and as safe as possible.

Capacity increase

The actions include increasing the track inspection capacity, providing better management tools and strengthening the investigation. In order to reduce the accidents, mainly at the crossings’ level, a “Rail Safety Improvement Program” is being implemented.

A detailed analysis has also been conducted to identify the transport projects with greater commercial benefits.


◗ Sustainable infrastructures. Inter-provincial lines: 21,900 million Canadian dollars (15,400 M€)
◗ Railway safety: 143 million Canadian dollars (100 M€)
◗ Multimodal Commercial and Transport corridors: 10,100 million Canadian dollars (7,156 M€)


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