THE Canadian Government has issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for the High Frequency Rail (HFR) project to link Québec City, Montréal, Ottawa and Toronto with an electrified line with a maximum speed of at least 200km/h.

“The purpose of the RFQ is to identify and qualify up to three top candidates who will be invited to participate in the RFP process, anticipated to begin in summer 2023,” Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) says. “The procurement process will help select a private developer partner to work in collaboration with Via HFR, the newly created subsidiary of Via Rail, to design and develop the HFR project.”

The RFQ is the next step following a Request for Expressions of Interest that opened in March 2022 and launches the formal procurement process. The RFQ sets out current challenges in the corridor, the purpose of the project, and its objectives; the procurement process; how the key players - Via HFR, the private developer partner, Via Rail, and the Canadian government - will work together: and the outcomes that the private developer partner will be expected to meet or exceed, such as shorter journey times and more frequent services.

“The High Frequency Rail procurement process is designed to encourage innovation, provide flexibility, and identify the optimal solution for the project,” TSB says. “Therefore, RFQ respondents will have the flexibility to consider alternatives to meet or exceed the project results described in the RFQ. This would include opportunities to increase speeds beyond 200km/h on some segments, if it is cost-effective to do so.”

The 2022 Canadian budget provided Transport Canada and Infrastructure Canada with close to $C 400m ($US 295m) over two years, starting in 2022-23, to continue advancing key project activities and undertake the procurement phase of the project.

The evaluation of RFQ submissions and identification of qualified respondents is expected between April and July, followed by the launch of Request for Proposals (RFP) in August or September, and evaluation of RFP submissions in summer 2024.

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